THE BLOG

The NCAA and the Ten Commandments: Both Forgot to Forbid Child Abuse

01/09/2013 04:23 pm ET | Updated Mar 11, 2013

I met with a woman this week who is under investigation for raping her child. I met with her because three years ago, I was the person who gave her child a safe place to live while this woman was being investigated for a different set of allegations. I've lost count of the number of times her little girl has been placed outside the home, and while I have my own very strong opinions of what's best for the child, I'm just one interested party who'd like to make sure that the little girl is OK.

The mom -- I'll call her Regan -- gave me permission to see her daughter as soon as the "authorities" say it's OK. I'll call them when I'm done writing this. Even though Regan can't see her -- can't see any children while she's under investigation -- she is still the parent and can give me permission to stay in contact with five-year-old Marjorie.

I'm pretty tired of inventing names to talk about people who live in a world most folks want to -- or chose to -- forget. Instead, let me talk about someone whose real name I can use: Jerry Sandusky. If you've been awake for the last year or so, then Sandusky needs no introduction. Especially not here -- where I am -- in the state of Pennsylvania. Here, it seems, you can't drive a mile in any direction without seeing a Nittany Lion on a license plate, bumper, or car window.

But it's not just the team that so many Pennsylvanians love, they also love the people who they think have made Penn State Football one of the winningest teams in college football history. Or at least they had been, before that whole Sandusky mess caused the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) to strip the team of their wins. Still, for some fans, none of that matters. Penn State Head Coach Joe Paterno is godlike and none of that scandal stuff can change the way they feel.

This past holiday season the malls here were selling Joe Pa tribute paraphernalia complete with his list of accomplishments -- not one of the plaques had so much as an asterisk noting that pretty much all his awards had been stripped away because Assistant Football Coach Jerry Sandusky abused children while the Penn State icon was in charge.

The adoration of Joe Paterno may be dismissed as a symptom of group denial. But after talking with Regan, it seems it isn't denial that is universal so much as acceptance. Regan told me that it was hard for her to talk about things like rape because after all, it happened to her as a young girl. She looked wide eyed at me -- and for the first time in our conversation -- straight into my eyes, shrugged and said, "Every woman in my family was raped, and by a family member."

If you didn't grow up like Regan you might shake your head in disbelief at the notion that for some families child rape is a legacy. You might shake your head in disbelief, if you didn't read the U.S. Government report entitled "Child Maltreatment." It states that 3.4 million referrals were made to state child protective services in 2011 involving 6.2 million children. The document goes on to support the voracity of the claims, "professionals made three fifths (57.6 percent) of reports of alleged child abuse and neglect. The term professional means that the person had contact with the alleged child maltreatment victim as part of the report source's job. This term includes teachers, police officers, lawyers, and social services staff. Nonprofessionals -- including friends, neighbors, and relatives -- submitted one fifth of reports (18.2 percent)."

Six point two million children! And those are just the statistics for alleged abuse that we know about. In 2008, Time magazine published a study citing, "researchers say that many more cases of maltreatment -- particularly of sexual abuse -- are never even suspected, and the victimized children never come forward to report the assaults. 'The official statistics agencies produce are conservative estimates of probably the lowest level of child maltreatment,' says Dr. Cathy Spatz Widom, a psychology professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice."

You might further shake your head in disbelief, if you don't know that Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett filed a lawsuit this past week against the NCAA for punishing Penn State because Sandusky carried on for years and university officials failed to address his actions. Not only is there an epidemic of child abuse in the United States, but there's an unabashed push back on those who try to punish the abusers and the accomplices who protect abusers. How else could Regan when she was a child -- and upwards of 6 million other kids just last year -- get abused without a culture that protects the perpetrators?

Let's stop right here and think of how confusing this all is. First we'll take Regan, a woman who is no stranger to homelessness, poverty, hunger, and crime. Every one in her family has been victimized and everyone in the family knows about it. Regan's childhood rape was eventually reported and investigated. The perpetrator was punished, but nothing was done to help the child or change the system that allowed the abuse.

Now let's look at Jerry Sandusky, no stranger to power, wealth, fame, and opportunity. Way back when Gov. Corbett was just Attorney General Corbett, Sandusky was accused of child abuse. AG Corbett couldn't or wouldn't gather enough evidence to charge the man, and his chief apologist, agent Randy Feathers, says that they only had one state trooper assigned to the case, so they couldn't or didn't get what they needed to go any further.

Which scenario seems more impossible? A whole family living in our nation's gutter preying upon their children or a state government unwilling to commit resources to investigate a high profile public figure?

Well, look no further than Gov. Corbett's recent law suit to find your answer. The Wall Street Journal reports, "Mr. Corbett, ex-officio Penn State board member and former state attorney general who investigated Mr. Sandusky, called the NCAA penalties 'arbitrary and illegal.'" Rather than recuse himself from the whole issue -- as one might expect a man so closely tied to this mess to do -- Gov. Corbett pushes back against the NCAA because the "organization didn't point to any NCAA rule that Penn State had broken."

What?

Let's look at that again, according to the Wall Street Journal, the "organization didn't point to any NCAA rule that Penn State had broken." It appears that the NCAA was remiss in writing their rules and failed to include, "coaches, assistant coaches -- hell, anyone related to a college or university athletics department -- may not rape children on or off campus. Oh, and nobody else at the College or University is allowed to sweep child rape under the mascot emblazoned carpet." Or is it fair to assume that this particular rule might just have been a 'gentleman's agreement' and the good folks at the NCAA thought it unnecessary to put it in writing?

Gov. Corbett's lawsuit points to an endemic problem in our culture: children don't matter. And the NCAA isn't the only governing body that forgot to mention little kids in their rules. Just look at the Ten Commandments. You need to honor your parent's and keep your lecherous paws off your neighbor's spouse or possessions, but not once do the commandments mention protecting children. Maybe God thought that loving and honoring and not coveting children was a no-brainer. Too bad. Looks like -- should Gov. Corbett win his lawsuit -- if it isn't in writing, we don't have to obey it.