By Lyndon Haviland, MPH, DrPH
Yet another high profile child sexual abuse scandal is in the news. Yesterday, former subway pitchman Jared Fogle was sentenced to 15 years and eight months in federal prison after pleading guilty to child pornography and sex charges. While Fogle had the book thrown at him, the nation is missing an opportunity to move from shock and dismay into action. We do not need another high profile perpetrator story – what we need is a national strategy to prevent child sexual abuse before it happens.
Back in August, Fogle agreed to a deal under which he would plead guilty to charges of possession or distribution of child pornography and traveling across state lines to have sex with a minor. Fogle agreed in court to avoid pornography, get sexual disorder treatment, and to be registered as a sex offender. U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt also sentenced him to a lifetime of supervision and a $175,000 fine.
“The level of perversion and lawlessness exhibited by Mr. Fogle is extreme,” said Judge Tanya Walton Pratt.
Yet despite the severity of his crime, his guilty plea, and the agreement to get help for a sexual disorder, Fogle and his defense attorneys were full of excuses and pleas for leniency. The denial is astounding. Fogle’s attorney’s argued that he swapped his food addition for a sex addiction and additionally that the weight loss created a “hyper-sexuality.” They also argued that although Fogle’s victims were underage, the sex was consensual. We should all be shocked. But what is most baffling is that despite the fact that Jared Fogle was convicted of having sex with minors he was not charged with rape because there is no federal law prohibiting sex with minors. Sadly, his attorneys also chose to ignore the ages of the child pornography victims at least one of which was as young as 6.
At Darkness to Light we are dismayed at Jared Fogle’s inability to take responsibility for his actions and alarmed that because there are not federal laws in place we exist in a society that cultivates his denial. We all must take responsibility for this. We are committed to working nationally to keep children safe and forge new cultural norms. Darkness to Light believes that adults are responsible for protecting children from sexual abuse. We need a comprehensive program of child sexual abuse prevention education, and a national system of laws that hold abusers accountable and protects children. Children have a right to have a childhood free from sexual abuse.
Denial allows abuse to happen, we need to give every adult the knowledge and skills to have difficult conversations nationally and in our communities about sexual abuse and child protection. We should demand state and federal laws to protect the most vulnerable among us, and we must work together to end child sexual abuse. Let’s turn from shock and disbelief to empowerment and action.
To learn more about how to end child sexual abuse, and what you can do to protect the children in your lives visit www.D2L.org.