Wielding Power & Influence

7 11 2011

People in power (and men, in particular) continue to make news headlines for their abuse not only of influence but of children. First we saw the horrific video of a Texas family law judge beating his daughter while spewing a venomous tirade of foul and hurtful language. Next it was former Penn State athletics official, Jerry Sandusky, charged with sexually assaulting eight boys between 1994-2009. In this latter case, other school officials have been charged with perjury and with failing to meet their duty to report suspected or known threats to children and an ongoing investigation continues.

Adding to the Penn State scandal, the accused continued to use the university’s facilities after his retirement in 1999 for his work with The Second Mile, a charity he founded in 1977 for at-risk kids. The organization’s web site lists a who’s who of sports icons and hall of famers on its honourary board (including golf great Arnold Palmer, Heisman Trophy winner John Cappelletti, former Steelers Jack Ham and Franco Harris, retired football coach Lou Holtz, current Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, baseball’s Cal Ripken Jr., actor Mark Wahlberg, and corporate notables from Hershey Foods, Quaker State, Ortho Pharmaceutical, and KMart). One wonders how their potential power and influence might be wielded given the circumstances.

“This is a case about a sexual predator who used his position within the university and community to repeatedly prey on young boys,” said state Attorney General Linda Kelly. Despite being arraigned on 40 criminal counts, Sandusky has been released on bail.

The Texas judge, meanwhile, will apparently not face charges due to the length of time that has elapsed since the (videotaped in 2004) beating took place.  Police in the Texas jurisdiction where Aransas County Court-at-Law Judge William Adams resides have announced that they “believe that there was a criminal offense involved and that there was substantial evidence to indicate that and under normal circumstances … a charge could have been made” but that the statute of limitations for such charges stands at five years (CBS News). An investigation by the state’s judicial conduct commission and the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services is still pending.

These are headlines that have crossed international date lines, but will soon simply become state, and then local, coverage as yet another round of high profile cases dims from the spotlight. Whether you live in Texas or Pennsylvania, or in Ontario, it’s ultimately up to us whether the conversation continues…what do we think about a statute of limitations on crimes like child abuse (that often don’t surface for many years)? How do we feel about sexual predators successfully using youth programs to connect with kids? And what do we imagine is the best we can do to help the children who fall prey to these criminals (or may)? What’s our potential influence here, and are we wielding it in the best interests of children?


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