I’m probably not alone when I say that many of my thoughts have been consumed by the scandal at Penn State. For those that live under a rock, an assistant football coach at Penn State has been accused of molesting eight young boys over the course of at least a decade. According to reports, many members of Penn State’s administration were aware of the abuse and failed to do anything to stop it. Most notable for the news sites, is that famous college football coach, Joe Paterno, knew and did nothing.
I read the Grand Jury report and the whole thing is shocking. Horrific, really, but what really gets me going is the angle that every single post and article on the topic is covering: football is bad. Everyone involved is bad and horrible and it’s all because of football that this man got away with it.
I mean, really?
Here’s why this bothers me: every community has pedophiles. They exist in small towns and large cities. They are everywhere. As part of my education degree, I had to attend a seminar on recognizing warning signs that another teacher might be abusing a student. What stood out to me the most was this: the teacher most-likely to have an inappropriate relationship with a student is one who has special privileges–coaches, band directors, and the like. So basically. . . anyone.
This is scary stuff and the media is painting it to be a big conspiracy between powerful men with access to untold resources. People are screaming about who should have told.
These things may be true, but the bigger truth is that every day people don’t tell, and THAT’s what we really need to be talking about. Why don’t people tell? What kinds of manipulation is used to prevent this abuse from being reported? What are the outward signs that this abuse may be going on? What is it about humans that makes us unwilling to believe this kind of thing occurs as much as it does?
The sad fact is that this topic makes most people so uncomfortable they don’t even know HOW to talk about it. The facts are that Sandusky was barred from an entire school district in 2008. An allegation of sexual assault was also reported to the police. A DA was assigned to investigate Sandusky in 1995 as well. I think there’s too much time between those incidents and the public being made aware of the situation. We have GOT to get better about talking about these things–we need to create a safe place to have these conversations.
Hopefully the whole sordid tale will remind us parents that we talk to our children about who is allowed to have access to their bodies and what they can do if someone tries to violate their innocence.
We also need to talk to each other. If someone gives us a bad feeling–follow up on it. Don’t be afraid to mention anything that gives you pause. I’m not saying we should start calling people child abusers if they give us a funny feeling, but keep our kids away from them? Absolutely. Tell our friends that they gives us the creeps for no particular reason? I think so. If nothing else, I hope this scandal shows us that we can’t expect someone else to speak up–it has to come from us.