Helping the Chronically Overworked Find Life Balance

Upset about Penn State? Then Prevent It From Happening Again!

Today’s guest post is from me.  We’ll get back to Busting Your Corporate Idol on Monday.

“The most saddening finding by the Special Investigative Counsel is the total and consistent disregard by the most senior leaders at Penn State for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims.” – The Freeh Report p 14

If you are interested in my thoughts on how the culture of Penn State enabled this tragedy, and is the embodiment of institutional idolatry, come back on Monday.  I realized that if that is all I had to say, I too, would be ignoring the victims of child abuse.  People come first, so let me share what I have learned about child predators.  Kudos to those news reports that have included experts on child abuse, who have taught me that this is no longer an issue of laws, it is an issue of awareness.

“The overwhelming majority of child sexual abuse victims are abused by someone they know and trust, someone most parents would never suspect.”

For those who prefer statistics, according to the American Psychological association, 60% of perpetrators are known the the parents, 30% are relatives of the child, and just 10% are strangers.  This particularly hits home for me.  I met a family friend’s husband at a wedding and later learned that he was sexually abusing their children.  His own children.  I met him and never in a million years would have guessed.  And she didn’t figure it out for years.

So wearing my business, problem solving hat, if 60% of the problem comes from known, trusted people, how to we as a society solve the problem?

I think a model system is the Safe Haven program, designed by the The American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO).  The Safe Haven program was designed to “prevent opportunities for abuse to occur while minimizing opportunities for volunteers to be misunderstood or falsely accused. The guidelines hold coaches responsible for all players, for maintaining supervision protocols, and maintaining appropriate adult/child boundaries.”

Here are the three rules I learned in Safe Haven training as a coach for my daughters’ soccer teams.

  1. A coach is never alone with a child, ever.
  2. A coach never touches a child, ever.
  3. For girls teams, at least one adult woman must be present at every practice.  And if no woman is available, the practice is canceled.  In San Carlos, where I live,  my town, this is taken very seriously.  Once  when I was an assistant coach, the head coach spent the first 15 minutes of practice calling moms until he found one to come to the field.
What is great about The Safe Haven is that everyone involved with the soccer league, the parents, coaches, referees, and kids are all trained on these rules.  The program works exactly as designed – the kids are safe, and the coaches are never in a position where they could be questioned or falsely accused.

What to do if you come across the unthinkable?

What would you do if you found out a close friend, coworker, or aquantance was molesting kids?  One mother involved with the Penn State tragedy confronted Jerry Sandusky when she though he had molested her son.  Don’t do it.  Monsters like him are master manipulators.  You would have a better chance of winning a chess match against world champion Viswanathan Anand of India than you would of learning the truth yourself.  None of us are prepared for such things.  Call for professional help immediately.
Your company may have a policy to inform HR,  your boss, or local security.  Some good people at Penn State followed that procedure, and Sandusky continued to hurt kids for years.  In my opinion, if you see something obvious, just call the police on the spot, and call the chain of command later.  After all the national scrutiny on the failings at Penn State, this is one time to ask for forgiveness later for not following procedure.
You do not need to have proof to call in the professionals like the police or a doctor.  It is not your call whether someone should be prosecuted or investigated.  Present what you know and let the professionals work it out.
Another option is to call the hotline .  1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453).  After reviewing a number of websites, this one seems to be the best.  From
 “A qualified crisis counselor will answer and assist you, if you:
  • Have questions about the signs of child abuse.
  • Need to find out how to report known or suspected abuse.
  • Have questions about the reporting process and what you might expect through the process.
  • Want a referral to an agency, counseling or other services near where you live.
  • Need help and want to talk to a counselor.
  • Are in physical or emotional crisis and need support and encouragement
  • Connect you to the best possible resources in your area.
In summary, 90% of child abuse is by people known to the child.  We can do our part to dramatically cut down on child buse by doing the following two things.
1. Set rules for your kids that prevent them from being alone with adults.  Pedaphiles often groom kids by offering special favors or attention. For more information on the danger signs, see
2. Make sure that you, and everyone you know, knows what to do if they see something. Call 1-800-4-A-Child.  We don’t need a witch hunt, but we do need to make sure to bring in a professional if we have reason to believe children are being hurt.  Pedophiles can remain undetected for years, and  hurt multiple children.  And abused kids are much more likely to become abusers themselves.
As uncomfortable as the topic may be, please pass this information on.  It is a concrete step we all can take to make sure that something like this can never happen again.


  1. Molly Walker says

    I think you man to say: A coach is never alone with a child, ever.

  2. Molly Walker says

    Rather, you MEAN to say: A coach is never ALONE with a child, ever.

  3. Thanks for speaking out. We need more people who look at the full problem in context like you (“if 60% of the problem comes from known, trusted people, how to we as a society solve the problem?”) to see that the dominant approaches and reactions to dealing with child sexual abuse do not do enough to really end it, to create safety, to prevent initial harm. Talking about it is the first step, but awareness of prevention that leads to action is where we must end up. There are alot of great groups out there doing good work to keep children safe, but we need to address the real social norms that keep us from preventing child sexual abuse – not responding like it’s inevitable. Stop It Now! has been working with adults and communities to prevent child sexual abuse for 20 years. Much of what we’ve learned, the tools, messages, strategies – and guidance can be found on our website There’s also contacts and online resources for our Helpline and other Help Services for individuals facing specific questions, concerns or situations. Visit us at

    • Greg Marcus says

      It sounds like you are part of a great organization. Thanks Jim for sharing information your information here.

  4. Colleen says

    My son and daughter both play in AYSO, and I know the coaches get training, including on abuse awareness/prevention, but I have never heard of the adult woman at practice rule. I am also wondering why that last rule is only for girls teams — as Penn State, the ruling today in Philadephia re: Catholic Church, and so much more makes perfectly clear, boys are equally in danger from predatory adults. On the other hand: how sad is it that there should be a rule about a coach not touching a child ever. Trying to imagine a soccer game without a high five from the coach after scoring, or being injured and having to walk off the field alone rather than leaning on a coach. Our society is crazy on this topic in many ways, and covering up abuse is only one of them.

    • Greg Marcus says

      Thank you Colleen. Maybe the adult women is something specific to my town.

      Your point about the boys is a good one. I think the other parts of the program provide protection for boys too. A child is never alone with a coach, which protects the child from abuse and the coach from false accusations.

  5. Colleen says

    in any case, thanks for posting about this and putting it in an everyday context