Saturday, November 12, 2011

Penn State: The True Victims

I've attempted to stand back a bit from the Penn State abuse case. I wanted to watch, listen, and assess the things I heard. Right here, right now, let this serve as a warning: this entry is a mixture of talk. Tomorrow I am posting an entry purely on victimization. Today, however, let this entry serve as a reminder for some and a wakeup call for others.

10% of children have experienced some form of sexual violence (sexual assault, rape, harassment, or flashing) during their lifetime (Finkelhor et al, 2009).

As I know some of you noted, there was an extreme lack of attention paid to the victims in the case. Newspaper articles, radio shows, Facebook posts--all focusing on Paterno. I might even go so far as to assert that society seemed to be saying, "yes, we know there were young children molested, but what about football?"  Is entertainment really more important than the lives of young children? Is this the message we're trying to send? Is this what we want young children to think?

A meta-analysis of 61 studies found that 12.7% of child molesters were convicted for a new sex offense within 4-5 years (Hanson and Bussiere 1998).

As a consequence of Paterno being fired, Penn State students rioted. Again, I just want to say, really? Why don't they/we "riot" daily against those individuals who think it is acceptable to take advantage of those who cannot defend themselves? Why not riot against those that stepped away after seemingly doing the least that could be done without following up? To be clear, when I say "riot," I am not proposing violence. Rioting doesn't have to take the form of violence. I am simply asserting that we, as a society, should declare certain things, such as child molestation, as unacceptable in ALL circumstances. When I read the news, I see uproars against certain other behaviors that are arguably low-level or completely unharmful. Individuals that have perpetrated no violence towards others are portrayed as maniacs, sick, and/or problem-causing. In this case, it seems we are constructing a victim, but its the wrong one. Paterno is not a victim. As a man in a position of high power, he had a responsibility. Yes, I recognize he told someone, but he then stepped back. I've done my job, no more guilt for me, right? That's not how it works.   So, instead of creating an uproar around our constructed victim who simply lost his job, why not focus on the children that ARE victims? I assert that Paterno chose whether or not to move forward with the information brought to him. He chose whether to step back or not after telling someone else (not the police). These young children did NOT choose to be assaulted. They did not have a choice.

Child sexual abuse has been reported up to 80,000 times a year, but the number of unreported instances is far greater (AACAP, 2011).

Instead of writing or talking about how horrible it is that Paterno got fired (it's a job!), why don't we talk about how horrible it is that these children were molested? They were taken advantage of by a man in a position of power and other men in similar positions of power simply did not do enough. I suggest we remind ourselves that as adults, everyone, including Jay Paterno, has the obligation and responsibility to protect those that cannot protect themselves. And, as a further reminder, sometimes telling someone else simply isn't enough. As individuals, as adults, as humans--we must do what is needed (whether it is comfortable or not).

So, coming blog entries include 1) child victimization (signs, statistics, and suggestions for what to do) and 2) the culture in/of sports.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for calling on us to remember that it is the children who have been harmed and betrayed. A wise man said, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." (Edmund Burke) In this case, Paterno did not do enough. His responsibility as a coach, and as a human being was to lead in doing the right thing and protecting those who do not have the power to protect themselves: children. Instead, he chose to pass that responsibility to others, who then also chose not to act. In reality, he did nothing. And that is--and should be--always unacceptable.