This is a guest post by Suzanne and Bob Wright, Autism Speaks founders.
Last November, when news of the Penn State scandal first broke, we issued the press release below, calling on all organizations concerned about the well-being and welfare of children to join together and mobilize to fight for justice. The response from both the media and the groups we reached out to was underwhelming. The NCAA sanctions announced this week bring a close to one chapter in this tragedy, but all of us who remain concerned about the safety of America's children must continue to push for greater accountability and a fundamental re-examination of how we can better protect the most vulnerable.
Autism Speaks Co-founders Call for U.S. Attorney Investigation and Waiver of State Open Record Law in Penn State Case PR Newswire
NEW YORK, Nov. 19, 2011
NEW YORK, Nov. 19, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- The co-founders of Autism Speaks, North America's largest autism advocacy organization, today called for the U.S. Attorney's Office to investigate federal crimes that may have been committed in the Penn State child sexual abuse scandal and asked Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett 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 records in this case since 1995. They also implored other national and local child welfare organizations to stand up and sound the alarm to protect all children everywhere.
"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," said Bob and Suzanne Wright, Autism Speaks co-founders. "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," continued the Wrights. "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 exists 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 at 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. 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."
For more on ways to protect against abuse, visit the Autism Safety Project.