We Are All Pennsylvania

This week’s headline told us that a grand jury found credible evidence of over 300 “predator priests” in six dioceses in Pennsylvania.

What’s wrong with Pennsylvania?  First there was the Penn State scandal in 2011, which led to criminal convictions of pedophile coach Jerry Sandusky and at least three university administrators who covered up his rapes, and the sudden death of disgraced hero, coach Joe Paterno.  Then this week’s grand jury report, which has been touted as the largest investigation of its kind in the United States.  Does Pennsylvania just have particularly lax laws or corrupt institutions?

No.  Pennsylvania has just done a better job than many states, including ours, of bringing their predators — and the institutions that routinely enable them — to light.

The systematic failure of adults and institutions to protect children from rape and exploitation happens absolutely everywhere.  News reports pop up each year, every year.  Two hundred women come forward to challenge Larry Nasser in Michigan; a Catholic elder gets a 12 year sentence for abetting child rape in Australia; the United Nations is being asked to confront the child rapes committed under its flags in vulnerable countries.  As BCAC has documented year after year, local schools and institutions routinely fail children in Maryland too.

The news from Pennsylvania is disturbing, but not surprising. The only thing that is surprising is that anyone is surprised that so many adults who are meant to protect children are often more interested in protecting themselves.

Is Maryland, or any other state, ready to confront its own past demons and its failures to protect the children in its care? We should learn from Pennsylvania’s recent history with sexual child abuse and replicate laws and procedures that have since been enacted to place child protection at a premium.

Adam Rosenberg
Executive Director
Baltimore Child Abuse Center