Home > Co-founders > Penn State Tragedy a Reminder to Focus on the Voiceless

Penn State Tragedy a Reminder to Focus on the Voiceless

This post is by Bob and Suzanne Wright, Co-Founders of Autism Speaks.

The horribly tragic situation at Penn State University is a sobering reminder of what can happen when the powerless have no voice and powerful institutions have no one holding them accountable. It is the cause and effect result of power dynamics at its most extreme, where institutional dominance is protected over the safety and well being of the most vulnerable; where the most trusted have committed the most serious betrayal. We have seen this pattern before with the Catholic Church scandals and now with the allegations at Syracuse University.

Autism Speaks is, first and foremost, a voice for people with autism who often do not have the ability to speak for themselves, nor the resources or power to affect the change our community needs. Sadly, individuals on the autism spectrum are often teased, bullied, and abused physically and emotionally. We continually fight to raise awareness of autism, to educate the public and urge the government to dedicate critical resources for services for people with autism. However, our responsibility as advocates must now extend to a much broader community. To truly exhibit the role of advocates, it is incumbent upon us to stand up for all children, wherever and whenever they are in peril. We must be active protectors of our children – it is not enough to express outrage.

Every organization that exist to advocate for children – big and small, national and local – must step up now, join together and demand action. Justice in Pennsylvania should be our immediate priority. Meaningful, measurable change in how we protect our kids must be the ultimate goal. We have to do more and do better. What happened in Penn State is a shame and a crime. It is also a collective failure. The failure of Penn State was years in the making; we cannot allow it to take years to conclude.

This tragedy must become more than a cautionary tale. It is a rallying call to all those who care about the welfare and well being of children to bring about real change.

·     We call for the U.S. Attorney’s Office to investigate federal crimes that may have been committed to get to the truth and hold those accountable to face the consequences of their collective neglect;

·     We implore other national and local child welfare organizations to stand up and sound the alarm to protect all children everywhere;

·     We ask the governor and the university board to waive its exemption from the state open record law so that parents, families, victims and the media can have access to all the records in this case since 1995.

When a disaster of this magnitude occurs, it is important for all of us to step up and speak out. Bringing our collective influence to bear, we can all make change happen and be the advocates and protectors our children deserve.

Bob and Suzanne Wright
Co-founders, Autism Speaks

1 East 33rd Street, 4th Floor
New York, NY 10016
212.554.0740

  1. November 20, 2011 at 8:56 pm

    i am with the wright’s. we have to stand up and be a voice. i have tried to be a voice at times. i have been treated badly at times for speaking out. my daughter is 22 now. didn’t have a voice for me to get her help. i had to let even teachers know of new therapy and they learned a lot from my daughter. she was a very severe autistic girl for many years. she has changed a lot but still can not speak. i hope there will be more grants or funding for the ipad touch. i need one as many others could use this to get some kind of communication with the world. they want to speak but can’t. could you imagine having the want to speak but you can’t get it out? let’s be the voice for the future generations of autistic families.

  2. Katie Wright
    November 20, 2011 at 11:36 pm

    So proud of you Mom and Dad.
    I am sure I speak for all parents when I say I am in 100% agreement.
    Vulnerable children must be protected.

  3. Sarah
    November 21, 2011 at 10:04 am

    “Meaningful, measurable change in how we protect our kids must be the ultimate goal.” Well said. Well done. I am so proud to fundraise for Autism Speaks.

  4. Kathy Williams ( Nana )
    November 21, 2011 at 6:48 pm

    I do agree as well , there has to be some way some how to protect our children those non verble and verible. I am the biggest advacate for my Grandson , he has been with us 10 years now, we have been through so much , bullied , abuse, etc. Much had not been done by our School District , but I have said plenty and I will stand up for and take care of him the best way that I know how , and that is through my voice and my willingness to do so.

  5. November 21, 2011 at 7:20 pm

    Thank you, Bob and Suzanne!

  6. November 27, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    Thank you Bob and Suzanne,
    I consider your advocacy so much more appropriate than that of the ‘right-to-life’ movement, for example.
    Your perspective is TRULY one of multi-dimensional coverage, as opposed to a single-focus item that involves political ties!

    I have been involved for 31 years in the ASD world, and have worked really hard to help the quality of life improve for both students and their families–using an entirely eclectic but carefully selected collection of information and resources. I am happy to say that Autism Speaks is right up there near the top of the list of MOST USER FRIENDLY options that I frequently refer too.
    Kathi Blacker,
    Friend of many ASD Individuals and Families,
    Instructor & Consultant Professional

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