I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. This means that certain things are triggering for me. Smells, sounds, songs... even the weather on some days. I often have to turn away from news casts, online stories, books, and movies because something that happens in them sets off a visceral reaction in me and reminds me of something that happened in my past.
These triggers can be the spark that sets off a reaction that ultimately leads to a depressive episode. I don't avoid these things because my head is in the sand, I avoid them for my own mental health and the health and well-being of my family.
So, hearing about what is going on at Penn State is, at the very least, very upsetting. It was also something that I could not ignore.
Photo by Joe Shlabotnik.
Here's the short version in case you aren't following the story:
- In 1977, Jerry Sandusky established The Second Mile, a group home for troubled boys. This organization ultimately evolves into a program that is much more and supports all youth who need additional support and positive adult role models. Through this program, Sandusky works with children.
- In 1994, he has inappropriate contact with his first reported victim. (This victim does not report this until he is 26, which means he was around 9 years old when the contact occurred.)
- In 1998, it is reported to University police that Sandusky has had contact with two more boys, which starts an investigation with the police department. One victim's mother, during a phone call recorded by a police detective, is told by Sandusky that he showered with her son and with other boys. He is investigated by the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare, where he admits to hugging the boy and says he won't shower with children again. The district attorney declined to pursue criminal charges, prompted by the head of campus police telling the police to close the inquiry.
- In 1999, Sandusky retires from Penn State. It is unrelated to the inquiry and he is allowed access to facilities on campus. (This will be significant later.)
- In 2000, a janitor witnesses Sandusky abusing a boy in a shower on campus. He tells co-workers and one of them observed that Sandusky's vehicle was on campus that night. The incident is reported to the janitor's supervisor, who tells the witness to whom to report the incident.
- In 2002, another witness (this time a graduate assistant) witnesses a boy (possibly around 10 years old) being abused in another shower on campus. He reports the incident to Joe Paterno, coach at Penn State. Paterno, in turn, reports it to Tim Curley, the athletic director of Penn State. Ten days (!!) later, this graduate assistant, Mike McQueary meets with Curley and Gary Schultz, school treasurer and senior vice president. They do not report the incident to authorities or to any child protection agency. Instead, Sandusky's access to the locker rooms is removed and the incident is reported to The Second Mile.
- In 2009, a mother calls her son’s school and reports that he was sexually abused by Sandusky. The police are notified.
- In 2010, the graduate assistant, who is now an assistant coach at Penn State testifies about the abuse he witnessed and what he reported to Schultz and Curley. One of the victims reports that he has received voice mails from Sandusky, which he does not return.
- In January of 2011, Curley downplays the allegations, saying that graduate assistant said it was "inappropriate," and not "sexual" contact, and referred to it as "horsing around." Schultz says he met with Curley and Paterno about the reports, but says he thought Sandusky and the boy might have been wrestling when the inappropriate contact happened.
- The public has been made aware of the allegations against Sandusky and he is accused of sexually abusing eight boys between 1994 and 2009. Curley and Schultz are also being investigated for lying to investigators and not reporting the incidents to authorities. They have vacated their jobs and have been arraigned on the charges.
(Insert statement about people being innocent until proven guilty here.)
My thoughts on this? Every single person at Penn State University who was made aware of this situation should be fired and/or prosecuted. There are eight (and probably many more) victims out there whose lives will never be the same. Had Paterno, Curley, and Schultz been doing their jobs there would be far fewer victims. Those boys (and men) deserved better. Even the witnesses should be sharing in this blame. When a child is being abused, we should refuse to allow it to be kept secret. We should scream from the rooftops until someone hears us.
We need to send a message to abusers that this will NOT stand. We will protect our children and let nothing stand in the way of their safety. Our children deserve no less.
Please refer to this article from NPR to see my main source for the details of this posting. Other bits of information from the many news stories that have come out about this situation.
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