words and art by w a l t e r w s m i t h

Child Abuse

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?

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The Spark that Ignites Our Dream of Love Soon Fades Away

A 2011 remix for Life and Stolen Innocence with poem

        

four point two million sympathy cards                                                                                                         hallmark                                                                                                                             dissipating blue-clear skies to purple gray skies                                                                      vertical sky-cam                                                                                                                                a gun in hand                                                                                                                                     aisle four

the sound of a distant airplane                                                                                                         voices behind closed doors                                                                                                          clear skies, green grass, eternity                                                                                                 hand-held sony super 8 interviewing                                                                                                  clips from serial mom and                                                                                                           fourth of july picnics

christmas morning                                                                                                                    echoed screams                                                                                                                           polaroids                                                                                                                                    father knows best                                                                                                                         sleep in pain, wake to fear, live without love                                                                           family sitcoms circa: 1960’s


Maybe Tomorrow a Better Dream a Better Life

2011 remix of Life and Stolen Innocence, Recovery and The Spark that Ignites Our Dream of Love Soon Fades Away

Millions of children, throughout the world, are abused in one form on another.  It is heartbreaking that they must live with the sharp pain of an unkind word, neglect, shame, or physical torment. It shatters their hopes and dreams. As a society we cannot lose sight of what a young girl or boy experiences when their trust in those who should protect them is betrayed. We as a community, a village, must extend love and compassion, hope and inspiration that tomorrow’s dreams and life itself can and will be beautiful, safe and fulfilling.  There is a lot of space in the hearts of  all children to find that warm embrace, the story that leaves a smile, and a relationship that is love.


Hopes, Dreams and Stolen Innocence

A 2011 remix of the 1993 exhibit Life in Stolen Innocence

Lately, I have been thinking about the human condition. How we must see ourselves as the protectors of the young and the innocence throughout the world. How our society prevails, or should prevail in a time of moral entropy. How we must find the courage to uphold the moral reason for love and compassion.  In this post entitled “Hopes, Dreams and Stolen Innocence” and the related post, “Maybe Tomorrow a Better Dream a Better Life”, I look back at works, from the past that I have created in the attempt to address these issues. In 1993, at Atlantic Community College, I exhibited my photo / text piece entitled “Life and Stolen Innocence” i.e. the fictional depiction of two young girls growing up simultaneously—one child living in a loving and sustaining home, and the other child in an abusive home environment.  And in 2002 I revisited this examination with the digital collage “The Spark that Ignites Our Dream of Love Soon Fades Away”. Both works were an attempt to focus on the idealism of youth, in the shadow of dreams and hopes lost.