I listened with sadness to the recent news reports about children allegedly being abused over many years by Pennsylvania State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.
It struck me that this is not really a story about football, leadership or celebrity, but is instead a story about the human desire to close our eyes and wait for someone else to do what is right. No doubt it takes courage to confront criminal behavior, but it must begin with a conscious decision to be watchful, to embrace our individual responsibility to protect children in our community and to boldly challenge situations that put children at risk.
All adults have a responsibility to learn the signs and symptoms of child abuse and to be vigilant to protect our children. There are many resources in Alaska and outside that can help in this fight. Some are: www.providence.org/childrenshospital; www.D2L.org; www.onewithcourage.org.
Once signs are identified, the next step is to report. Child abuse thrives in secrecy and continues when adults see it as someone else's job or responsibility to report. I challenge every concerned citizen to become more conscious, more committed and more courageous about protecting children. It is not the responsibility of children to try to keep themselves safe. It is ours and it is not just a legal obligation, it is a moral and ethical one to report suspected child abuse.
We know there are offenders in our community. They are clever about finding opportunities to have access to children and groom adults to lower their boundaries about contact with their children in the same way that they groom children for sexual contact. We know they do not always look scary. In fact, you may unknowingly be acquainted with someone who is getting close to a child and family right now for this purpose, someone who seems nice, interested in the child and concerned.
We can make our community a safer place to be a child. Law enforcement, child protection and other professionals cannot do it alone. We need you -- all of you -- to watch, ask questions, talk with others, and take actions to increase safety.
This situation is not about the Penn State football team. This is about children who have been sexually abused, their innocence taken, their trust in adults violated. They will have lifelong repercussions. Our focus should be on working together for them and to help stop these abuses from happening to other children.
Cory A. Bryant is the manager of Alaska CARES, a comprehensive outpatient clinic for victims of child abuse in Anchorage.
By CORY A. BRYANT