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."