Penn State

A lot of folks (who don’t normally talk about this sort of thing) are talking about child sexual abuse and all that is going on at Penn State. It is very interesting (and of course, horribly sad and devastating) and I feel like weighing in.

Not about the details but instead about how is it that someone can be “good” (like a great coach and leader for 46 years) AND “bad” (not a great figure of moral authority – yes he did the right thing by reporting it to the athletic director, but he failed all of us and his humanity by not following up once he saw that NOTHING was being done about it and that more kids were put in harm’s way).

It all makes me think of our executive director, Nan Stoops, talking about how “your performance is not who you are”. This is a complicated concept, especially when your performance makes you seem “good” but in reality you may suck at being a stand-up person who takes care of others and has kind of lost touch with your own humanity.

One thought on “Penn State”

  1. I was an earnest college student in a one-stoplight town. In what I assumed was an attempt to placate me, the president asked me to become one of the campus’ first “sexual harassment” (aka rape) student advisors. Standing up for the right thing would be easy, right? Wrong.

    What I discovered is what the Penn State campus is finding out now. We all think that we’d do the right thing when confronted with rape. But in reality, many if not most well-meaning people do little. That’s because of fear, confusion, unequal power structures, and peer pressure to stay silent.

    I struggled with what to do. Should I report secret dating between coaches and athletes? Was it wrong if professors had consensual sex with students? I thought that abusers were big and tough, but a lot of the guys I saw were insecure and messed up, and it was the women who were strong. None of the assaults fit my idea of stranger rape, because it was a small intimate campus, and parties and yes, drinking were part of life (as they are at almost every college).

    Then there was the devastating reality of my fellow students of color and queers (back then, we were just gay) who targeted their peers, made worse by the community pressure to stay silent because of the racism or homophobia that our men would face from the system.

    And then there was this cycle: white upper-income guys + rape + temporary suspension + suppressing & humiliating victims, press repeat, repeat, repeat.

    Some very brave women shared their stories, found a reporter, and the rest is history. Universities took notice, got a bunch of policies, and started talking about rape.

    That was 20 year ago, but apparently it’s still just window dressing at places like Penn State.

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