Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth." Genesis 9:13

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Penn State's Horrible experience and my life

I'm not much of a football fan.  I follow Ohio State and check scores throughout their games, and used to watch sections when I had a TV.  That's it.  I've seen many Ohio State/Penn state games and because part of my life was in the Penn State zone I always like that game.  I admit, I also thought Paterno was amazing.  Not many of my 85 year old patients are doing much activity.  Even fewer of my hip replacement patients are coaching anything within a few weeks of surgery.  Penn State is still not Ohio State.

However, it's hard as a sexual abuse survivor to have no followed the scandal there.  I admit to mixed feelings; the camp I worked at was near Penn State and I have seen the statue that was removed, the benefit that Penn State's image has on a rural area, and the sheer love of the game in those mountains and valleys.
Yet like so may abuse victims I am glad to see action taken.  It is sad that Joe Paterno made horrible decisions.  I know that it was at least partially a result of his generation.  But he ignored that children were being raped.  If he had only done something substantial I would say he is a victim.  But he didn't.  And that makes him like my own parents.  I think Paterno was a genius.  He probably knew football better than anyone.  He also was a good politician, necessary in that world.  But he neglected to acknowledge responsibility for doing anything for those kids.  Last fall I remember so little and this came to light when I was lithium toxic, but I do remember when he announced he had submitted his resignation but not until the season ended that it was way too little, way too late.  Thankfully Penn State did agree there.

Things seem to be changing in the world of sexual abuse.  I don't know if more knowledge has come from psychologists, if the cultural stance is changing, or if the world is just starting to catch up, but I think that my niece's generation will not face what many in mine did.  One of the telling signs is the recent re-definition of rape to include any attempted penetration of any orifice.  Period.  And after so many years of feeling like saying "I was molested" was not big enough for what happened to me, I will admit being able to say "I was raped" helps somehow.  It acknowledges the severity of what happened to me.  Many, many children are molested usually by touching, once or a few times and it is traumatic and terrible.  Yet I never fit into that group when they said I did because so much more happened, so many times.  Essentially I was raped several times a week for 9 years.  It was all I knew.  It's been really hard in the last month or 2 to discuss this with Dr. Mind and learn to come slightly in contact with my feelings.  But the truth is that because an adult (2 but we've only covered one) chose to bring things into the life of a child who had yet to take a step, I grew up not knowing that it was wrong or bad.  I hated it but I thought it was my fault.  I didn't fight or resist or say no.  I was too afraid.  But I see now so much more clearly that he trained me to think this was normal so that by the time I might have seen it wasn't it was too ingrained as part of my life.

I know something of what the victims in this mess went through.  And I know that nothing will ever replace the part of you that you lose the day that you realize it is better to go away inside your head and not pay attention.  With very, very hard work of the sort we've done lately you can deal with some of that, but nothing is ever going to change what happened to me.  I also know that in my life several adults at a minimum knew and let it happen.  For the Penn State victims multiply that by a thousand, because the adults that knew about them were powerful people.  In my case my parents and grandmother were really powerless themselves.  Accepting that has been really hard, but psychologically none of them was able to fight back.  None of them knew what to do and all of them believed that a threat to stop would suffice.  They didn't have the legal recourses available now, and culturally abuse is somewhat accepted in Appalachia.  Everyone who could have saved me was involved in/had been a victim of abuse themselves.  I'm still mad at them, but I understand now that they did try and they believed in what they did.  They just didn't know whata molester will do.  Another thing I had to realize that I struggled mightily with is that my grandfather used me, flaunted what he was doing, and made me think it was because I was special.  He was a local politician with some power.  He had rounds to make daily and usually took me with him.  Everyone made a fuss about me so I enjoyed it although I was well-known for "bashfullness" with men.  What nobody caught on to was that they were all thinking how neat it was that he was such a good grandfather, always bringing that little curly haired girl with him when he was taking advantage of the alone time to molest me.  I was small for my age and so I looked younger and I think that made him look even better, like he was taking care of me.  Not so much.

