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