After the announcement, I asked Cade if he'd heard of Jerry Sandusky. He hadn't. I explained, simply, that Sandusky had been a football coach at Penn State and that he'd recently been convicted of molesting many young boys. He'd gotten away with it, I told Cade, for at least fifteen years because a whole slew of people had kept his secrets.
"I know you're wondering," I said (as Cade squirmed), "why we need to talk about this, but bottom line, there are only two ways for me to protect you. I can refuse to allow you out of my sight at all times, or I can teach you what to do if there's a Jerry Sandusky in your life." And I proceeded to say the following:
- A crazy number of young people are molested.
- A molester is a person with a sickness. If (s)he's doing (or trying to do) something inappropriate to you or someone you know, you or that other person is very likely not the first victim. If you don't tell me what's going on, there will very likely be more victims.
- A molester is going to do what (s)he can to get access to young people. (S)he's going to work around and with young people. (S)he's going to be a coach, a Scout leader, a youth pastor, a Sunday school teacher, or--as we've seen in our own community--a Santa Claus.
- If someone asks you to keep a secret from me, a red flag should go up right away. Unless we're talking about my surprise birthday gift or something silly like that, this is the very thing you should not keep as a secret.
- There isn't a secret in the world that I'll be sorry you told me. I'll never laugh at you or be angry with you for telling. I'll never not believe you.
- If someone says (s)he'll hurt you, me, or anyone else in our family if you tell a secret, know this: ain't no one in the whole world meaner than your mama. God has empowered and will empower me to take care of our family, and no one stands a chance against me. I'll know what to do. Tell me what's happening. Help me to help you.
I'm curious to know: are you having conversations like this with your children? This is part of an ongoing conversation between Cade and me; twelve, in my humble opinion, is entirely too late to start discussing these matters. Clementine, at three, already has an understanding of what her private body parts are; who is and is not permitted to touch them and for what reasons; and what she should do if something happens that is not allowed.
I feel deeply saddened by the Jerry Sandusky scandal but know: I can do something to keep all that hurt from being wasted. I can talk openly about what happened at Penn State with my children. I can prepare and protect them, and I can encourage other parents to do the same.