I don't know how the victims at Penn State felt.  I know the terror they probably felt every time they saw Sandusky, especially if they were alone.  I know the guilt they felt and that they probably felt the same thing I did, that they could not tell because it was their own fault.  Perhaps Sandusky threatened them.

Paterno did not do what he did alone.  He is not ultimately responsible for it all.  But he certainly did own plenty of responsibility because he was in charge and he ignored it.  For that he does not deserve to be villified but he does not deserve to be hero worshipped.  This mistake undid years of being a myth.  He wasn't a myth, he was a man who made a mistake that allowed boys to be terribly hurt both physically and psychologically.  I'm glad that the statue is down.  I'm glad the NCAA has promised that tomorrow's announcement of sanctions will be very severe.  I honestly think that taking every victory alway from the time he is known to have been told of the abuse would be a very fair punishment.  Why should Penn State have all those wins when they were being guided by someone who broke the law?  I'm a mandated reporter.  If I know you are abusing your kid I will turn it in.  Not because I know how it feels (although that helps), but because it is my responsibility.  I've made numerous adult abuse calls over the years.  A while back we had a younger patient who had her child removed around the time we started seeing her.  The child was returned a few days before I went out.  While doing my routine I found used, open syringes on the bathroom floor.  The child was removed within 24 hours.  The child deserved this.  Imagine catching HIV as a young child because you stepped on a needle getting out of the shower.  I felt awful because I knew this call was going to take the child away but it is what you do as a mandated reporter.  I filed at least one report when I was a camp counselor.  I hated it but again, it's my job.

There is no doubt Paterno knew he was a mandated reporter.  It's obvious when the make you go through training and also you have to jump through hoops to prove you aren't a convicted abuser before you can be involved with children.  And he didn't report and as a result many children suffered.

There is an important precedent to be made here:  Any person or institution who allows children to be abused should be held accountable, be that a major university, a doctor's office, a school, a camp counselor, or someone providing eldercare.  Accountability across the board will reduce victims and will help more children to grow into adults who take 36 years to learn to say that it was wrong and I am angry or that I have negative feelings about the abuser.

We'll see what the sanctions are but I am hoping they are are harsh as threatened.  I hope the erase all victories since Paterno knew.  That would erase his most-wins status.   I hope bowl titles are stripped and that Penn State will not be playing in bowls or on TV for several years.  I hope that the sanctions do not ruin the lives of the players who did not do anything wrong.  I hope those players are still able to play sufficiently and that NFL coaches pay enough attention to them that a promising athletic career is not lost to errors made while these players were children.

Most of all though I hope this whole event helps Americans see why we have to get sexual abuse of children to be accepted enough as a crime that people know what to do and do it to prevent more of these stories.

Even more than THAT I pray that these victims recover.  It's a long, hard road but it is possible.  I'm not there yet but I am much closer than 6 months ago.  I hope they are able to be proud they faced down the man who assaulted him and that they told their stories as many times as needed to get Sandusky off the street.  I pray that someone offers them top-notch treatment and that Penn State pays for this.  I pray it can remain not a sensationalized story with books and a movie but instead a lesson on what happens when nobody knows what to do or does what they do know to do.

And I hope Penn State is able to re-discover and build on a special community.  For so long that community has been based on the love of Paterno when it needs to be a love of the school and what that stands for rather than just a man.  If ever a story of how fallible humans are existed, this is it.

Copyright 2006 www.masterofirony.blogspot.com

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I read this when you first posted it, and I think it's even better the second time through.

I just have to say that you write very well - I can see this piece featured in a magazine or something. It seems like so much more than a blog post to me! Your perspective and opinions are really spot on. You have a special voice here - I wish it could be heard by everyone!

Now, aside from that, I am glad to know that you feel strides have been made in the world of sexual abuse - that we are moving ahead in many ways. That has to feel good. And it is also great that you know with good help it is possible to heal.

I dunno - this situation has so many parallels to yours. I love how you put it all together.

Smart woman.
Insightful woman.
Healing-in-process woman.
Strong woman.
Loving woman.

You're awesome, Jen!