Now that all the sensation has seemingly died down concerning the sex abuse scandal at Penn State as more news has happened and the world of the short-term memory of American society has moved on, what about the alleged victims? As a man who was sexually molested myself as a young boy of 12 by an older female in our extended family, I have personal knowledge of their very real, and very painful, experience.
When I was 12 the sexual victimization was hurtful and confusing, both in a psychological and physical sense. I have an understanding of how these victims must have felt to have a man they trusted, relied on, and perhaps at that time even respected, guide them, groom them, use them, and then to deny that it ever happened. How did they feel when they watched him get on national television and say that it was all a big misunderstanding and that the only thing that he did wrong was to take a shower and horse around a little. It’s humiliating, and the anger and rage that usually has no expression starts to creep out in ways that can be hurtful to those around you and in many cases, to yourself.
I want to believe in the American justice system and that Mr. Sandusky is in fact innocent until proven guilty and that these alleged crimes must be heard out in a court of law. I’ve also seen, as have we all, that anyone with an expensive lawyer or team of lawyers has a much better chance of retaining their freedom than does the average person on the street. All that having been said, I ask again, what about the victims?
How did they feel when they heard the allegations that Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno might have had some information about his assistant coach and his alleged actions with children? How did the victims feel when they saw all those Penn State students demonstrating outside Paterno’s house, not against him but all in support of him? How did they feel when he went out and retained a high profile defense attorney even though he hasn’t been charged with any wrong doing? How do you suppose the victims felt when they saw that initially the Penn State Board of Regents were going to let Mr. Paterno finish out the season as their head football coach? How do you think they felt when they heard coach Paterno tell the media that it’s all about the victims and not about him or the team?
I can tell you how they felt, coach. They felt, and still feel to varying degrees, betrayed, powerless, helpless, used, dirty, ashamed, guilty, and worst of all, like so much milk in a market because Penn State football appears to be so much more valuable to Penn State than does the value of human life and dignity. Why else would everyone from the school’s top dogs down to the assistant coaches be scrambling for cover instead of standing up and taking responsibility for what happened to the victims? Simple. It’s easier to stay in denial than to face the truth, or should I clarify and say the myth of what Joe Paterno and Penn State used to stand for?
Time has moved on and so has our society, concentrating now on the latest disasters and news makers, but for the victims of the Penn State scandal, time can only move forward so fast because much of life is spent looking back, hurting, struggling, and trying to figure out how to move forward.
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