06/28/2012 11:54 am ET Updated Aug 28, 2012

Addressing the Dangers Posed by Child Predators

The monster is cornered. A group of dogs on leashes snap and growl. Men, goaded by pride and fear, hold the monster at bay with guns aimed at the place where its heart should be. There's no escaping this time. Then, from around the corner, an angry crowd of townsfolk appears. Pitchforks and torches ride high above their heads in convoy with the shrill cries for vengeance. If the mob has its way, tonight there will be blood! This is about the time someone steps in and talks sense.

Film and literature are full of characters, both human and non-human, with frightening exteriors like Frankenstein's recycled masterpiece of a man, The Incredible Hulk and Rocky from the film, Mask. Stories like these are often designed to teach us to look beyond the surface in order to see the goodness of what's inside of others. Let's not just scream and run, the lesson goes, let's try to understand the "monster."

Monsters living inside of real people, however, can be much more threatening than their fictional counterparts because they emerge from the darkest places of our being. These are places that we not only cannot comprehend, but we dare not try in part because we're afraid to find pieces of ourselves in the shadows. No matter how much we want to slay the fiend we see before us, it's important to maintain perspective: Jerry Sandusky is the man -- his crime is the monster.

Taking our cue from scary-but-kind-hearted monster movies, we may be best served by inversely looking beyond an appealing surface in order to see the frightening figure of what's inside of Jerry Sandusky. Failing to analyze and act upon the crime by obsessing on the man will only allow the monster to thrive and replicate itself. What will happen, we wonder, when the man is locked up for life and the thirst for retribution is quenched? Will we all go back to our homes and settle into our old lives satisfied that justice has been served, believing that the victims will eventually heal on their own? If we do, we're mimicking the solace of celluloid vigilantes and capitulating to the real monster. If we really care about what happens to children we will find sensible solutions to address the dangers posed by predators in our communities.

So, what is it that we can do? Three things:

1) Screening and Disclosure -- No matter how shocking and incredible we find the truth to be, we must first accept the fact that there are predators amongst us. These predators do not simply take advantage of opportunities -- they create them. People that prey upon the vulnerable are premeditated and extremely calculating. If we are to be faithful caretakers of our children and allow them to grow in a safe atmosphere, then we must establish protections that are equally as calculating.

There must be background checks for everyone that currently works closely with children and those that will be hired in the future. That includes teachers, coaches, counselors, faith leaders, healthcare specialists and non-profit employees. If a record or incidence of abuse is discovered in an employee's or applicant's past, employers must be allowed, without the threat of litigation by the wrongdoer, to act upon that information. If the employer or potential employer fails to report their findings, they are endangering children and should be subject to prosecution.

2) Oversight -- Aside from what seems to be the common sense requirement of screening, ongoing measures to ensure the safety of children must also be initiated. This may include training that will regularly remind the entrusted adults of reporting laws, the evolving methods of predators, how to identify danger and best practice protocols. Additionally, we should remind parents and family members that they must find the courage to report abuse when they see it.

3) Lifting statutes of limitations -- Because of the nature of crimes committed against children there should be no statute of limitations. Understanding how deeply buried in shame and self-blame these abuses can be, it's a testament to the courage of the men that came forward in the Sandusky case to tell their stories. There's no saying how long it takes one to process and come to terms with one's pain. If a victim requires 10, 20 or even 50 years to do that, why shouldn't justice still be served and, perhaps, more victims be spared in the process?

The devastation that Jerry Sandusky spawned has been laid bare in the court of law and he is now captured. Rest assured that this man will never hurt another child but don't sleep softly believing that those who will are gone. They are not. The monster lives and there is an essential role to be played by you -- the agitated crowd. Knowing that hysteria is a poor substitute for preparation, let's calmly arm ourselves with knowledge and the unbending will to protect children. Let's find our support amongst mothers and fathers, legislators and businessmen, teachers and coaches, and all those interested in building safer, more prosperous communities.

How we respond to the real life case of man and monster -- whether it's with mind or emotion, with action or resignation -- will determine how many more horror shows we'll be forced to endure.

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