What if the horror of what happened at Penn State was happening on a larger scale all over the country?
What if a website made money providing a platform where kids were regularly sold for sex, right here in America? What if this website -- another storied American brand -- played the same morally bankrupt game that Penn State and Joe Paterno played, but stayed in business?
Enter Village Voice Media. The similarities between what's happening on a Village Voice-owned website and what happened at Penn State is haunting.
Penn State's head coach Joe Paterno had heard first-hand accounts of sexual abuse of young boys taking place in his football program. Paterno informed his superior, but didn't follow up on the accusations or report them to law enforcement. The man accused went on to sexually abuse more children.
On many levels it was the wrong decision to make -- one that allowed the incident to remain private, didn't endanger the team's reputation or Paterno's station, but did endanger the targeted kids.
51 Attorneys General recently confronted Village Voice Media with evidence that their classified website has facilitated the sex trafficking of minors on at least fifty occasions over the past three years. Village Voice implemented some safeguards, but refused to shut down the section of the website where this egregious activity takes place and refuses to guarantee that no kids will ever be sold for sex on their site.
As company owners and the university's leadership, both Village Voice Media and Penn State knew that crimes had happened on their watch and took half-measures to prevent further incidents -- half-measures that did not work. It is true that the crimes did not take place by their hand directly. But distance does not absolve either of moral responsibility.
Another Village Voice Media affiliated publication saw the similarities, too, and decided to hitch its wagon to the cause of Penn State's Joe Paterno. In a post on Village Voice Media's Miami-based New Times, the paper's editor Chuck Strouse defended outgoing Penn State Football Coach Joe Paterno, urging his readers to ignore Paterno's "peripheral connection" to the scandal and to "please, please, please start focusing on the important stuff." I wonder what the parents of the victims might say to that, though at least the writer admitted "sexual abuse of children is a horrible thing."
Apparently for Village Voice and its affiliated publications, the outrage at what happened at Penn State and what's happening on their website is either unacceptable or misplaced.
If there is a universal moral law, it is that kids should not be abused, sexually or otherwise. There is no wiggle room on this one. The right and only thing to do is to confront the evil of child sex abuse without hesitation. Joe Paterno failed this test. Village Voice Media is failing it, now, day in and day out.
As a father, this is personal. When I first learned that my wife was carrying a healthy girl, I felt excitement, wonder, joy -- and the tiniest bit of fear. I wasn't worried about the usual new parent stuff. We'd done fine with our 2-year-old son.
I realized I feared for her safety in a world where a Penn State cover-up can happen and the Village Voice can think there's something defensible in what happens on its website. How could I protect this child from the moral turpitude of a world where Village Voice and Penn State's Paterno have defenders? Would I live with a pit in my stomach, hoping that she didn't become a statistic?
As the news swirls out of Penn State, of course, it's clearer than ever that it's not just women who are victims of sexual assault. And it's not just adults, but children -- kids who should be stepping for the first time onto a Little League diamond, rather than into a locker room where an adult can take away their security and confidence forever.
Clearly, it's going to take more than moral outrage to protect our children -- it's going to take action. We can't leave our children's safety to the likes of Village Voice Media or Penn State's former leadership.
Join a rising groundswell of people demanding Village Voice Media shut down its Adult section until no more kids are trafficked on it. Show that we've had enough of half measures when it comes to ending sex abuse in America. The nation's children -- our children -- require it.
Follow Isaac Luria on Twitter: www.twitter.com/isaacluria