We Are Survivors 

This blog is dedicated to the tens of millions of adult survivors of child abuse and neglect who get up every day and try to work and function in a world that seems to not care about us.

Indifference is as Disturbing as the Crime (Part 1 of 2)

This past April 8th federal prosecutors made known former Republican House Speaker, Denis Hastert, sexually molested at least four boys while employed as an Illinois high school wrestling coach beginning in the 1960s. Prosecutors said there was “no ambiguity” about these abuses. They were, they said, “known acts.”[1] While the news was disturbing, sexual and all other forms of child abuse is commonplace.

According to the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study, one in four girls and one in six boys are sexually assaulted before they reach the age of eighteen.[2]  It cannot be a surprise, therefore, that even a member of Congress molested young boys.

Also not surprising is how frequently child abuse, if made known, is not revealed until many years later. Rumors about Hastert’s behavior persisted for years, for example, they were floated during 2006 when Congressman Mark Foley was forced to resign for forwarding soliciting e-mails and sexually suggestive instant messages to teenaged boys. It was not until last year Hastert’s actions nearly fifty years ago became known albeit accidentally.

What banking officials and eventually the FBI wanted to learn, pursuant to the PATRIOT Act and other federal laws, was why Hastert made multiple $50,000 bank withdrawals over two years. Hastert initially told officials he was buying vintage cars and stocks. He then explained he did not think banks were safe and then argued he was the victim of extortion. None of these explanations were true. Eventually, the FBI learned Hastert was paying a victim for his silence.

Like Hastert, Jerry Sandusky was convicted in 2012 on 45 counts dating back to 1994. It has recently come to light Penn State paid a settlement stemming from Sandusky’s abuse in 1971. Predatory behavior exhibited by thousands of Catholic priests were also not made known for decades. Jerry Savile engaged in wide spread pedophilia undeterred for over six decades including abusing boys under hospice care. The Boy Scouts held “perversion files” for nearly a century. Abuses at New York City’s Horace Mann School made known a few years ago date back to the 1960s. The Boston Globe has recently reported hundreds of children were molested over many decades at least 67 elite private schools in New England. USA Swimming’s “Hall of Fame” coach Rick Curl’s 1980s sexual abuse of a female teenage swimmer was, at the time, allegedly made known to his employer, the University of Maryland. The university never reported the abuse to Maryland state officials. Curl was not convicted until 2013.

The Curl case is particularly noteworthy because it did earn the unprecedented attention of one member of Congress, Representative George Miller. Mr. Miller was the former chair and then ranking minority member of the House Committee on Education and Workforce. Mr. Miller because interested in the Curl case in part because the committee’s jurisdiction included student safety. Though the Committee refused Mr. Miller’s request to hold a hearing, after a lengthy investigation of USA Swimming by Mr. Miller’s staff, the Committee under Mr. Miller’s sole signature, forwarded an 11-page letter to the FBI in July 2014 requesting the agency “fully investigate USA Swimming’s handling of both past and present cases of child sexual abuse.” Mr. Miller’s letter stated, “It has become clear that child sexual abuse and sexual misconduct have plagued USA Swimming since its inception in 1980” (USA Swimming is the creation of Congress’s Amateur Sports Act of 1978.) The letter noted USA Swimming had banned more than 80 coaches for child abuse. Most were not banned until after 2009 despite “the fact,” the letter stated, “that some of them have engaged in sexual abuse for decades.” Mr. Miller argued USA Swimming’s banning of coaches was insufficient because coaches continued to coach just elsewhere. In summary the letter stated, “the FBI’s engagement on these issues is of the utmost importance,” because, “the USA Swimming process allows predators to prey with impunity.”

A month later, the FBI responded. In three brief paragraphs the FBI stated, “representatives recently met with USA Swimming officials and discussed applicable federal violations associated with child exploitation matters,” and “provided information to assist in USA Swimming’s effort to educate their membership regarding the sexual exploitation of children.[3] It appears the FBI took no further action. In June 2013, Mr. Miller also requested the GAO investigate the abuse of student athlete’s participation in swim clubs. The GAO report was not published until May 2015, or several months after Mr. Miller retired. The GAO admitted it “did not assess the effectiveness of any of the selected athletic programs’ policies.” The report’s conclusion simply stated the “GAO makes no recommendations in this report.” [4] It’s worth noting, recently another USA Swimming Hall of Fame Coach, Joe Bernal, was banned for life for sexual misconduct.

Mr. Miller’s efforts stand out as the exception. Over the past seven weeks, or since Hastert’s offences were made known, the current House Speaker Paul Ryan has not issued a single press release condemning Hastert. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has also been silent, as has Senate Democratic Leader Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. As was the case during the Sandusky scandal, no Congressional hearings are planned. Despite the fact they are from the same state and four of the last eight Illinois governors have gone to prison, President Obama as well has been silent. When asked on April 27th, the day Hastert was sentenced, if the White House had any reaction, Press Secretary Josh Earnest stated, “I don’t have a specific response to that. Obviously, this is part of our criminal justice system carrying out its mandate.” When asked in May 2015 after Hastert was indicted, Earnest’s response was equally apathetic. “Nobody” he said, “derives any pleasure from Hastert’s legal troubles.”[5]

The article’s original name is “About Hastert’s “Known Acts:” The Indifference Is As Disturbing as the Crime;” written by David Introcaso Ph.D.


[1] An overview of the Hastert case is contained in the “Government’s Position Paper as to Sentencing Factors,” at: https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/2798113/Hastert.pdf.

[2] Information regarding the ACE Study is at:  http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/acestudy/prevalence.html.

[3] Mr. Miller’s letter and the FBI’s one page response is at http://cdn.swimswam.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/USASwimming-GMLettertoFBIandFBIResponse-1.pdf

[4] The GAO report is at: http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-418.

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Best Way to Work with Survivors - Part 2 of 2
Indifference is as Disturbing as the Crime (Part 2...


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