Is the media being unfair to Sandusky?

I got this comment in response to my last post:

Although I believe Sandusky probably did everything of which he’s been accused and more, I still wish the public would wait until he’s convicted to pass judgment on him. Furthermore, I wish they would take fuller account of the fact that pedophilia is a sickness and that their extreme vilification of people who act out this sickness and their hysterical reactions to this acting out are neither fair to the perpetrator nor helpful to their victims.

For it is no fairer to hate and condemn people for manifesting the symptoms of mental illness such as pedophilia than it is to hate and condemn people for manifesting the symptoms of a physical illness such as smallpox. Quarantine them to protect the public, but don’t hate them and take vengeful action against them the way the public clamors to do in cases such as Sandusky’s.

And when the public overreacts to molestations by calling them “filthy,” “monstrous,” and “ruinous” to their victims, not only are the victims more likely to feel more victimized than they would otherwise but also more injured by their abuse than if the public’s responses to it were more moderated. Moreover, it seems likely adults with pedophilic proclivities would be more inclined to seek help that prevents them from acting out if they knew they would receive a more compassionate response from society than the extreme demonization they actually incur.

Adults who molest children and children who are molested are both victims of mental sickness, and until we as a society understand this and act accordingly, not only will child sexual abuse likely remain pandemic, but both abusers and abused will continue to suffer more than is just or necessary.

I agree that molesting kids is a sickness and won’t even begin to go away until we recognize and treat it that way, just like cancer. This is why when I’ve written about this story, I’ve tried hard to come down on those who facilitated the cover up– and not just the people but the institutions we create. Again, the molester will not stop on his own; we all need to do much more as a culture to prevent child abuse. I wrote: “Until more adults stand up and protect these kids, take the risk– sadly and remarkably it is a risk– to say that sex abuse is happening and is wrong, we give it permission to go on.”

I also agree that when people call molesters “filthy,” “revolting” etcetera it creates an “us and them” mentality that isn’t useful and helps others to shirk any responsibility. There is a whole culture that reinforces sexualizing kids. It’s like when people vilify parents of child beauty pageant contestants but then totally buy into the princess culture. Where is the line? What part does everyone play? Though we may not know exactly where the line begins or ends, we want to distance ourselves from the molester who has clearly crossed it; calling him “revolting” accomplishes that.

Though in some cases, I do feel like strong words need to be used because people don’t get it. For example, Paterno had no clue how arrogant and offensive his retirement statement was.

As far as waiting to pass judgement until Sandusky is proven guilty or innocent, it’s hard to differenciate between judging the guy and finally listening to these kids who have been ignored by too many for too long. I, personally, am in a place where my priority is to help to give these kids a voice for the horrors they say happened to them. I believe these kids. If that makes me a judger of Sandusky, so be it.

2 thoughts on “Is the media being unfair to Sandusky?

  1. Your points are well taken. I guess I’d have to say that I’m “in a place” where “my priority” is to be as fair, just, and helpful to both the abuser (or potential abuser who steps forward to confess his pedophilic predilections) and abused as possible, because I think this is how we’re most likely to solve or, at least, minimize this problem.

    Having said this, I believe that there are varying levels of severity of child sexual abuse and that those who transgress beyond a certain level or who transgress beyond any level more than once should probably be quarantined for life from free society. However, it should be done in more humane conditions than our penal institutions currently afford.

    • Hi Steve,

      But how would you be fair? Not talk/ write about the story? Or only say we have to wait until a trial and a verdict before addressing what these kids are saying? And what about the people/ institutions that did so little?


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