There is very little of a positive note that has come out of the recent revelations of child sexual abuse by a former assistant football coach at Penn State. It is a tragedy that will undoubtedly leave the victims with emotional scars for the rest of their lives. Those victims, and indeed all victims of any type of abuse, can hopefully take some strength from the reactions of others as knowledge of the incidents has become widespread.
There has been universal condemnation of the abuser. There has been widespread criticism of those who failed to intervene and report the problem to legal authorities and ensure the safety of children. There have also been universal expressions of sympathy for the victims that have been unambiguous in assigning total blame to the perpetrator.
Too often, victims of abuse have carried their scars secretly because of fear, guilt, or shame. The reaction of the public at large may thus help some of those victims to feel better about themselves and encourage some to step forward and report instances of current or past abuse.
While it has been a lousy way to learn this lesson, there should hopefully never again be doubt about the fact that most people are willing to take necessary steps to avoid covering up abuse and to take further ensure the safety of children and other victims. A victim’s recognition that s/he isn’t the cause of someone else’s inappropriate behavior is a first step in the process of healing and growing emotionally.