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Depressed for about a week, I buried myself in work, pushed off talking to friends, and told FD, "I have a headache."
And I did.
Appetite poor, everything physical that usually hurts, hurt more. I started watching old episodes of The Office and Modern Family.
Not even associating the emotional low grade fever with the Penn State child abuse scandal, I thought it odd that I hadn't devoured the newspapers to learn everything possible about the case, and worse, hadn't blogged about it. Usually when a story like this breaks, the keyboard heats up right away. Someone like me gets rabid to throw in her two cents.
Maybe it was that rape in the shower that got to me, that picture of the rape in my head. We have to call it a snapshot reconstruction because it isn't a memory, as in a snapshot memory. We weren't there to see it. But we form snapshots in our brains, reading the paper. We picture a grown man, a large grown man, raping a small boy in the university shower. And that picture is traumatizing. No one reading about it, no one reconstructing it, could feel anything but . . . bad.
If you really think about it, if you think about the exploitation of children, any kind of exploitation, there's no other way to feel. Except maybe angry.
A younger man, Mike McQueary, perhaps an assistant to an assistant coach ten years ago, witnessed the rape in the shower. He tells the head coach, the now infamous ex-head coach Joe Paterno what he saw, and the head coach forwards the information to the athletic director, Tim Curley, who tells then Vice President Gary Schultz, who tells President Graham Spanier, and trail stops there. No one calls the police.
Every social worker, every teacher in this country, every nurse, every doctor, every childcare worker, everyone but the officials at Penn State, apparently, knows that even the suspicion of child abuse means a call to a state agency like the Department of Child and Family Services or Child Protective Services. If you don't know the phone number, you call the police. Paterno didn't know, or didn't want to know, and neither did anyone else in the know at Penn State.
So yes, I buried this story, or tried to repress it, because sometimes things just make you too sad to talk about them. Then yesterday at the office I'm chatting with an older middle-aged couple, two people who like to spend at least a few minutes philosophizing about politics, religion, and social class injustices with me, important topics, before we say goodbye. Not seeing it coming, they pull the oh-by-the-way-doc.
Hey Doc, about that Penn State story. How does this happen? How does a man get caught in the act and then, nothing?As of this morning, 21 felony counts for Sandusky, the ex-Penn State football coordinator and coach. Two perjury charges against university officials who may have lied about what they knew. Joe Paterno, history.
A mother talks about her child's trauma on ABC. "I want him locked up," she says.
There are so many reasons these things stay under the radar, I apologize to my friends. There just isn't enough time to talk about all of them right now.
Then I spend the next ten minutes talking nonstop. Maybe somebody paid off the family. Maybe the family didn't want to traumatize the child more, thinking the investigation a second rape. Probably the family didn't even know. Child victims are paid off in many, many ways, and troubled kids come cheap, with cheap gifts. They don't always have a male role model who loves them, they don't understand love, and they know far too much about sex. They hear that anything goes. They are blackmailed, their lives are threatened, the lives of their families threatened. Children fear authority and Sandusky is a big guy, imposing, intimidating. He doesn't seem like the kind of guy who takes no for an answer.
We don't know what happened. Maybe Sandusky got down on his hands and knees, cried and begged forgiveness, vowed he would get help and change, would pay for the kid's education.
He's a pedophile. This is pedophilia. You can call it a sex addiction, if you want, but let's narrow it down, pedophilia. It's about children, and it is sick and criminal. Most of us can't say that about our disorders.
Bernie Madoff robbed hundreds of investors of millions, billions of dollars. We were sickened by his actions, disgusted, appalled, and he's in jail for life. People will argue, but losing life savings isn't even in the same ballpark, or should we say on the same football field, as losing innocence, integrity, and person-hood. Add to this that it is hard enough, working toward the goal, some of us have this goal as children, of one day establishing a loving, happy, satisfying, enjoyable, intimate, ever-lasting sexual relationship, maybe even with one partner. This is hard enough. Mix it with memories like these, and oy vey. It is complicated.
Therapists see the victims of child molestation and abuse decades later, usually, well after the fact, and we find our patients still aren't "over" it. Most haven't had the therapy they needed, of course, and stay stuck, developmentally, to the age of the assault, which is why perpetrators who are caught pay for this, therapy for their victims, for years. And they pay for the victim's formal education, something that is interrupted, or never begins, when you don't feel you are worthy of one, that you matter.
Sandusky probably had good enough health insurance to pay for his own treatment. And he spent years at college.
That he probably never sought help feels criminal to me. But denial, deception, and criminality characterize, if not define, pedophilia. Treat it in the family (when it presents as incest), and the prognosis for the offender isn't all that bad. When the offender strays beyond the boundaries of home, it is a more intractable disorder, harder to make go away.
That Sandusky founded a nonprofit agency, Second Mile, to "help" vulnerable, troubled boys, isn't surprising. The old adage, If you want to hunt pedophiles, go where the children are, applies.
Now, because this is a sensational story, joining the ranks of thousands of professionals and para-professionals who work with children, will be coaches, assistant coaches, head coaches and athletic directors. Everyone on campus, certainly, will be reading the university handbook, or will attend a workshop. They will learn, hopefully, that they can't let it go, can't pass the buck to their supervisors to call the police and sit tight, hope for the best. It is everyone's responsibility, protecting children.
Call it manning up.