Use Sandusky case as incentive to protect children

Jerry Sandusky was convicted on 45 counts of sexual crimes against children. (Ed Hille / Staff Photographer)

Before learning at his sentencing Tuesday that he’s likely to die in prison, convicted child molester Jerry Sandusky spun wild conspiracy theories to proclaim his innocence.

But on one point, at least, he made sense: In considering the storm of publicity surrounding his case, Sandusky speculated, “Maybe it will help others — some vulnerable children who could be abused might not be as a result of all the publicity.”

Indeed, that’s likely the most important legacy of the case against the former Pennsylvania State University assistant football coach.

It’s too late for his victims. It’s too late to avert the scandal and subsequent housecleaning that rocked Penn State, where jurors concluded Sandusky lured and abused several of his 10 victims.

It’s too late to stem the devastating damage to the reputation of late football coaching legend Joe Paterno, who was tripped up by claims that he participated in a cover-up.

But it’s not too late for steps that can protect future victims of abuse. And that matters most.

Without question, the Sandusky case has had the healthy effect of raising public awareness about sexual predators — pointing out the problem is far from limited to the scandal roiling the Catholic Church.

At its most fundamental level, the Penn State travesty drives home the need for vigilance in reporting suspected abuse. So, moves being taken by university officials to guard against another abuser being shielded offer hope.

Coupled with needed scrutiny of its athletics programs by a new integrity officer, the university should be better-poised to safeguard visiting children. If Penn State and colleges elsewhere do a better job complying with federal law on reporting serious campus crime, even better.

Also promising is the renewed financial muscle behind anti-abuse efforts, thanks to the $60 million fine levied on Penn State by national collegiate sports officials — much of it to protect Pennsylvania children.

And there’s real unfinished business for Harrisburg in giving long-ago victims of abuse their day in court by opening a window for them to file lawsuits.