The Sandusky case brought the Fine case, at long last, to public attention. And it led Conlin's accusers, frustrated by the statute of limitations on his alleged crimes, to tell their story to The Inquirer's intrepid Nancy Phillips.

While we have to respect the wish many victims have for anonymity, we must celebrate those who willingly put their names out there. That important step toward removing the stigma from the innocent is also a step out of the darkness and into the light. Predatory behavior like this lives in the darkness.

If the Sandusky and Fine cases forced sports writers to go after powerful men and institutions, the Conlin case forced us to recognize that this can happen much closer to home - much too close for comfort.

That is the sad but necessary lesson of 2011, a year that cannot end soon enough.

Contact Phil Sheridan at 215-854-2844, psheridan@phillynews.com, or @Sheridanscribe on Twitter. Read his blog, "Philabuster," at www.philly.com/philabuster. Read his columns at www.philly.com/philsheridan