U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Florida, who is serving his first term representing South Florida, sent a letter today to U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, requesting a congressional hearing into what Deutch called the public policy issues raised by “this despicable tragedy.”
“Like many parents across the country, I have been following this case with ever-increasing horror,” Deutch wrote in his letter to the committee chairman.
Despite the arrest and conviction of a former coach, Deutch said too many unanswered questions remain, and that Congress should try to find out why the abuse of children was allowed to go on for so long before it got reported.
“If there is any chance that something good can come out of this terrible tragedy, we must focus the national attention on this case to the issue of child sex abuse and closely examine why this abuse continued uninterrupted at Penn State,” Deutch wrote.
Part of that congressional focus, Deutch added, should be on those who have been accused of covering up the scandal, more interested in protecting the university’s reputation than the children who got abused.
Last year, Penn State got rocked by scandal when Gerald Arthur “Jerry” Sandusky, 68, was arrested and charged with 48 counts of sexual abuse of young boys over a 15-year period.
Sandusky had served as an assistant coach for his entire career, under Joe Paterno at Penn State from 1969 to 1999. Although he received Assistant Coach of the Year awards in 1986 and 1999 and authored several books about his football coaching experiences, a grand jury indicted him on the abuse charges.
Sandusky had founded The Second Mile, a non-profit charity serving Pennsylvania’s underprivileged and at-risk youth, in 1977, and law enforcement officials believed he met his victims through The Second Mile.
On June 22, Sandusky was found guilty on 45 of the 48 charges.
In November 2011, Paterno was fired by the university after he was accused of concealing Sandusky’s sexual crimes against several young boys over an eight-year period, including dissuading other university officials from reporting Sandusky to authorities in 2001.
On Monday, July 23, the NCAA vacated all of Penn State’s wins from 1998 through 2011 as part of its punishment for the child sex abuse scandal, eliminating 111 of the games Paterno had coached and won.
Paterno died in January from lung cancer.
Deutch, who was born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, noted that the university’s own internal report by Louis Freeh indicated a total failure of the internal systems that were supposed to be in place at the university to protect children from sexual predators.
Deutch said this very high profile and disturbing case demonstrates that it’s time to examine issues related to child abuse — including mandatory reporting requirements, statute of limitations on child sex abuse cases, and state and federal penalties for both the abusers and those that enable them.
“One of the most repugnant revelations from the Freeh report is that so many children were repeatedly victimized by Mr. Sandusky while a number of individuals who could have done something chose not to act,” Deutch wrote in his letter. “Given that the issue of child sexual abuse is too often ignored, we must examine the shortcomings in our legal system that fail to adequately compel adults to take action.”
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