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The Common Fallacy

After having some time to step back from the specifics of the Paterno report and review the dialogue that surrounds it, the most crucial piece of information given by the report, in terms of Paterno as well as society in general, is the one going the most overlooked.

The common fallacy among the Freeh report and most people who critical of Paterno et al is that they assume repeat allegations of child abuse (which hasn't been proven) will make it more obvious that children are being victimized. However, per the section from Clemente, who is one of the utmost experts in this field, that is not the case and previous allegations that are considered unfounded actually aid "nice guy" acquaintance child abusers in being cleared on further accounts. It seems counter intuitive to common sense, however what is going completely missed by those who do not agree is that Sandusky wasn't some stranger to those involved. The first time they heard his name wasn't in the wake of a grand jury presentment claiming he anally raped a child. He was a "pillar of the community".

It's the assumption that the natural reaction of people when presented with repeat allegations of child abuse is to immediately understand the gravity of the situation is where the Freeh report is fundamentally flawed. Thornburgh did a great job in addressing the errors in Freeh's conduct of the investigation and how it dismisses or fails to address contradictory information. But all of that is predicated on the assumption that those involved had to be acting with malicious intent because people made aware of what Curley, Schultz, Spanier and Paterno were made aware of would know immediately what Sandusky was doing. It's this assumption that forces Freeh down the pass of intentional and malicious action. However, it's this assumption which is contradicted by the expert analysis of Clemente.

This wasn't just a faulty assumption on the part of Freeh. This was a faulty assumption on the part of many who viewed this situation from 20,000 feet. It's pretty obvious in hindsight when presented with two prior situations of alleged inappropriate conduct of a pedophile accused of abusing over a dozen individuals that one would draw the conclusion that he was molesting children. However that was not the situation the administrators and Paterno were placed in 2001 and that needs to be known.

I listened to Jay Paterno on the Mike & Mike show this morning and he did a wonderful job in presenting the report and addressing people in general. He's continually expressed the family's desire that everyone, regardless of opinion, read the section written by Clemente so that they can become more aware of the dangers posed by sexual predators. He even related a story Clemente told to him when they first met (after Clemente had finished his report) about how he (Clemente) has actually seen cases where a child was being fondled directly in front of the parents, but it went unnoticed due to the grooming of the parents by the molester. It seems extreme and it seems implausible, but that immediate assumption is the common fallacy when it comes to child abuse.

Until everyone becomes more educated in identifying and handling child abuse, this common fallacy will persist. It is so fundamental of an assumption that it cements the foundation for child abusers to go undetected. We can not continue to believe that child abuse is so obvious that we will know it immediately when presented with instances of it. We can not pretend that some signs are more obvious than others. A pedophile does not just groom victims, he (or she) also grooms parents, friends and communities.

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