The Pennsylvania state Senate's passage of child abuse bills last week nicely coincided with the state Superior Court's decision not to grant a new trial for serial molester Jerry Sandusky.
It was a good decision on the court's part. Mr. Sandusky has a right to pursue the appellate process, but his trial was fair and the evidence the jury considered in convicting him was overwhelming.
The Senate also made good calls on passing child abuse laws proposed by a state task force created in the wake of the Sandusky and Catholic church scandals - though it has taken a surprisingly long time.
A slate of bills was passed unanimously that would, among other things:
· Increase the punishment for people found guilty of covering up child abuse.
· Require medical professionals to report a case of suspected child abuse immediately to county child welfare agencies and require those agencies to disclose certain information to certain medical professionals.
· Ensure the identity of an attacker does not need to be determined before a case of child abuse is included in the state's official statistics.
It's a good start, but there's still legislative work to be done, enacting suggestions made by the task force. Advocates for victims are rightly pressing lawmakers for other reforms.
Perhaps the most important is lowering Pennsylvania's threshold for the sort of injury or pain that is consider abuse.
Another is just common sense: Come up
with an easier-to-remember child abuse hotline number.
The number of that hotline - called ChildLine - is 1-800-932-0313.
Not exactly memorable.
What if we treated child abuse like the emergency that it is and gave it a 911-like number?
In this case, the task force recommended designating 611 as the number to call to report suspected child abuse.
That makes sense.
A public service advertising campaign could drill that number into people's heads. And if they witnessed abuse while out and about they could whip out their cell phones, hit three keys and do their civic duty.
Of course, people can already use 911 to make such reports. But a three-digit number coupled with a public service campaign could really make this issue top of mind, encouraging folks to report their suspicions.
Why wait? Halloween should be the target to better fight the horror of abuse.