Beerituality Panelists Discuss the Penn State Scandal and Wider Concerns

Friends, this is a re-post from the Beerituality blog.  Beerituality is a monthly gathering at the Allentown Brew Works in Downtown Allentown that aims to bring people together from across traditions “at the crossroads of the sacred and secular.”

Peter Schweyer, Bill White, Tammy Lerner, and Alan Tjeltveit @ Beerituality (November 17, 2011)

Last night’s discussion featured Peter Schweyer, a PSU grad, Allentown City Councilperson and the Chief of Staff for PA Rep. Jennifer Mann with experience in abuse legislation; Bill White, noted columnist for the Allentown Morning Call, a long-time advocate for abuse survivors and abuse prevention; Tammy Lerner, State Director and Vice President of Abolish Child Sex Abuse; and Alan Tjeltveit, Professor of Psychology at Muhlenberg College.

This was an extremely important night of engaging, educational, and candid reflection and dialogue about the wider context of sexual abuse in the midst of the Penn State scandal.

From Tammy Lerner’s organizational website,, a plea for legislative action: Please contact members of the PA House Judiciary Commitee, and demand they hold Public Hearings on H.B 832, H.B. 878, H.B. 549, H.B 1867 and H.B. 1895

Some of the things that struck me immediately:

  • the need to keep talking about this issue, and to encourage people to tell their stories in safe environments. Speaking out about abuse can help dispel the culture of shame we’ve built up around it, so that victims can be empowered to come forward and legal and civil recourse can be taken.
  • In Pennsylvania, coaches are not mandatory reporters.  In some states, they are. Legislation to make coaches mandatory reporters was introduced in Harrisburg this week.
  • In Pennsylvania, university police departments like those at Penn State or Lehigh University are the accredited law enforcement agencies on campus. Unlike other police departments, these don’t report to any elected official or body, but to Boards of Trustees. There are inherent conflicts of interest there on many levels.
  • The need for changes to statute of limitations laws for these kinds of crimes. Currently, if the criminal and civil statutes of limitations have expired before charges are brought, even admitted offenders cannot be named as such in newspapers or with respect to Megan’s Law. This is an area where better legislation can, indeed, help with prevention.

Thanks again to our excellent panelists for the interdisciplinary perspectives and conversation on this hard issue.  We were blessed to be able to assemble this panel.  In the larger context of advocacy and support, this conversation must continue.