The headlines read:
Riots break out
at Penn State: Joe Paterno fired as head coach.
After a 61 year career this 84 year old man will leave
Penn State in disgrace.
College students are overturning
cars in response to the firing of this college legend. And it
on the surface to be so
unfair. People are confused and outraged at the college board’s
decision to fire Joe Paterno, the football hero.
The boys, their terror, their
pain is pushed into the background. No one is overturning cars
on behalf of the young boys who are the victims.
In fact the outraged
fans of Joe Paterno
barely remember the children who were raped at Penn State.
Our human minds cannot wrap around the long term
ramifications of child abuse.
Our minds do what I call – “Fast
Forwarding.” A form
of amnesia – “let’s pretend I didn’t hear that, see that, know
that…..with an inner silent plea of make it stop and make it all
go away. Focusing
on Joe Paterno’s firing keeps everyone from thinking about those
boys and about the man who raped them.
Joe Petrouno’s career was
outstanding. He was a hero to many and from most accounts loved
and a good guy. Yet he will walk out of Penn State in shame not
for what he did but for what he failed to do. Stand up for
he didn’t think about it. His gut instinct was to protect
himself by not getting involved.
His crime is – he failed to ring
the alarm on a friend and colleague maybe because it was too
much trouble. A part of
him wanted it all to go away or for someone else to take a stand
or even just let it go by.
He failed to take child abuse
seriously. As a
result he allowed child abuse to continue at Penn State in a
program designed to help children.
Joe Paterno also failed his
friend, the pedophile and addict.
Our central internal alarms have
to be reset. We cannot allow people we care about to hurt
The saddest part of this story
is Joe Paterno could have been a hero. He could have set an
example of what a real man can do to save children. His career
would have ended with a Superman story on and off the field.
It was ignorance that kept that from happening - He
simply didn’t get the magnitude of damage that was happening to
those young boys – not just for the day in the shower with a man
who was acting like a monster but for the rest of those boys’
lives. He brushed
it off as unimportant, a passing moment and then he forgot it.
What is worse than being abused?
Knowing someone knew and did nothing to help. In fact in this
case – several people knew, passed the news like a hot potato
and no one acted.
I continue to hold the hope that
education is the key. If every high school, college student and
staff member were mandated to take a course on child abuse and
its long term effects, this may never have happened. Our brains
are trained to remember fire drills and what to do in case of
we can spread the word about child abuse, learn to act, rather
than keep the secret because it will make big waves and it looks
ugly. Yet, hope can shine bright, illuminate the lives of these
boys – Penn State could have been a shining star and a good
example to many. Instead, tarnished and beyond repair – the
school goes down in history as yet one more place where children
are used and abused.
Cultivating Hope With Abuse Survivors
accompanied with the DVD
are the educational tools your students need to learn to
act on behalf of children. Use
it as part of an ethics class, use it as an educational unit.
This is a valuable tool.
Sexual abuse is the largest
growing crime in the world and yet, people continue to live in
disbelief and ignorance. They freeze, go numb and fail to act.
Help children by educating the adults who surround them. Keep