Wednesday, November 9, 2011

I Am Angry

I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. This means that certain things are triggering for me. Smells, sounds, songs...even the weather on some days. I often have to turn away from news casts, online stories, books, and movies because something that happens in them sets off a visceral reaction in me and reminds me of something that happened in my past. These triggers can be the spark that sets off a reaction that ultimately leads to a depressive episode. I don't avoid these things because my head is in the sand, I avoid them for my own mental health and the health and well-being of my family.

So, hearing about what is going on at Penn State is, at the very least, very upsetting. It was also something that I could not ignore.

Here's the short version in case you aren't following the story:
  • In 1977, Jerry Sandusky established The Second Mile, a group home for troubled boys. This organization ultimately evolves into a program that is much more and supports all youth who need additional support and positive adult role models. Through this program, Sandusky works with children. 
  • In 1994, he has inappropriate contact with his first reported victim. (This victim does not report this until he is 26, which means he was around 9 years old when the contact occurred.)
  • In 1998, it is reported to University police that Sandusky has had contact with two more boys, which starts an investigation with the police department. One victim's mother, during a phone call recorded by a police detective, is told by Sandusky that he  showered with her son and with other boys. He is investigated by the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare, where he admits to hugging the boy and says he won't shower with children again. The district attorney declined to pursue criminal charges, prompted by the head of campus police telling the police to close the inquiry.
  • In 1999, Sandusky retires from Penn State. It is unrelated to the inquiry and he is allowed access to facilities on campus. (This will be significant later.)
  • In 2000, a janitor witnesses Sandusky abusing a boy in a shower on campus. He tells co-workers and one of them observed that Sandusky's vehicle was on campus that night. The incident is reported to the janitor's supervisor, who tells the witness to whom to report the incident.
  • In 2002, another witness (this time a graduate assistant) witnesses a boy (possibly around 10 years old) being abused in another shower on campus. He reports the incident to Joe Paterno, coach at Penn State. Paterno, in turn, reports it to Tim Curley, the athletic director of Penn State. Ten days (!!) later, this graduate assistant, Mike McQueary meets with Curley and Gary Schultz, school treasurer and senior vice president. They do not report the incident to authorities or to any child protection agency. Instead, Sandusky's access to the locker rooms is removed and the incident is reported to The Second Mile.
  • In 2009, a mother calls her son’s school and reports that he was sexually abused by Sandusky. The police are notified.
  • In 2010, the graduate assistant, who is now an assistant coach at Penn State testifies about the abuse he witnessed and what he reported to Schultz and Curley. One of the victims reports that he has received voice mails from Sandusky, which he does not return. 
  • In January of 2011, Curley downplays the allegations, saying that graduate assistant said it was "inappropriate," and not "sexual" contact, and referred to it as "horsing around." Schultz says he met with Curley and Paterno about the reports, but says he thought Sandusky and the boy might have been wrestling when the inappropriate contact happened.
  • Currently: The public has been made aware of the allegations against Sandusky and he is accused of sexually abusing eight boys between 1994 and 2009. Curley and Schultz are also being investigated for lying to investigators and not reporting the incidents to authorities. They have vacated their jobs and have been arraigned on the charges. 
(Insert statement about people being innocent until proven guilty here.)

My thoughts on this? Every single person at Penn State University who was made aware of this situation should be fired and/or prosecuted. There are eight (and probably many more) victims out there whose lives will never be the same. Had Paterno, Curley, and Schultz been doing their jobs there would be far fewer victims. Those boys (and men) deserved better. Even the witnesses should be sharing in this blame. When a child is being abused, we should refuse to allow it to be kept secret. We should scream from the rooftops until someone hears us.

We need to send a message to abusers that this will NOT stand. We will protect our children and let nothing stand in the way of their safety. Our children deserve no less.
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Please refer to this article from NPR to see my main source for the details of this posting. Other bits of information from the many news stories that have come out about this situation.


VDog said...


Unknown said...

This saddens me on so many levels.
Where is the justice for those children?
Where is the justice for survivors like yourself?
Where is the decency of EVERYONE involved?
How could anyone know about such abuse and not go through the proper channels?! HOW CAN THEY LIVE WITH THEMSELVES?!?

Anonymous said...

There needs to be a full investigation, both internal AND criminal - and it needs to be as far reaching as the opening of "The Second Mile." I'll bet he was abusing children before 1994 - especially since he had access.

We cannot allow the abuse of children (or anyone, I know... but the subaltern especially) to continue on account of silence. That does more than condone. It *promotes.*

But I Do Have a Law Degree said...

I went to Penn State and am devastated by this story. It is awful, deplorable, tragic, disgusting, all those things. The fact that it was covered up... there are no words.

Anonymous said...

Hello Jo,

It is now 11:59 am and my cousin and I have been working late every night for over a week to blow the gate off a child sexual abuse situation. Reports have been made since 2008. The child is now 7 and still the CPS says there is not enough disclosure from the child to stop visitations with the biological father. The child won't talk during a forensic interviewing protocol. She does disclose to mom, doctor, therapists and family members that she doesn't want to go see her father and that he hurts her body. What would you do?

Jo said...

Dear Anonymous: I can understand that you don't want to disclose you identity here, but I'd really love to talk to you more about this. Could you email me please at minnesotajoy at gmail dot com?

Also, the RAINN website is a good resource for information. You can also call the hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE.

Barb said...

I saw your story on fox news through a friends facebook comment, and I clicked over here to read this. Thank you so much for this. The whole thing is so sickening and heartbreakening, and it is incredibly brave of you to come forward and speak out about this. Your story gives a voice and a face to the children we can't see. Thank you so much for sharing your story!

Bonnie@TheFragileXFiles said...

You are so right, Jo. Thank you for putting the focus back on the kids.

Anonymous said...

It is 10:21p.m. and my cousin and I have worked all day to get someone to stop the visits to the father so their can be a pending investigation.
I have shown the doctors records, pictures, therapists reports, family reports to little avail. CPS, DHS,attorney all want the child to fully disclose in a forensic interview or they will not move forward. She had another interview today but we will not know the outcome until tomorrow. I just needed a place to talk. I have to be very careful as to what I share. I am not sure when I can email or if. I am very troubled by the system set in place. It seems to lean heavily on protecting the abuser from any false accusation. I have spoken with detectives, sheriff and FBI who have told me that they have seen many women use this ploy to send their spouse or ex to jail. This seems to be a major hurdle... even though the child is disclosing to mom, family, therapist in clear words that her dad is hurting her. When people hear this story they just can't believe this is happening. Well, I came here to find out myself first hand and you would have to see it to believe it. They all want conclusive evidence... how do you get that? I will check out rainn tomorrow. I am too tired tonight. Appreciate you.

Jo said...

Anonymous: Any news on the outcome of the interview??