By Peter S. Kahrmann
Protecting Children, the Disabled?
Sorry! It's Money
First, Safety Last
There's a far better chance that a convict from the
general population of any prison will protect your child from a pedophile
faster than Penn State or the Catholic Church.
I'd be willing to bet that that same convict would protect
a person with a disability faster than, for the scope of this article, the
Catholic Church and New York state. It appears that all of the aforementioned
groups cover up the abuse in the name of reputation and profit rather than
making sure predators are brought to justice by reporting abuse to law
When it comes to the abuse of children and the
abuse of people with disabilities, it's cover up first because it's revenue
first, the sanctity of life second.
Unlike Mike McQueary, former Penn State graduate assistant
and current assistant football coach, most people I know would have exploded
into action if they had witnessed a child being raped. According to the grand
jury report of that case, McQueary testified that he saw a naked boy,
Victim 2, whose age he estimated to be ten years old, with his hands against
the wall, being subjected to anal intercourse by a naked (Jerry) Sandusky. The
graduate assistant (McQueary) was shocked but noticed both Victim 2 and
Sandusky saw him. The graduate assistant left immediately, distraught. The
graduate assistant went to his office and called his father, reporting to him
what he had seen.
McQueary later changed his story and said that he stopped
the assault, an assertion the police have no record of. But let's say he did
(although he didn't). He still didn't refer the matter to law enforcement! And
what did Penn State officials do when all this came to their attention in 2002?
They took the keys away from Sandusky.
For years, the Catholic Church would simply transfer one
pedophile priest to another parish if his aberrant behavior came to light. For
many years, Penn State officials knowingly turned a blind eye to the fact that
they had ample reason to suspect that Sandusky molested and, in some instances,
raped children. Apparently the thinking was that, God forbid, there should be
bad publicity (though how protecting a child or a person with a disability
would result in bad publicity is beyond me) and that, God forbid, anything
should interfere with the multimillion-dollar revenue maker called Penn State
football or the multibillion-dollar revenue maker that is, in fact, the
Catholic Church. You can add New York state to this list, as you're about to
Various reports reveal that the Catholic Church covered up
the abuse of children with disabilities in St Ann's Special School in Adelaide
, Australia. According to one report, Twenty-year-old documents have
revealed the church received legal advice telling it to avoid mentioning in
writing charges of sexual abuse against a volunteer bus driver at St Ann's
Special School in Adelaide. The bus driver, Brian Bertram Morris Perkins, 71,
worked at the school from 1986 to 1991 and not only abused students himself but
introduced them into a ring of pedophiles. The draft severance letter to the
bus driver tells him that there will be no need for him to attend the school
premises, but there is no mention or suggestion why his services are no longer
needed." And, unbelievably, it also said that his "c ontribution as a volunteer
bus driver for disabled students has been appreciated.
As for New York state, recently The New York Times
examined the deaths of hundreds of people with disabilities in group
homes in New York, discovering that there were concerns about the quality of
care in at least 222 of the fatalities and that repercussions for
executives were rare.
The forms of abuse were heartbreaking. One man drowned in
the bathtub because a staff member simply didn't turn off the water in time.
Moreover, an investigation by the Times conducted over the past year
of more than 2,000 homes run by New York state revealed hundreds of cases
hundreds of cases! in which employees who sexually abused,
beat or taunted residents were rarely fired, even after repeated offenses, and
in many cases, were simply transferred to other group homes run by the
This writer and others are currently looking into
allegations that a suspicious slowdown by the New York State Department of
Health on signing off on treatment plans for individuals on the state's
traumatic brain injury waiver program leaves these individuals without the
services they need and deserve and, as a result, place their lives at risk.
One of the stumbling blocks to getting these matters
addressed is the lack of any real oversight. As The New York Times
pointed out and as this writer and others such as the Kahrmann Advocacy
Coalition ( in the spirit of full disclosure, I am the founder) have
discovered, in far too many cases the very agencies -- including those operated
by the government -- suspected of causing the abuse or covering it up are the
ones responsible for investigating the abuses or the cover-ups in the first
If you think New York state cares, consider this from the
Times : At a home upstate in Hudson Falls, two days before
Christmas in 2006, an employee discovered her supervisor, Ricky W. Sousie, in
the bedroom of a severely disabled, 54-year-old woman. Mr. Sousie, a stocky man
with wispy hair, was standing between the woman's legs. His pants were around
his ankles, his hand was on her knee and her diaper was pulled down. The police
were called, and semen was found on the victim. But the state did not seek to
discipline Mr. Sousie. Instead, it transferred him to work at another
The statistics of abuse against children and against
people with disabilities are eerily similar. For example:
- According to the CPIU (Counter Pedophilia Investigative
Unit) -- a coalition of computer experts, law enforcement agents (including
Interpol employees) and counter-pedophilia experts -- 67 percent of sexual
assault victims who reported a crime were under the age of 18; 34 percent were
under the age of 12.
- According to the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual
Assault, among adults who are developmentally disabled, as many as 83% of women
and girls and 32% of men and boys are victims of sexual assault.
- According to CPIU, one out of every seven victims of
sexual assault reported to law enforcement was under the age of 6.
- According to the Wisconsin group, 49 percent of people
with developmental disabilities who are victims of sexual violence will
experience 10 or more abusive incidents in their lifetimes. (Another study
indicated that 40 percent of women with physical disabilities reported being
Had enough? These facts are bone chilling on the one hand
and blood boiling on the other. A recent Penn State response to the scandal is
revealing, probably more so than the college intended. Penn State's new
president, Rob Erickson, announced that the university will donate $1.5 million
to a pair of sex-crime advocacy organizations.
What Erickson said is revealing: This presents an
excellent opportunity for Penn State to raise the national visibility of this
issue. Our students and fans are focused on a cause to play for, to cheer for."
Notice the link to the football program, the program that rakes in millions.
Lurking underneath the announced motives for the donation is what I suspect is
the larger motive: Protect the revenue that football brings in. After all,
that's been at the top of the university's priority list since Sandusky was
allegedly caught raping that 10-year-old boy in a university shower nearly 10
years ago. In November of this year, Sandusky was arrested and charged with 40
counts of sexual abuse of young boys over a 15-year period.
A culture that knowingly protects the criminal is and of
itself guilty of aiding and abetting the crime, whether this indelible truth is
currently written into law or not. All those taking part in the cover-ups
described in this essay ought to be charged as criminals. It is safe to say
that were they to witness the rape or molestation of a family member, they'd be
up in arms. Then again, maybe not. I am no longer shocked by the human capacity
for cruelty and indifference.
Peter Kahrmann is an advocate for people with
disabilities and writes a blog on disability issues. He resides in New York