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.

4 comments:

  1. The Penn State scandal is awful on so many levels. There is no doubt in my mind that there was some level of coverup. I cannot imagine being a witness to such ae heinous act. I am not so sure that I could think straight. God bless the people that can stomach it enough that they can serve in the capacities that involve child abuse.

    With large organizations, if something happens employees are to inform their supervisors and it goes up thef chain from there and supposedly it is put in the hands of more qualified persons to take the appropriate steps. Almost 100% of the time, the employees and even the supervisors are taken out of the equation and even advised not to do anything else. Which leads lme to believe that there was a coverup in the higher levels of Penn State's administration. My point is once it is taken out of your hands, the expectation is that things will be properly taken of.

    I have had two experiences where once it was out of my hands, I heard nothing else of it. One case, I reported to my supervisor about a coworker who seemed to be mentally and emotionally deteriorating. She was losing it. I shared my concerns with my supervisor just perhaps an hour before she had a big blowup in the office. Once HR got involved, our department was out of the loop. The second case involved a direct report to me. This man flashed his KKK card to another black employee. Before I was even told about the situation. HR was informed and I was taken out of it.

    My sister works for HR in a public school system, particularly in disciplinary procedures. She has shared stories about working with authorities to arrest a pedophile teacher's aide. She had to work with the FBI to arrest a teacher involved with check fraud and she has more examples. In larger systems, there are individuals that are responsible for the followup and interactions with the authorities. We talk about the moral failing at Penn State. If nothing else, I think an anonymous call to the police would have been the minimal appropriate action. After that, the hope is the authorities would do the right thing.

    To the point of it taking a village...I think children are what brings a community together. Our kids playing with other kids brings the parents together. I do not have children and do not know many people in my neighborhood. As soon as I spend time with my nieces and nephews, my little god brothers and sisters, then I meet their friends and their friends' parents. Relationships get established and the accountability is built in. I automatically become more protective. I think the unanswered question is how much do we get involved when there are no established relationships?

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  2. I had the conversation with anotherfriend who offered the same argument about once Paterno had reported to his supervisor, he thought it was done. I just can't agree with it. I find it hard to believe that with such serious allegations, Paterno would not wonder why he had not been contacted by the police. I don't understand how anyone would think that a rape allegation could be resolved with ONE conversation.

    And as I pointed out in the post, I also do not understand how no one confronted Sandusky. If someone came to and said they saw a friend (because by all accounts these two were more than coworkers, they were friends) of mine raping someone, I would at least say to the friend, "do you know so and so is saying you are a rapist. What is going on?" But according to the grand jury transcripts Paterno never confronted Sandusky. Why not?? I really believe it was willful ignorance.
    Also as an attorney, I don't understand how school policy should trump mandatory reporting laws. Teachers and doctors have to report any suspected child abuse but coaches get a pass ?? Coaches who routinely work with young guys, who see them in various states of undress but they are not going to be legally required to report suspected abuse?? Really??
    Lastly, I don't think the question should be how involved do you get when there is no prior relationship... We are talking about children. If we throw our hands up in the air because we don't personally know the children, then what kind of society are we?? I remember years ago when the adult man snatched the 7 year old girl and raped and killed her in the bathroom and another grown man knew about it and said nothing until the police tracked him down. There was public outrage but no laws requiring him to report the incident. All I could think was why should we need a law to make you do the right thing?? At what point did we become so depraved that we now allow bad things to happen to the most innocent of our society and it's okay to say nothing because you don't personally know the kid?? How is that right?? As far as I am concerned these 4 men's inactions actually make them co-conspirators. For every child that was molested after they knew about this and said nothing to someone who could stop it, they might as well have been in the room holding the child down while the abuse was being perpetrated. And they should thank God that I am not the attorney general in PA because with the 2 new investigations of boys who are still minors and molested after 2002, I'd have them arrested as accomplices.

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  3. At times like these, we re reminded about how passive we are as a society. While I have not studied this,imagine that the mandatory reporting laws for certain professions is probably a reactive law due to someone not reporting. People would like to think that they would respond a certain way. I would hope that they would, but that is not always the case.

    I didn't say that we should ignore any incidents. My question is to what extent do we get involved when there is no established relationships? Clearly it is hard enough to do when there are established relationships. We can report anonymously. I am not sure how many people are aware that they can do this. To me that is the bare minimum that any functional person can do. Beyond that, I do not know what else can be required.

    The Penn State scandal is twisted on so many levels. All I was trying to share was that in large systems, there comes a point when you have done your part and it is taken out of your hands. You may be contacted for statements, but as for further participation, you are done. As for side conversations, you may even br advised not to interact with the accused. I am just trying to offer some insight into larger organizations. People aske why this and why that. What I shared are possible reasons why.

    I have a special needs sister that was assaulted and her neighbors came in and stopped the man in mid swing. I am grateful that they took the extra step and went to see about her. They stayed until the police came. Had they not, who knows what condition she would've been left in. I am all for people being bold in protecting those that cannot protect themselves. But I also know that it is more than just a notion. If a person does the bare miminimum of contacting police, or following the protocol of their employer, then I will try not to judge them as they could've easily done nothing as so many others do.

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  4. We all can play armchair quarterback, but as a person who has worked in many big Institutions and knows there are many rules and regulations to follow, a person looking from the outside; in, has no idea. Here is one rule that a lot of people don't know as it pertains to children and abuse, there is only so many times a child can be interviewed, and if you interview them to many times you risk losing your case against the perpetrator. So that is why rules are put in place at institutions to protect children, no to hurt them. Let me shed a little more light, there are so many municipalities, cities and counties with so many different police departments, and they are not communicating with each other, so once it get to court that’s when the defense has found all this out and will have the case dismiss on the grounds of interviewing of the child to many times and perhaps the story changing, not that it’s a lie, just that the questions has been asked in too many different ways, so with the rule of reporting to the higher authorities, and they in turn calling the police and reporting, that prevents losing in court on a technicality that could have been prevented if everybody would have just followed protocol. And just because Joe Paterno was Penn State in the public eye, does not mean he is any different from any other person working at an Institution.

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