Accomplices Betray Victims, Offenders, & Their Own Organizations

 In High School, Honesty, Compassion, and Respect, Nurturing Honesty, Respect, Compassion, Student Rights

Author: Sabrina Soffer & Co-author: Ashley McMichael  


Imagine how different Larry Nassar’s life would be if Michigan State had held him accountable after a few victims reported sexual misconduct. How different would Jerry Sandusky’s life be if he had been offered a path to treatment from the onset?  Think about the many victims who could have been saved if the misconduct was addressed early on.

Larry Nassar, Jeffery Epstein, and Jerry Sandusky: their names will be forever tarnished. They will go down in history as infamous predators for their heinous acts against minors. No one will remember the once skilled doctor to the stars or the amazing coach who developed children’s talents.

How did an entire system fail to protect vulnerable kids? What could have been done to stop misconduct before the behavior became abusive?


We tend to focus entirely on the detrimental impact on victims. While this is undeniably important to do, we must also look at the other side of the equation: the offenders. They, too, are victims in their own way, often falling prey to accomplices in the institutions themselves. Researching and investigating hundreds of sexual misconduct cases presents a persistent pattern of intensified abuse. 

At the onset, incidents often start as mere inappropriate behaviors that cause some discomfort. Many predators use a tactic called ‘grooming’ to gain the trust and affection of children: giving candy, providing flirtatious compliments, and subtle touching are all examples of this ‘innocent’ manipulative tool. Kids may pick up on this seduction and report it; however, when they do, authorities often dismiss them on claims that this behavior poses no clear threat or danger. Officials often brush off the allegations with phrases such as, “oh, just ignore that…boys will be boys…” or “we used to do that when we were kids, don’t worry about it…” This period, where victims are ignored, is where misconduct morphs into abuse. In due time, the kind and gentle taps on the shoulder transition to intimate touches of private body parts. 

But indeed, administrators have the power to prevent this. They have a fiduciary responsibility to create a safe environment for their stakeholders and to restore trust within the organization. This can be done through honest and constructive conversations. If open dialogue was created from the onset, mediated by an authority of the institution, the offender would be warned and the victim protected. This consensus would prevent further misconduct and, of course, crime. 

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