Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Sandusky Case

I need to make a confession, I become obsessed with news stories that deal with crimes against children. Case in point: Jon Benet Ramsey. I went to an investigation seminar for my job during the fallout of this case where we used the "ransom" note left after her disappearance to study handwriting analysis. This opened a door of a self admittedly embarrassing obsession with all things Jon Benet Ramsey. I read everything I could get my hands on and save taking a flight to Colorado, I knew in my heart with a little of my investigative prowess, I could break this case wide open.

I guess my second confession should be that I suffer from an inordinate amount of self-confidence.

Over the past several days I have become a bit obsessed with the Jerry Sandusky accusations and grand jury report. I find myself reading every article I can get from every news outlet writing the story. My obsession is not to "crack the case," but instead to try to understand why grown men of power made the decisions they made. The repeated ignoring of damage to children in the case of Jerry Sandusky's actions is a 15 year reenactment of the two year old who was run over in China and no one helped. (Don't know what I am talking about, google it and be prepared to be even more disappointed in humanity.)

I come into this story with a peaked interest for two reasons. I am currently involved in the lives of foster children. Secondly, I have a 12 year old son. As a foster mother for the past two years I have grown a very special interest in the lives of children who are in the system. I have seen first hand the effects of unimaginable abuse on children at the hands of trusted adults. The abuse of these children, in my experience, is rarely hidden from other adults. It takes a community to allow these kids to be repeatedly abused. A prevalent drug culture is usually the first environmental red flag to sexual abuse, the second is the history of the abuser. Studies and experience show sexually abused children have a propensity to sexually deviant behavior as they mature.

How do you counter this sexual deviance? First, you acknowledge it. I think the thing that is of concern to me in the case of the alleged victims of Jerry Sandusky's victims and the cover-up that followed is that these boys likely were not given therapeutic care to deal with the trauma and subsequent mental health issues that will follow such a trauma. For the age of Sandusky's victims,I would hope these sexual experiences were likely the first they had experienced. Their sexuality, their view of sex, and their self concept all were compromised with each incident. Adding the element of same-sex abuse and the stigma of homosexuality to the mix, these boys likely felt limited in their outreach. I can only imagine the boys who knew someone saw their abuse and did not stop it, felt further limitations in the acceptance of their stories.

I have struggled to walk a mile in the shoes of the men who knew what was happening, but chose not to speak up or step in. Why would you not step up? I think the easy answer is that they were all protecting their own reputations and the reputation of their football program. Yet, I am not convinced that this was the sole reason. I have batted around the idea that we as humans click over to denial when faced with atrocities. A pillar in our community surely could not have done this thing? Last year a conservative fundamentalist preacher in our area attempted to fake his own death in order to run away with his 13 year old lover. A mother kills her children in order to allow for herself the freedom to party. A philanthropist football icon could not be a sexual predator. Our brains can categorize these into unbelievable things. Further, I believe there is an inability for us to talk about sexual activity, positive or negative, without turning to embarrassed whispers or jokes. How many times have you found yourself talking about sex and felt compelled to whisper? I wonder if in sharing the information to one another each in the chain of information in the Sandusky case found their need to make the story believable in their own brain and their own discomfort in speaking of deviant sex acts, indeed downplayed the incident to the point that those further from the witness did not fully understand the extent of the incident.

Please understand I am appalled and disgusted that there was not action. But, the truth is each of these men were not in and of themselves the monster Sandusky appears to be. I imagine before all of this came in the open, they would have been described as upstanding, truth loving, community protecting citizens. So would it have been different in my circle of friends, your circle of friends, or another University? Is it possible that humanity allows this to happen? Or is it just protecting the program at all cost? Maybe that is just so atrocious to me I am trying to make it believable? I believe if we don't figure out the root cause of why there was no action, we as a society will have failed ourselves in preventing it from happening in another place at another time.

As a mother of a pre-teen son, I am so torn up by these stories I have felt physically sick. I think of my child and where he is in his development. Who he is and how each event in his life molds his thinking and direction. I think of the adults in his life whom I trust and rely on to form him and wonder what if I were to learn they were not only not protecting him from the monsters of this world, but were the monsters themselves. It is a nightmare to me that we live in a society where you, if only for a moment, have to take a mental inventory of the people in your children's lives and wonder, even if only for a moment, if they are protecting your child or harming them. The Sandusky's of the world strip us all of our peace and confidence in our fellow man.

At the end of all these thoughts lie the reality that this world is a fallen world. It is my belief that stories like these will become more and more prevalent as days go by. We live in a world where we don't protect the weak, we kill our unborn, we protect our own hearts, rather than take in the fatherless, and we strip family of any importance. We demean masculinity, confuse femininity with sexuality, and we cheapen sex to the point we package it and sell it. We live in a society where we fear financial suffering so we watch a two year old lie in her own blood in the street and we value our own job to the virtue and well-being of an abused child. We riot the firing of a coach, but are apathetic to the raped child he failed to protect. We live in a society that says anything goes. In a society where anything goes, anything will go. Are we prepared for what that means?

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