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Penn State and Sexual Abuse: What Does It Say About Who We Are?

Sports and personal integrity

I am a native of Pennsylvania (having been born and raised in Philadelphia), and have over the years felt connected to Penn State and its football program. It was not hard to love Penn State. It was something about their attitude towards winning and the “team concept”. It showed even down to their uniforms; plain with no names and giving no sense of individuality to the players. For years, Penn State has been a testimony to team sport and the higher moral ground when it came to football and academic ethical standards.

Now as I hear the reports of sexual abuse, misconduct, cover-up, and the institutional sanctioned deception and rape of a community, I am outraged. It appears that one individual stood by while an act of gross depravity was perpetrated on a young boy. To think of the fear, the hurt, the humiliation that child and the other children felt pains me and I search for answers. How does a society allow this to happen? The shame and anger of the family of that child, and the others who were violated over the years to come—without question—is agonizing to the core. And that was only the beginning; the denial by Penn State officials, inadequate investigations, and lack of prosecution for all those involved has led to a dark and troublesome scandal. And well it should; we need things to be out in the open. We need to face ourselves.

But what also grieves me are the rioters and those who feel the need to voice their anger at the firing of Penn State football coach Joe Paterno. I mean give me a break, Joe Paterno had a moral responsibility (if not legal) to go directly to law enforcement. I do not want to just point the finger at Paterno, because the failure runs deep. But the mob mentality that emerged the other night in defense of Paterno shows the lack of an understanding, and empathy for what the true victims of these acts have endured.

What do you think? How do you feel about the sport mentality, the “good old boys club” especially in the high-end, money-making machine of professional and college sports? And last, but not least, has our society forgot about the victim and what it means to be victimized? And what are the consequences for a society that does not protect its children?

6 responses

  1. Any time we treat a human like a god, they start thinking they can do whatever they want, and we peons perpetuate that illusion. That’s why it’s pointless to argue religion with someone because you’ll never shake a believer’s faith.

    November 11, 2011 at 6:33 am

  2. So very true, we gravitate towards the thought of mass thinking all too often.

    November 12, 2011 at 3:03 am

  3. elmediat

    Athletics has been turned into an idealized media construct. Amateur athletes are supposed to do it for the love the sport ideal, but everyone else makes big bucks out of the Olympics and college sports. People’s belief in their sport heroes generates a sense of betrayal/shattering of faith and they get angry when athletes make too much money or have human flaws and weaknesses. As to your point about moral and legal responsibility, here in Ontario, we teachers are held legally responsible for not reporting suspected abuse of our students. it sometimes puts us in a potentially uncomfortable position, but unfortunately necessary one.

    November 12, 2011 at 4:31 am

    • I agree wholeheartedly with your comments E. I too, through my work with individuals with disabilities and special needs am obligated by law to report abuse. Over the years, I have seen the emergence of stricter laws in regard to suspected abuse, and neglect. These laws do put the provider of care in a liable position, if not reported. But as you said it is needed. The safety and protection of those who cannot protect themselves is vital.

      November 12, 2011 at 6:52 am

  4. The whole incident is truly tragic and says a lot about our society and what gets protected and what gets shoved to the side… 😦

    November 12, 2011 at 10:00 am

    • Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the things we do to one another. It saddens me deeply.

      November 13, 2011 at 11:19 am

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