Incest is a subject that makes people recoil. The word alone causes many to squirm, and it's telling that of all of the individual and groups of perpetrators who've made national headlines to date, virtually none have been related to their victims. They've been trusted or fatherly figures (some in a more literal sense than others) from institutions close to home, but not actual fathers, step-fathers, uncles, grandfathers, brothers, or cousins (or mothers and female relatives, for that matter). While all abuse is traumatizing, people outside of a child's home and family—the Sanduskys, the teachers and the priests—account for far fewer cases of child sexual abuse.
To answer the questions always following such scandals—why did the victims remain silent for so long, how and why were the offending adults protected, why weren't the police involved, how could a whole community be in such denial?—one need only realize that these institutions are mirroring the long-established patterns and responses to sexual abuse within the family. Which are: Deal with it internally instead of seeking legal justice and protection; keep kids quiet while adults remain protected and free to abuse again.
Intentionally or not, children are protecting adults, many for their entire lives. Millions of Americans, of both sexes, choke down food at family dinners, year after year, while seated at the same table as the people who violated them. Mothers and other family members are often complicit, grown-ups playing pretend because they're more invested in the preservation of the family (and, often, the family's finances) than the psychological, emotional, and physical well-being of the abused.
So why is incest still relegated to the hushed, shadowy outskirts of public and personal discussion, particularly given how few subjects today remain too controversial or taboo to discuss? Perhaps it's because however devastating sexual molestation by a trusted figure is, it's still more palatable than the thought of being raped by one's own flesh and blood. Or is it?
Consider how the clergy abuse shook Catholics to their core, causing internal division and international disenchantment with a religion that was once the bedrock of entire nations. Consider the fallout from Sandusky's actions and Penn State's cover-up, both for students and football. Consider how distressing it is for Brits to now come to terms with the fact that the man they watched every night on TV in their living rooms was routinely raping kids just before going on air.
Given the prevalence of incest, and that the family is the basic unit upon which society rests, imagine what would happen if every kid currently being abused—and every adult who was abused but stayed silent—came out of the woodwork, insisted on justice, and saw that justice meted out. The very fabric of society would be torn. Everyone would be affected, personally and professionally, as family members, friends, colleagues, and public officials suddenly found themselves on trial, removed from their homes, in jail, on probation, or unable to live and work in proximity to children; society would be fundamentally changed, certainly halted for a time, on federal, state, local, and family levels. Consciously and unconsciously, collectively and individually, accepting and dealing with the full depth and scope of incest is not something society is prepared to do.