Thursday, November 10, 2011

What the Penn State Scandal says about us

I have to admit to my severe neglect of this blog as I have not posted for a whole month. I probably should post pictures of our cute kids on Halloween, or of how Mike and I went dressed as a pinata and little boy to a Halloween party, or at least how thrilled we are to be expecting a baby girl at the end of march. But no, I'm not going to do that tonight because I would rather discuss the Penn State Scandal.
I've read and thought a lot about this case over the past several days. It is horrifying on so many levels. University president and Joe Paterno have both gotten the axe because of the handling of it.
What really intrigues me however, is what this case says about how we as a society feel about sexual abuse. So here are the facts; a graduate student walked into the locker room at Penn State and found a naked Sandusky sodomizing what appeared to be a 10 year old child. He reported the incident to Joe Paterno who then reported it to his boss. The only action that was taken with Sandusky was that he was no longer able to bring boys from his charitable organization to Penn State. (what's the take home message here, that's fine that you molest children just don't do it in our facilities. Really people?)
Let's pretend for a moment that what the graduate student walked into was Sandusky cutting a 10 year old child's face with a knife. You can BET YOUR BOTTOM DOLLAR that the graduate student would have called 911 immediately. In fact he probably would have intervened himself to protect the child from a very sadistic man. So what's the difference here folks???? No one can argue that one is "worse" than the other. The harm from sexual abuse is life altering and terrible. So what is it? What is it about sexual abuse that causes us (generally speaking of course) to be squeamish and not do what we would do in any other harmful circumstance. And if you think this scandal is an aberration and I'm just being crazy I could point out many many more that have been handled in a similar manner. (catholic church anyone?)
It's so easy to point the finger at Joe Paterno, Tim Curley, Penn State officials etc etc. Why didn't anyone call the police, why didn't anyone stop this monster? But instead of pointing the finger, let's look at our own actions instead. Do we fail to bring up the topic of sexual abuse with our children because we are squeamish, or awkward??? Do we think, it can't happen to my child? Do we reason that if we just ignore the subject our children will be immune to it? Do we live in denial that the statistics indicate that 1 in 4 girls (or 3 depending upon what stats you read)and 1 in 7 boys will be sexually abused? Not my child we reason in our heads and then promptly do nothing and hope we don't have to think about it again. Do we see warning signs but brush them off because so and so is such a nice guy, or a good friend, or a respected community figure?
So here is my plea friends and family. Let's do something about this to ensure that our children are protected from this heinous crime. Let's have that ONGOING discussion with them. It might be scary or awkward at first to bring up the subject, but I guarantee that it will be a whole lot better than the alternative. Let's not give people the benefit of doubt when we feel something strange or sketchy about them. Trust your gut if someone gives you the creeps, because our children shouldn't pay the price of our fear of "offending" someone. A child molester isn't that stranger in the dark, instead it's almost always someone you know. Pay attention to your gut feelings about someone. And finally, we must recognize that until we as a society are open and honest about this, sexual abuse will continue to perpetuate its destructive horror upon millions of our children. It thrives in secret. It thrives in our denial. It cannot thrive if we take action.

Please talk to your children.
I have a plethora of books you can borrow to read to them.
ok, the social worker will step off her soapbox now.