COMMENTARY: Tip of an Iceberg More Than a Cliché About Child Abuse

  • By Joseph J. Honick 
Joseph J. Honick

Joseph J. Honick

Grant me a moment for a cliché: we all know that the tip of an iceberg is really the cover for much more harsh and hard realities below.

New York Times columnist Ginia Bellafante melted the whole damned iceberg with her June 29 column that opened with: “Institutional history — who gets to define it, promote it, exploit it, obscure it, distort it — sits at the heart of child sexual abuse charges like those currently unfolding at two of the city’s (NYC) private schools: Horace Mann, in the Bronx, and Poly Prep in Brooklyn. And, so, too, in a broader sense, does the matter of cultural history itself….” (Link:

The points she hammers home in the rest of her indictment speak to the coverups of such abuse apparently a matter of routine practice in schools, universities, religious power bases and who knows where else … because society, institutions, the cops and everyone else let it ride for far too long.

But now it’s out. And what we find is that PR professionals who help clients look a little better under the spotlight in such matters are actually engaged in helping with the idea it’s not as bad as it seems. Well, it is not as bad as it seems…it’s disgustingly worse!

Now that the smoothed over behavior at the upscale high schools and Penn State University are out there, does anyone really think those august institutions are the only centers of widespread abuse? While many perpetrators are protected from prison by statutes of limitation, they are now fodder for attorneys everywhere.

But more important, this exposure of behavior that cannot muster an adequate name is really an opportunity, yes, and an opportunity for some logic and statesmanship to make its way into the base language of the presidential campaign.
Two family men named Obama and Romney could emerge as real political and national leaders were both of them even to appear to join forces in this one common goal to condemn the realities of the juvenile abuse and demand a Congressional probe to root out the offenders and their protectors, no matter where it may take the investigation and no matter what personalities are ultimately exposed.

Perhaps then and only then will everyone see that two contending candidates for leadership of what used to be the most respected nation in the world really do care about an issue that could affect their kids and everyone else’s.

* * *

Joseph J. Honick is president of GMA International in Bainbridge Island, WA. This commentary was published in O’Dwyer’s PR Report and is reprinted by permission


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