Where I Don’t Talk about Penn State

Posted on | November 10, 2011 | 7 Comments

I am not going to talk about Penn State.

What I am going to talk about is the problem we seem to have in this country with victims.  Rape victims, domestic abuse victims, child abuse victims…. we have issues with victims.  And while I’m not sure exactly why that is, I think it’s because victims make us uncomfortable.  If something bad happened to them, good Lord, something bad might happen to us.  It’s a lot easier to shuffle the hurt under a rug and sweep their tears to the side and focus on, you know, rallying the troops around the accused.  Maybe we can make it so this never even happened and then we don’t have to think about little boys being raped or little girls being molested.  Maybe we can build up the perpetrator and talk about how he or she is so smart and so nice and they could just never, ever do something like this.

Maybe we can convince ourselves that things like this just don’t happen.  Maybe we can convince ourselves that our friends, our co-workers, are not capable of atrocities.

We have a problem with victims.  We make it hard for the wounded to find relief.  We put the rape victim’s character on trial, we joke that “she was asking for it,” we pretend that things like this don’t happen to nice girls or nice boys.  We pretend that it’s okay make jokes about it and laugh about it and sweep it all under this thick carpet of shame that is knit by the hands of the perpetrators; the men and women who make it their life’s work to abuse and belittle.

I don’t know what the answer is.  I don’t know how we change our mindset into being about protecting the accuser instead of the accused.  I don’t know how we stop immediately letting our minds go to “poor guy, what if he’s innocent” and focus on “poor girl or boy, what a horrible thing to go through.”  Maybe it’s the way our legal system works, maybe it’s the way we celebrate attorneys on television and on the news who take on an impossible case and make it “go away.”  Maybe it’s because we would rather believe that someone didn’t do something than that they did.  It’s why people celebrated when OJ Simpson was found not guilty.  It’s why people celebrated when Amanda Knox’s verdict was reversed.  It’s why Joe Paterno went to his Athletic Director instead of the police.  It is nicer to think that the people we love or the people we feel akin to do not do terrible things.

Here’s the thing, though… terrible things happen.

And sometimes? Sometimes the terrible things are done by the people we trust most, the people we’ve had in our homes for dinner, the people we’ve introduced to our children.

Terrible things happen every day. 

But I’m not going to talk about Penn State.

Comments

7 Responses to “Where I Don’t Talk about Penn State”

  1. Gen X Mama
    November 10th, 2011 @ 9:37 am

    Oh how immense your fabulousness is. that is about all I can say. For someone who is very seldom at a loss for words, this whole situation has made me sputter and not be able to form my words into somewhat intelligent conversation. But, thank you.

  2. Anonymous
    November 10th, 2011 @ 10:15 am

    I’m not even sure what to say. I really don’t even know. I want to write but I can’t and I’m scared to. I mostly want to avoid the news and just block it out. The thought that anything could happen to my babies ever just terrifies me.

  3. rynerman
    November 10th, 2011 @ 10:21 am

    Well stated.

  4. Laura
    November 10th, 2011 @ 2:00 pm

    Excellent post.

  5. facie
    November 10th, 2011 @ 4:05 pm

    As a Penn State alumna, this story hit me extra hard. The only bright spot in this mess is that in all likelihood, people will be less likely to protect the monsters and more likely to help the victims and go to the police. It won’t be a 180-degree change, I am sure; unfortunately, cover ups are everywhere.

    I want to add something that I learned today from talking to a police officer. He said if you ever witness something like the former GA/current wide receivers coach did, you should document it, particularly in an email. Then you follow up, with more emails. As a sub in a Catholic school, I appreciated this advice. I can honestly say prior to this whole nightmare, if I would have seen something suspicious (e.g., a teacher awkwardly hugging a student in the bathroom), I would have gone to the principal and probably let it go. Now there is no way I would think my job is done once I reported it to my superior.

  6. Elizabeth Flora Ross
    November 10th, 2011 @ 7:35 pm

    You so rock. I love your voice!

  7. Kristinayellow
    November 10th, 2011 @ 10:44 pm

    It’s funny–with all the increased technology and openness/frankness in sharing sex and every little bit of our lives in our culture, we still have such secrecy and fear about standing up for what’s right. I can only hope that this makes people realize that we MUST protect those who are vulnerable, we MUST step in when we see someone being hurt or abused, and we CANNOT be afraid that we may look bad or lose a friendship. We have to be able to trust in the basic human goodness–that we do things the way we would hope someone else would do it if we were in the situation. If I was being abused, I would pray someone would step in and offer help in some way.
    We as a culture need to find our way back to standing up for what’s right, even if it’s hard, even if it’s scary, and perhaps, even especially then. America was built on people who weren’t afraid to stand up to a bigger, stronger country. We can’t be scared to do the right thing.
    I am sick to my stomach about this–and I hate that all the media seems to focus on the admin, the school, the students who talk about football and school pride, and no one is talking about the true victims–these boys and their families.

  • Creative Commons License
    Spilled Milk (and Other Atrocities) by Law Momma is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
    Based on a work at http://www.law-momma.com.
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