Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Victims

I've had a few posts where I wrote about the Penn State scandal. I graduated from there and am very saddened by the whole sordid affair. However, though I've expressed ideas about guilt and sin, I need to also talk about the victims. I happen to have met two adult persons who were molested by family members in childhood. They are not related to me or each other, and I don't know them well. But I know enough to realize they are still dealing with their trauma. One struggles with very severe psychological symptoms which come and go. The other acted out in anti-authoritarian ways in early life, and though coming to a more mature way of handling problems, still acutely feels the personal violation.

An assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky, is alleged to have sexually accosted a minor on the premises of Penn State. Another coach alleges to have seen him and reported it to Joe Paterno. Paterno reported it to another superior, and up the line. But throughout, supposedly no one called the police or any other regulatory agency.

A lawyer for one of the alleged victims of retired assistant coach Jerry Sandusky said they were worried about a backlash, since Joe Paterno was fired over the controversy. For one thing, Penn State students rioted after the announcement that he was fired after a 46-year career as head coach of the football team there. Probably some bloggers and others backed Paterno, against the University's decision to let him go, to go on with his job or at least finish out the season.

Though I'm talking in ideal terms here, victims of sexual abuse should not have to worry about further victimization. Society and the people in power need to take a stand for them, even if others are not sensitive enough to realize the abused take the priority over prestige, money and the ever-encompasing sports culture. Governors and trustees must see the victims' worth even if they themselves have been de-sensitized to it. I think the trustees did the right thing in terminating Joe Paterno and the University President. They should also have fired Mike McQueary, another assistant coach and the man who allegedly saw Sandusky in the act. (He says he saw it. Why would McQueary say he saw it if he didn't? But if for some twisted reason he lied about seeing it, that would mean he lied to a Grand Jury in which case he should still be fired.)

We have a long way to go to know what to best do for children and adult victims of abuse, or even to find out who they are. People obviously lie to cover their deeds and even if we want to know, we are not all detectives. We could probably all benefit from lessons on how to spot them, because not all assistant coaches, priests or boy or girl scout leaders are abusers. Let us all hope, though, that if we see someone sexually molested with our own eyes, we will get out our phones and call 911.

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