Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Sandusky and Rollins Cases Shine the Spotlight On a Subject That Engenders Deep Discomfort

Jerry Sandusky arrives for
yesterday's sentencing

Former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky was sentenced to at least 30 years in prison yesterday for his convictions as part of  probably the most high-profile child sexual abuse scandal in the nation's history.

Closer to home, I am receiving an education in the fear, confusion, and anger that the subject of child sexual abuse brings to American families. That's because of my reporting on Campus Crest Communities CEO Ted Rollins, who was the subject of a North Carolina social-services investigation in the 1990s. The probe came after a citizen filed a complaint about possible sexual abuse involving Rollins and his stepson, who was in the 10 to 14 age range at the time.

Sarah Rollins, Ted's oldest daughter, has told us that she understands such an investigation took place and that her father and half brother had "somewhat of an unusual relationship." She clearly was troubled by what she believes to have gone on, but she also expressed concern about her brother's well being in the aftermath of reports about the investigation.

In part two of our conversation with Sarah Rollins, we learn more about the conflict child abuse visits upon a family--and it's undisputed that Ted Rollins committed physical abuse of the stepson when he was convicted for assault in 1995. We also learn about the obligations a journalist juggles in reporting on a sensitive topic. (See video at the end of this post.)

What kind of emotion comes with any reports involving child sexual abuse. ESPN's coverage of yesterday's Sandusky sentencing provides some answers:

Three victims spoke, often fighting back tears. One looked Sandusky in the eyes at times. Two of the men exchanged a long embrace after court was adjourned.

My conversation with Sarah Rollins showed that kind of emotion has been present in her family:

I do respect that you are trying to help or have some sort of affirmative action. But I just know that my mom lately has been so torn up about that story about my dad and my brother. I just think this is not really a positive outcome for it to be so in the open. . . . My brother would be very, very upset. . . .  
I think he's upset because, well probably, because he knows that you know everything, because my mom talks to you a lot. He does worry . . . 

Victims struggle mightily with the fallout from these cases. Those who are close to the victim struggle. Those who report on the issue also struggle.

All of that is apparent from part two of our conversation with Sarah Rollins in the video below:


Anonymous said...

Thanks for an inside look at how this issue affects families. Very illuminating.

Sharon said...

For such a young person, Ms Rollins speaks eloquently on a difficult topic.

legalschnauzer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
legalschnauzer said...

Sharon, I agree. I hope her brother appreciates her efforts on his behalf.

Anonymous said...

I pray the cycle of abuse doesn't continue in this family. That's how these cases often play out over the years.

Anonymous said...

Aren't you violating this young woman's privacy?

legalschnauzer said...

Anon at 11:14--

I've addressed this before, but I'll address it again.

First, Sarah called me, not the other way around. But aside from that, it's legal in Alabama to tape record a phone call as long as one party to the conversation is aware of it. Laws on that vary from state to state, but it's legal in most states.

Finally, there is nothing illegal or unethical about publishing phone conversations. It's done quite often.

That being said, I would not have run this if I thought there was anything in our conversation that would be embarrassing or harmful to Ms. Rollins. She's had enough headaches from her father; she doesn't need any from me.

In my view, she comes across as a thoughtful, caring, well-spoken young person, so I consider that a good thing. She also shines light on what happened in her family, and how these issues affect families in general. Again, I think that is a good thing.