A national child advocacy organization says the sex scandal at Penn State is fueling parental paranoia, along with phony statistics and over the top warnings about child abuse.
“We don’t need hype that turns every adult into a potential threat,” says Richard Wexler, executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform. According to Wexler, some news stories falsely claim that “one in four girls and one in six boys” are victim of child sexual abuse, but no scientific study is ever cited to support that claim.
“The scandal surrounding allegations of child abuse by a former Penn State football coach can be a teachable moment,” Wexler said in a news release. “”It can help us address the serious and real problem of child abuse. But not if all we teach is that we should turn in anyone and everyone as a possible child abuser, and not if we teach children to fear all adults.
Former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky faces 40 counts of child sexual abuse against 8 young boys. The scandal led to the firing of football coach Joe Paterno and Penn State’s president. An assistant basketball coach at Syracuse University is also under investigation for the alleged sexual abuse of ball boys.
“At its worst, post Penn State paranoia risks setting off the kind of frenzy of false allegations that led to the mass molestation witch hunts of the 1980s, like the McMartin Preschool,” said Wexler.
A recent survey of registered voters by the Poll Position found there was a high level of concern over the relationship between coaches and young children. 42% of those surveyed said they were very concerned, 33% said somewhat concerned and only 21% said they were not concerned.
Women had the most concern of all. 81% said they were very concerned or somewhat concerned about the relationship between children and their coaches.
Wexler believes many of those fears are overblown. He says studies have shown that about 10% of girls and about 5% of boys were victims of child sexual abuse. “That’s plenty serious enough,” Wexler said. “We don’t need hype that turns every adult into a potential threat.”