Protecting the Pedophiles to Save your Butt: Unethical and Unsustainable
Last year, when a Texas father beat his 5-year-old daughter’s rapist to death and was not charged with murder, the world quickly realized: here in Texas, we have no tolerance for sexual abuse. I’ve found that the American south is a bit more adamant than other areas of the world, but, all in all, this nation generally agrees that pedophiliac acts are disgusting and entirely unacceptable.
However, after observing the repeated incidents of pedophiliac actions covered up to protect numerous companies’ image, I have begun to doubt how deeply we despise these actions. The following three cases have been revealed in the past few years and definitely bring corporate ethics into question.
The Boy Scouts of America: In 2012, files were uncovered that revealed 20 years of sexual abuse gone unreported. The Boy Scouts keep detailed records of the goings-on within the organization. When scout leaders were acknowledged as sex offenders, the organization would remove them from their troop and keep them from re-entering the Boy Scouts. However, these actions never included police involvement and didn’t aim to protect the abused child. Although these records date from 1965-1985, the organization kept the details private until a judge ordered their release two years ago. The result has been a steep decline in public respect and trust for a previously revered organization.
Pennsylvania State University: Penn State has been the focus of a major scandal for the past two years, involving a senior level sexual abuse cover-up. Former Football Assistant Coach Jerry Sandusky worked for PSU for 30 years and founded Second Mile, a nonprofit for underprivileged children. With his connections, Second Mile held youth sports camps on Penn State campus. However, it was later revealed that Sandusky had been molesting the kids in his program. When Penn State officials discovered multiple incidents of molestation, they stopped allowing the camps to happen on Penn State property, but they never took the issue to the police or investigated the welfare of the victims. Once the scandal went public, multiple former Second Mile participants stepped forward with details of sexual abuse. Many victims sued both Sandusky and Penn State. Second Mile filed bankruptcy and Sandusky was sentenced to life in prison.
The Catholic Church: The Vatican has long been the center of attention for its sex abuse scandal. The entity has protected priests accused of indecency by shuffling them around from parish to parish, when any allegations arise. The truth began to leak out, as numerous men stepped forward to bring charges against their attackers. As a result, the public became aware of the trend that allowed repeated offenses from the same priests. The scandal has become a source of stress for the church and a discomfort for Catholic families around the world.
We wince in disgust for the cases we see on TV, but when it comes to our companies, we are willing to protect an image rather than a child. It has led me to a terrifying question.
Why are companies willing to abandon their ethical standing (on a generally unacceptable action) to protect themselves?
The simple answer is for immediate protection. To avoid the public eye and find the quickest fix, organizations are willing to stomach the most despicable of actions, with the hopes that no one will discover the truth.
The unfortunate reality of this world is that, ultimately, the dirtiest secrets are hung on the line for all to see. The public will discover every misstep and will judge twice as harshly. For this reason, public relations practitioners usually encourage honesty and apology. They help a company recognize that the truth may not set you free, but at least it’s not a lie.
In fact, the PRSA code of ethics holds honesty as one of its six professional values. Additionally, PRSA reminds its members that although they should be loyal to their clients, their primary obligation is to serve the general public. Public relations professionals of these companies were either not alerted or completely overlooked the public.
In these examples, the scariest part is their complete desertion of a conscience that considers the wellbeing of the child. All of these mentioned organizations strive to provide services to improve the quality of the lives of children. However, they have proven that their interests lie elsewhere.
By protecting the abuser and ignoring the abused, these corporations invalidate their mission statements. The Boy Scouts of America’s mission statement is a prime example of this unfortunate paradox.
“The mission of the Boy Scouts of America is to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes…”
The mission statement should guide the actions of an organization. When a mission statement obviously values ethics, then the decisions should follow those boundaries. However, it evidently doesn’t usually work that way. Many companies fail to act ethically and eventually take the fall.
Simply put, hiding unethical actions might seem like the most efficient way to contain a crisis in the moment, but deceit isn’t sustainable. One day, someone will bring the evil to light and the perpetrator will pay. (As a do-gooder, I personally find this very comforting.)
Despite their initial mistakes, the aforementioned companies have gone back to make their wrongs right. In the months following these scandals, the organizations took steps to create a safer environment for children and eradicate any sexual abuse.
Nevertheless, the general consensus from the public has been that it’s just a little too late and I would agree. Distrust and distaste are the only logical responses for their involvement in such a disliked action.