Sexual Harassment & Abuse Part 2: Penn State Scandal

Posted on November 12, 2011 by

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Penn State Scandal

Supportive Penn State students meet with alleged child sexual-abuse victims on campus.

UPDATE: Miri delves into the psychological perspective of why nothing was done for a decade in Penn State.

Yesterday I wrote about the new stats about sexual harassment in schools, but since I posted that story, I can’t help but think of the connection to the Penn State scandal where nine children (and counting) were sexually abused on campus and off and nothing was done about it. My kid loves football — all sports, really. Getting a tour from the assistant coach of Penn State and then having your life scarred as a result is more than just sexual harassment of course– it’s molestation, it’s assault, it’s rape, it’s abuse.

Amy Wilson who writes one of my favorite blogs When Did I Get Like This, wrote a haunting story “What if a Mother Was In That Locker Room?” on HuffPo. She mentions that we’ve been here before (Catholic Church) in deep cover-ups where children’s rights were placed far, far below adults. Why weren’t these charges taken seriously when they were first brought up years ago? Amy writes:

These decision-makers were men of a different generation, who, as we have seen over and over again, sought to save their friend and themselves from embarrassment rather than save a child. But even thirty years ago, I believe, a mother in that locker room would not have witnessed that act and walked away. A mother would have not have left without that child. A mother would have asked him his name. That’s why Sandusky picked a football locker room to molest his victims — it was the most un-female space he could find, which made it, at least for him, the safest.

I don’t want to blame this entirely on men. In fact, my husband came to me this morning deeply disturbed after reading the grand jury presentation against Jerry Sandusky. Yet I think Amy has an excellent point in suggesting that the pathology of this guy was to use the most MANLY element of his sick manipulation possible. To make these children feel safe in a place he knew he could have most power. In a football locker room. His gym. His shower. I’ve known a number of friends molested as kids. Their predators were all savvy. All someone they knew. All someone they trusted. Someone who controlled the situation so that the child COULD NOT GET AWAY. Everyone is manipulated by these monsters — including the men. They have to be manipulated by the situation, right? NPR said of Penn State assistant coach Mike McQueary:

McQueary, who was a graduate assistant at the time, told Paterno in 2002 that he had seen Sandusky performing a sex act on a young boy in the Penn State locker room. A grand jury report (warning: it is graphic) indicates McQueary did not try to stop what was happening.

How? HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE? You tell me that these are people who want to win games. Is that why? I think it’s more. It has to be more. Right? When I think of my friend who was molested by a priest — people knew! Oh, the parents knew. The kids knew. The church knew. Everyone knew. But nothing was done about it. Maybe resident therapist Miri can weigh in on this pathology, but I tend to think that there is deep-seeded behavior that occurs when you have this layered kind of abuse. Is it similar to anything I was talking about yesterday? Some asshole talking about a freckle near my breast? Not even close. But there is some sort of passing secretive landscape that occurs in institutions like Penn State. And it’s time for this sick landscape of abuse to change.

(JEFF SWENSEN/Getty Images)