We still don't know how we feel about sexual abuse
I have been watching and listening with interest about what's happening with the issues at Penn State. I knew nothing about this whole scandal until some people were talking about it at church last night. I quickly observed that people are very divided on the issues. The controversy appears to be over who bears the responsibility for ensuring that action was taken and justice served. Although there are a plethora of people who knew about this, Joe Paterno is in the center of the controversy although I'm not sure he belongs there.
Before I speak to anything I try to educate myself. I came home and read this document. I will give you a warning before reading it that it's very graphic. If you are a normal person, this document will grieve you. The vile contents will absolutely turn your stomach. With that said, I do recommend that you read it anyway, as there is no other way you will have a full education as to the crimes that were committed unless you do.
After reading the grand jury testimony as well as news reports and having discussion with several people, I have come to the conclusion that anyone who knew anything concerning this abuse who did not personally report it to legal authorities bears some responsibility. Comparative negligence is a factor, however everyone with knowledge bears some degree.
I have no axe to grind one way or the other regarding Joe Paterno. I am indifferent to anything regarding football, however one thing I care about extremely is people. Joe Paterno is being unfairly singled out, however he is in the group that does bear some responsibility because they all knew. From Paterno to the janitor, they knew!
The first person who bears responsibility is Mike McQueary. He is the Penn State coach who was the "28 year old graduate student" that witnessed the rape in the shower. I find it interesting that in the grand jury testimony McQueary is never named, but Paterno is. McQueary is simply referred to as a "28 year old graduate student". He is a coach for Penn State! It is unconscionable that he is actually still coaching and in fact will be coaching this weekend. Sane people are calling for his removal.
We all bear responsibility for whatever comes to our attention, no matter what official position we hold. In the document that I referenced earlier, you will see that even a janitor knew what was going on, after walking into the locker room when Sandusky was engaged in oral sex with a young boy. It upset him so much, he developed health problems over it. Other employees he shared this knowledge with said that he appeared as if he was going to have a heart attack, because he was so overwhelmed and distraught by what he witnessed. But for all that, he still didn't do the right thing. None of them did. In their grand jury testimony they said that they were afraid for their jobs.
Every single person who knew bears responsibility. Whether you are a cleaning lady or a college president, if you know about it, you must go to whatever means necessary to stop it, and see that justice is served.
Mike McQueary made a grave mistake. The appropriate course of action would have been to dial 911, and then put the cell phone down to rescue the boy while he let the 911 operator hear him beating the heck out of Jerry Sandusky. But there was no rescue, no phone call, no beating the daylights out of this monster. A coward, McQueary ran away and went home to his father where they discussed what should happen next. When morning came they called Joe Paterno.
Morning was too late for a 10 year old little boy.
The grand jury report shows that both Sandusky and the boy know that McQueary saw them. Surely the boy was wondering, "He sees me being raped...why isn't he helping me?"
We can't just pass the buck around blaming position or authority and believe we've done our part. We've only done our part when a child has been rescued, abuse stopped, and perpetrators held to account. Then and only then have we "done something". Who cares about titles or job description? Human beings with a moral compass DO something to stop evil.
I've had to unfortunately live this few times myself. As a pastoral staff member years ago serving under another senior pastor, Steffi* one of the teens of the church where I served came forward about a parent abusing her. Although I informed the senior pastor of what was disclosed to me, I didn't simply trust that the pastor would hopefully do the right thing. I made the call to social services myself to be certain the issue was properly addressed. After calling the first time to report it, I called back a few weeks later to ensure that all of the appropriate follow up was done.
Was there fall out? Yes. A lot.
But it was all worth it for Steffi and for her sister as well, who authorities also found out was experiencing the same abuse! Although we can't take away what was already done to them, we stopped anything more from happening. I'd make the same decision again in a heartbeat and sad to say, I have had to make this decision three times over the last 25 years.
We can't just keep passing the buck, hoping someone with higher or different authority does something. When something of this nature comes to my attention, to your attention, it is incumbent upon us to personally do something about it, and to follow through to make sure. Assuming is never a positive thing.
Anyone from president to janitor who knew and didn't see this through to justice should face ramifications.
After hearing all the conversation about this the last 24 hours I'm convinced America still doesn't know how it really feels about sexual abuse.
*Name has been changed