Nov 22, 2011

The child rape allegations against former Penn State Assistant Coach Jerry Sandusky have been front page news over the last two weeks. Mr. Sandusy, of course, is innocent until he has been proven guilty in a court of law but I have been quite disturbed by the behavior of some of the other adults involved in this case.
I was really surprised that the Penn State students took to the streets to protest the firing of Paterno and downright shocked when his supporter began to characterize him as a victim. Whether you agree or disagree with what Paterno did, I don't understand how anyone with knowledge of this case can call him a victim. The only victims here are the accusers. Paterno was an adult and he made an adult decision. I'm personally struggling not to judge him for that decision. I know that I have made plenty of mistakes in my life and will make plenty more but I can honestly say, I've never knowingly allowed children to be hurt and I just can't imagine that if I had the same information that he had, I would have just felt that I had done enough by telling the Athletic Director.
Maybe it's because I have seen what happens to abused children. In college, I interned in the juvenile justice system. I'll never for get being 20 years old and sitting across from a 12 year old boy who had sodomized 2 younger children with a broomstick. The parents of the victims were rightfully angry..especially since this happened in a neighborhood tree house while the parents were just a few hundred feet away assuming that their children were playing safely. Their instinct was to label this boy as evil and while I understand why they would feel that way, it just really wasn't that simple. The 12 year old abuser had once been on the other end of a broomstick and a brutal rape at the hands of his stepfather. And while his 2 victims had parents who had immediately stepped in to rescue their children and demand punishment, the 12 year old had not received the same help. When he told his mother of the abuse, she called him a liar and said he wanted to ruin her happiness. So for 2 years, he suffered in silence only telling the story of his own abuse to the state psychologist assigned to treat him after he was arrested.
I remember that after reading his case file and interviewing him, I literally wept. The law, which had not been able to protect him, was now mandated to punish him. He'd never known a real childhood. His innocence was stolen from him before he could even really discern good from bad.
I called my mother that night to thank her. Growing up, I was invited to many sleepovers but I only got to attend 2. I had always thought she simply could not stand the idea of me spending the night somewhere other than with her but it took that moment for me to realize she was trying to protect me from what could be. Fortunately for her, she wasn't alone.
As a child, the kids in my neighborhood and I often lamented over the fact that we could not get away with anything. Both of my parents worked but there were 3 stay at home moms on my block and we literally thought of them as the police. I can't tell you how quickly my day would go downhill when the doorbell rang shortly after my parents came home from work. The only people stopping by your house at 6 pm on Wednesday night are neighbors or the pizza delivery man and we made our own pizzas at home.
I'll never forget one teacher in service day I was staying with the one of the stay at home moms and my friends and I were playing in the front yard. A stranger drove down the street twice and then stopped in front of where we were playing saying that he was lost. Being innocent children, we walked over to his car to listen to him. Next thing I know, the front door of my friend's house swung open and her mom came out calling our names and ordering us to get back in the yard immediately. The man tried to explain that he was lost but she did not care. She lit into him about calling children over to his car and dude drove off in a hurry.
Now I don't know if the guy was really lost or if he had other plans that day but I do know that if she had not come out there, we were close for him to be able to grab at least one of us. I complained about them growing up but I don't know where I would be if it hadn't been for those surrogate mothers on my block. Especially during my high school years...whew those women put in work. They'd give my mother a full accounting of who dropped me off at home, the make and model of the car, and if a guy was driving they knew how long we sat in the car talking. I remember a boyfriend saying that h should come in for a few minutes since my parents weren't home. Nah bruh. You won't even make it to the front door alive.
We had a village. Those women felt as responsible for us as they did for their own children. But now it seems as if not only we do not expect this behavior but we actually condemn it Paterno supporters have said that he did his part. It was not his responsibility to do more. I don't understand that argument. He talked to someone who said he witnessed the rape of a child on Penn State property. And he didn't feel that he needed to do something more than tell his supervisor, hey you better talk to McQueary?
I can't help but think that the cover up had to do with money. It's my personal theory and I may be wrong but I think they looked the other way because a scandal would tarnish the school's reputation and possibly cost the football program money in the form of athletes not wanting to play there and other bad press. I guess I should not be surprised, I see images in the media everyday that are detrimental to our children but those images generate income and so they are allowed. But this just seems like a whole new low to me.
The most telling factor for me is that no one who heard Mike McQueary's story ever reports that they confronted Sandusky directly. Why didn't Reed and Schultz call Sandusky in for a meeting and say we have these allegations, what's your side of the story? Why didn't they find out who the child was and ask for a meeting with the parents?
And more importantly, why are we as a society okay with the fact that at least 4 grown men had information about this man behaving inappropriately with children and said nothing?? Why do we not expect more from these adults, these fathers? Is that the society that we want now?? Are we okay with our children's innocence being sacrificed because adults view/are made aware of this behavior and do nothing? Are we prepared for what is going to happen to these children and how in turn they might harm others??
I'm asking my homeowners' association to put a 'we are a village' clause in our by laws.


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