RENEE ORDWAY

Why are we shocked that Penn State officials turned their backs to child sex abuse?

Posted July 13, 2012, at 6:05 p.m.
Renee Ordway
Renee Ordway

Racism did not end the day Rosa Parks stood her ground on that bus in Montgomery, Ala., in 1955 nor when Martin Luther King made his “I Have A Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963.

Chauvinism didn’t end when women got the right to vote in 1920 or when Title IX was passed by Congress in 1972.

But each event chipped away at what was the normal of our time and set us on the course to our new normal. Those things exist now but on a much smaller scale and they certainly are far less tolerated.

“The Greatest Generation” wasn’t that just for its courage during World War II. They got a lot of good things done. They changed this country’s “normal” over and over again.

But there is much left to be done and it is our turn.

I’m sure most people don’t consider the sexual molestation of a child as “normal” but when you consider the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in six boys and one in four girls are sexually abused and other research estimates that about 300,000 youngsters are sexually abused in the United States each year — well, it’s far from exceptional.

And considering how many of such cases never are reported but are buried deep in the closets of homes across this country, then that CDC figure may be remarkably conservative.

What has been splayed across the headlines of newspapers across this country regarding the Penn State and Jerry Sandusky molestation case is important, of course. Horrifying certainly.

But shocking?

Why? Because Joe Paterno, college president Graham Spanier, vice president Gary Schultz and athletic director Tim Curley turned their backs to it? Because they didn’t do anything about it? Because they showed no empathy for the little boys Sandusky raped? Because they buried it? Because they covered for one of their own?

Shocking? Really?

Hell, we’ve been turning our backs for generations. You know, the “weird” uncles, brothers and cousins who might have been whispered about but never in polite company and never held responsible. Just watched over a bit more at family gatherings perhaps when the youngsters were around.

What do we suppose they were doing when we weren’t watching?

And if we don’t see it firsthand and if no one talks about such despicable things then surely it is much easier to just go about our business.

Thirty percent of molested children are abused by a family member, according to the American Psychological Association. Sixty percent by an adult outside the family, but whom they know: a neighbor, teacher or family friend.

Only 10 percent are molested by a stranger.

A janitor at Penn State claims to have actually seen Sandusky performing a sex act on a little boy and said nothing.

Paterno would have had his job, he says in his defense. It would have been like going up against the president of the United States, he told investigators.

Graduate student and assistant football coach Mike McQueary saw Sandusky raping a boy in the shower.

He claims he was flustered at the sight. Well, one would think so. But what he did was turn his back, leaving the room and the boy behind with Sandusky.

He did tell Paterno and eventually the athletic director and the school vice president and president.

Some praise him for doing that and really don’t seem to blame him for not doing anything further. I mean, he could have lost his job if he pushed it too far. He was being a good soldier.

Why go to the police when he had gone to Paterno?

Why? Because he saw Sandusky sexually assaulting a little boy. Because for the next decade Sandusky continued to have full access to Penn State’s football program, including the showers where he continued to bring little boys to molest.

McQueary wasn’t comfortable with Sandusky, so he said for the next 10 years he would leave a room if Sandusky came in.

Take that.

But really that’s what most of us want to do, isn’t it? Leave the room, leave the damage, the embarrassment and the messiness behind. Let the victims slowly and quietly find their way to the closet.

Sexual molestation of children will not stop because of what has occurred at Penn State.

But it is time that our generation put us on a new course.

If you don’t do something to stop sexual abuse of children, if you don’t tell — again and again if you must — then you are accepting it.

You are condoning it. You are part of the problem and a contributor to those sad statistics.

You might as well, just as McQueary did, turn and leave that little naked boy in the shower with Jerry Sandusky.

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