The benefit of Paterno’s hindsight: lessons for parents!

If you’ve been paying attention to the child sex-abuse scandal at Penn State, you know that a report commissioned by Joe Paterno’s family calls into question several elements of the Louis Freeh report of last year that implicated Paterno in failing to do anything about Sandusky.  Paterno’s widow, Sue, went on Katie Couric’s television show Monday and  when Couric asked her reaction to Joe’s statement that “he wished he’d done more”  Sue Paterno quickly reminded Katie  that the full quote was, “With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I’d done more.”

Now we all have the benefit of hindsight and no matter which report we favor, there’s one thing that’s certainly true — children were abused by a predator who knew how to seduce them  then hide in plain sight.

If you’re a parent, grandparent or anyone else responsible for young children, the benefit of hindsight lies in the action you can take now to prevent such a tragedy from  happening to your family. First and foremost, you need to get comfortable talking with children about sex, and giving them the tools to talk about it, in their own way, with you.

What? you say, “Talk to a 6-year-old about sex!?”  Actually, you can, and with a little practice it’s easy.  Any child who understands that they can get goose bumps from being tickled is ready to comprehend that sexual arousal is an autonomic response to stimulus. “Sometimes, a penis just does what it feels like whether we mean it to or not”. Once a boy understands this, we remove one of a pedophile’s most important weapons; a skilled pedophile in the process of seducing a young boy goes to great lengths to ensure that the child experiences physical arousal.  Any boy who does not know that his body is wired to respond to stimuli whether he wants it to or not is vulnerable to the lies of a predator.   Pedophiles I interviewed for The Sex-Wise Parent confirmed that they use a boy’s autonomic response as a tool to gain compliance.  “How can it be bad when it feels good?” they ask, and the uninformed child has no answer.  Girls are certainly not immune; while their physical response is less obvious, unexplained autonomic arousal leaves teenage girls who mistake lust for love vulnerable to predatory adult men.

Hindsight teaches us that almost as important as developing communication skills is developing the ability to suspend disbelief. There are some dangers we can’t anticipate; institutions we find almost impossible to distrust. A priest raping a child? Impossible! Rape in our shower? Beyond incomprehensible! Putting our children in the hands of a pedophile at a charity dedicated to improving the lives of kids? Can’t happen!

But it did, and it can, and it will again in places we can’t imagine. So remember that your best defense is your child’s ability to say, “Mommy, when my (teacher, coach, babysitter) touched my pee pee and it got big (warm, hard, tickly), he said that was our special game, is that Ok?”

No parent ever wants to be in the awful position that left Joe Paterno saying “With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I’d done more”   Do it now!

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