Friday, November 11, 2011

When Silence Destroys The Lives of Others...

Audre Lorde once said, "Your silence will not protect you."

Nowhere is this more evident than in the Penn State events over the past few days. I have many, many thoughts on this issue, but first, I think it is important for you all to know exactly the timeline of this abuse. Because it's not like this just came up this week. And not everyone knows how far back and how deep this case goes. Nor do they know how many people knew what was happening and chose not to say anything.

C.C. Finlay gives a very accurate and thorough timeline here. Please note the number of incidents that occurred and when they began. 1998. 1998 was the first time Sandusky was caught. And there were four incidents in which the abuse was witnessed by other people. Four. Legal action was not taken until the fourth incident. By Finlay's count, fifteen people knew about this abuse prior to legal action being taken. FIFTEEN.

And how many boys were abused between 1998 when the mother of one of the victims first reported what happened to her son and 2011 when Sandusky was finally indicted?

It's horrifying. It's staggering. FIFTEEN people. This is not just an issue of Paterno's silence not protecting him. This goes so much further than that. It speaks to a rape culture in which obvious abuse goes unreported or gets pushed under the rug because the abuser is a good guy and expresses remorse. It speaks of the culpability of those who kept silent for fear of losing their job. It speaks to the world at large and why so many people feel the need to defend Paterno.

I'm sick about all of it. I am sick of people not saying things when horrible things are happening. We all have a responsibility to stop abuse. If nothing else, we have a responsibility to SPEAK. We have a responsibility to SPEAK LOUDER when no one listens. This is not complicated. These were children. There was never a question of acquiescence in this. This is a very obvious case of abuse and STILL people are fighting about it.

I worry so much about the messages we are sending our children. I worry about what we are saying and the culture we are creating. Why would anyone who has been abused want to come forward when all they are met with is denial or rationalizations for not reporting? And what about the cases that aren't obvious? The cases where someone has been drinking and is raped or someone is wearing a short skirt and hitting on guys and is raped? If ten year old boys aren't being protected, why would a sixteen year old drunk girl date raped at a party be believed or protected?

I don't know what to say except SPEAK and SPEAK LOUDLY. A friend of mine once told me when she had teenage sons, she insisted that they be responsible for every girl at the parties they attended. They were to make sure all of them left safely and didn't get in situations that left them vulnerable. I thought this was an awfully big ask, but then she told me, "It's not enough for my boys not to be perpetrators, they have a responsibility, we all have a responsibility to stop others from being perpetrators. That's how our children should be raised. If they don't look out for each other, no one will."

14 comments:

Marc Lichtenstein said...

Amen! Some of the greatest crimes in history were perpetrated because silence enabled them.

Melissa Sarno said...

Such an important message here. Thanks for sharing it. And the story of your friend and her sons is extraordinary. She is so right. We all have a responsibility.

Amy L. Sonnichsen said...

So, true, Christa. This situation makes me want to puke. I CANNOT BELIEVE nobody took action in this case until now. Those poor little boys! I know, seriously, what kind of world do we live in that people would remain silent about this? It boggles my mind.

Brinda said...

While reading your post, I was saying "Amen" to that on Speak and Speak Loudly, but I saw Marc beat me to it. Thanks for this post.

Sophia Chang said...

Aww that's so cheering and moving what your friend said and how she's raising her sons.

I definitely had to read this post after you quoted Audre Lorde - she's so instrumental to my college development :)

Miranda Hardy said...

Different cultures in society have differing norms. This reminds me of the Chinese video of those people who ignored the dying toddler that was run over. Too many people look the other way.

I hope I've been able to teach my children to be caring individuals who will not look the other way. Parenting is so important to instilling values that count.

Lisa Dunick said...

Yes. And YES. As an alumni of Penn State, I've been following this and horrified by what has happened. If you read the indictment, it's staggering how many people HAD to have suspected, HAD to have known--and no one pushed the matter.

But the other thing that worries me is the reactions to the coverage of this I've seen. Some of my friends have been shielding their young boys from SPorts Center and NOT discussing what's going on. I think that just as important as speaking out when you see something is to make sure that our children know that they can always talk about what's happening to them. There are so many types of silence and silencing.

Jolene Perry said...

LOVE what your friend said to her boys.
LOVE.

The whole situation makes me sick. SO sad.

Mandie Baxter said...

Love what your friend said! Young adults NEED those kind of boys around. They need someone to help them say no, watch their back when they can't. The more of them there are, the less trouble there will be.

Joanne Fritz said...

Well said, Christa. I'm also sick of people defending Paterno and the others involved.

Looking the other way is simply not acceptable.

erica and christy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
erica and christy said...

(whoops, missed a word in the comment that made it not make sense)

Abuse reports like these make me physically sick. My friend's son was abused by a teacher in elementary school and ended up in a mental institution for repeated suicide attempts - while still a very young child. Two boys in his class admitted knowing about the abuse - but if there's any defense there, it's that the other children were just that, children. If adults know and don't do anything about it, they are responsible for any further abuse.

My sons are ten and five. I sooo wish a fiery apocalypse upon the souls of each of the people involved in this case (and any like it).
erica

Talli Roland said...

I'm not familiar with Penn State and what's happened, but I do agree that keeping silent when you see something that's fundamentally wrong is NOT the right way to deal with things. Speaking up is so important if we want things to change.

Alexis Bass Writes said...

This story is heartbreaking. I’m so glad you posted about this. The is so true: we have a responsibility to SPEAK. We have a responsibility to SPEAK LOUDER when no one listens.

I LOVE what your friend told her teenage sons. I remember meeting boys like this when I was in college. They really did make a difference.