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Recent Sandusky Case provides society with a renewed reason to fear anything tied to 'Megan's Law'


10:06 PM, Nov. 19, 2011 | Comments

CHRISTINA MITCHELL :: | Courier-Post Staff

In the state that begat Megan's Law, statutes are specific about reporting any kind of sexual abuse.

But as the nation continues to absorb the news of child molestation charges against Penn State's Jerry Sandusky, some area colleges are not so much rethinking policies as firming those already in place.

New Jersey colleges and universities are required by state statute to investigate all reports of sexual assault, according to the state's Coalition Against Sexual Assault. Federal law is represented by the Clery Act, legislation passed in 1990 that mandates all colleges and universities disclose information about any kind of crime on campus.

Locally, Rowan University's board of trustees proposed just Thursday to conduct an education campaign on campus sexual abuse or "other questionable acts," according to spokesman Joe Cardona.

"It's almost like a Virginia Tech or Columbine," he adds. "In those cases, everybody took a real good look at what they did with safety and security. The same thing will happen with this case."

"We always knew sooner or later something like this was going to blow up. But we never thought it was going to be this bad."

Gloucester County Senior Prosecutor Audrey Curwin says the depth of Sandusky's alleged betrayal has a lot to do with how we perceive sexual predators. Gone are the days of the stereotypical flashing stranger in the raincoat. Studies show sexual molestation of a child is the ultimate breach of trust: In 60 percent of boys and 80 percent of girls victimized, offenders are acquaintances or family members.

"They're people who are like us," says Cerwin, who has prosecuted everyone from distant uncles to babysitters in sex abuse cases since 2004.

"Because predators are like us, it is much harder to comprehend. We can comprehend, say, a (Unabomber) Ted Kaczynski, but when they look like us and act like us, it's hard to accept it on a certain level."

By Attorney Elisabeth K.H. Pasqualini, Criminal Law Attorney, Harrisburg, PA

In the wake of the Sandusky case, Pennsylvania legislators are likely to take a look at proposing legislation that will provide that all adults are required to report alleged child sexual abuse when they first become aware of it. Presently, Pennsylvania requires that only certain individuals, called mandated reporters, such as daycare staff, teachers, nurses, doctors and social workers report sexual abuse to police. However, are we really going too far when we attempt to mandate that someone report something that they may or may not be completely aware of? There's an old saying "bad facts make bad law." This is an impossible situation that will likely play out in the courts for many years.

If you are facing allegations of sexual abuse, possession of child pornography, or other offenses tied to sex crimes, such as rape, incest, or indecent assault, contact an experienced attorney at Shaffer & Engle Law Offices, LLC.