Often in our society something outrageously ugly or gruesome has to occur before the public and its public institutions take notice and then take action.
If anything good comes out of the Penn State sex scandal it will be that it will be recognized as the tipping point, the singular event that forced us as a society and our institutions to take a long, hard look at a problem that has always been with us and force decisive action to correct it.
In virtually every town there were stories of older adults involved in inappropriate behavior with children. Sometimes they were just empty rumors or mean-spirited concoctions. But, in some cases the hushed whispers simply covered up the ultimate destruction of young lives.
Coming on the heels of revelations of child abuse within the Catholic Church and other organizations here and there around the country, one might get the mistaken idea that this is a new problem or a fairly rare occurance that has mushroomed through some degredation of society's moral fabric.
It is not new.
What is new is the awareness, the discussion.
Through the prosecution of Jerry Sandusky and the full examination of the Penn State administration's handling of the situation, it may be that the publicity and the public anger and introspection they spur will prompt those who have suffered in silence to be silent no more.
Already there are calls in the Pennsylvania's General Assembly to tighten and strengthen laws dealing with mandatory reporting of child abuse. Social service agencies are finding more willingness on the part of the public to engage with them in their outreach on the subject.
We as a society are damaged by such abuse, but we can join together to learn from it, stop it, and heal its victims.