TRIGGER WARNING: CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE - Legacy.
I want to shit on a kitten every time somebody says something about how they’re sad about Joe Paterno’s legacy being tainted.
Are you kidding me. Ok so he “may have been” (was) involved in covering up the molestation of Black boys, children, and I’m seeing people expressing displeasure about this soiling his good name. People who haven’t said a word about the victims beyond an obligatory ‘well that’s just awful’.
Well fuck Joe Paterno, fuck his legacy, and fuck you if you’re more concerned about the legacy of a dead man who even “may have” allowed the molestation of children than you are about the children who were molested and are still alive and have to live in the shadow of Joe Fucking Paterno’s legacy.
How about you take down his statue and replace it with, oh I dunno, an actual apology or something that might work as a reminder that tremendous evil was done, washed out, and forgotten.
But, we’ll find, a famous dead white man’s legacy is more important.
And students don’t riot over child molestation.
Reason #111: What Jerry Sandusky tells us
[trigger warning: child sexual abuse, rape culture, victim blaming]
Though Friday night’s verdict prompted cheers outside the courtroom, inside, the mother of Victim 6 did not claim victory.
“Nobody wins. We’ve all lost,” she said before hugging her son.
I have a lot of feelings about this case. I don’t know how to properly articulate some of them.
This case is one of, if not the most, infamous case of child sexual abuse and child rape in my lifetime. It’s a story that is too horrible to believe. But this kind of thing happens every day— maybe not on the same scale, but with horrifying frequency in our world.
Penn State tells us a lot about rape culture. It tells us a lot about abuse culture. As I’ve said in the past, these things do not happen in a political and cultural vacuum; they happen because the moral and social fabric of an entire society is built in such a way that it can fail people— not just once, but over and over again. It takes a village. There were many times in my life when an adult armed with the right knowledge might have seen through what was happening to me. There were times, later on as a teenager, when I was very direct, but no one did anything. I wrote down that I wanted to kill myself and I showed it to a teacher. I asked for a social worker. I received multiple truancy letters. It takes a village.
So as I think about this case, and the people who suffered so much for years and years at the hands of Jerry Sandusky, I can only imagine how many times the world failed them. I cannot understand the agony of publicly revealing your story for prime time news pundits to pick apart. I cannot comprehend the frustration and pain involved in taking the witness stand and having your story criticized and attacked.
I read the grand jury report many months ago. It was terrifying. I had to stop halfway through because I felt myself getting physically ill. But I remember the testimony of the janitor who saw Sandusky abusing a boy— he said that the memory of that haunted and disturbed him more than the years he spent fighting in Vietnam. That is the gravity of what we are dealing with here.
But despite this desire to call Jerry Sandusky a monster, we have to remember that he is a person, and that people— people whom we think are “good”— can do monstrous things. Jerry Sandusky had many people testify to his “good character”. It takes a village. Joe Paterno let child rape happen, and instead of riots and outrage against him, he had riots in his name. It takes a village. And some of us still refuse to believe that even a priest, a “man of god”, can abuse a boy.
It takes a village.
Even now, I am starting to see the jokes about prison rape. It’s a sign of where we still are— we see rape as something that can sometimes be a punishment, instead of as one of the worst possible acts in human existence. We still believe that rape is something that can be doled out to those “deserving” of it, instead of as something that every single person in the world has the right to not have happen to them. We still believe that a person we don’t like deserves to have images of their rape and murder publicly broadcast, and that people who do good things can’t possibly be child rapists or child rapist enablers
This is the culture we are in— one that has variable beliefs on rape and sexual abuse, many of which contradict one another. It’s not okay to hurt little boys, but what if this case was about 45 counts of rape against women? What if some of those women were promiscuous or had other “deviant” sexuality? What if these boys were men when they were hurt? What if some of these boys, now adults, were convicted criminals? Gay? Transgender? Undocumented? Mentally disabled? Fat? What if they were some combination of all of these? The more “deviant” and “bad” we see a person, the more likely it is that their story is not taken seriously. That we cannot, with 100% certainty, say that Jerry Sandusky in another world would be convicted had his victims not been among one of the most believable, sympathetic groups in our culture— children— says a lot about where we are. And as we know, even little boys have trouble being believed.
In 90 days, Jerry Sandusky will be sentenced, probably with life in prison. But there are still other Jerry Sanduskys out there, and they have entire villages, entire cities of people behind them, actively ignoring abuse, or subtly covering it up. Some of these people— both the abusers and the abuse enablers— could be our neighbors, our cops, our teachers, or our siblings. There are still Joe Paternos out there, knowingly allowing rape and getting away with it. This is not an aberration in our culture— it is a pattern that is systematically ignored and even encouraged.
The end of Jerry Sandusky is not the end of the many millions of other stories out there.
Perfect commentary on a horrific case. NPR has been triggering the fuck out of me lately with all of the Sandusky coverage. The knowing complicity of so many people combined with the institutional enabling is beyond disturbing. Those poor boys. In a sense, their lives ended with that abuse. What is left for them now? I hope there is a lot of emotional and professional support for them.
I hope that the attention this story received paves a way for more accountability. I hope people start paying more attention and have the courage to protect the abused.
Are You Joe Paterno?
I woke up really upset today about Penn State. I read a bit about it before falling asleep last night, just as the riots were getting some attention on Tumblr. I’d never heard of Joe Paterno before yesterday, but I am all too familiar with university systems that ignore atrocities in order to save face. And I am very pissed off.
This scandal has gotten media attention mainly because of the involvement of a beloved football coach. And the awful-ness of the act has been magnified by the fact that a very young boy was raped. The core of the problem, though, is a system of non-responsibility on college campuses regarding any type of sexual violence. The problem manifests itself in many ways from the seemingly small (ignoring a rape joke made by a classmate) to the huge (rioting in support of a rape cover-up), and we are all complicit.
Somewhere along the line, campuses decided that protecting its students was not as important as protecting its reputation. Maybe this started when athletes and athletic programs became so financially important. (Because let’s not kid ourselves, colleges and universities are businesses with bottom lines.) Maybe this started with fraternity members became not just brothers, but silent protectors of their black sheep. Maybe this happened with campus tribunals’ idea of “justice” became a slap on the wrist for a first offense. Honestly, it doesn’t really matter when it began. It matters when it will end.
When you hear a rape joke but don’t say a word, you are Joe Paterno. When you go to a fraternity party, and you know that sexual assualt has happened in that house and no justice has been served, you are Joe Paterno. When you call another woman a slut instead of asking her if she needs help when she is out of control drunk at a party, you are Joe Paterno. When you cheer on a team with a player who has been found guilty of sexual assualt, you are Joe Paterno.
Doing the bare minimum is not enough. Not raping does not make you a good person. If that is your default position, you are a neutral person. What makes you a good person, what makes you a moral, respectable person who your kids or future kids or your reflection in the mirror can look at you and say “That is a good man” or “That is a good woman,” is working for a culture that despises rape. Working for a culture that gives victims support when they report and applauds campus leaders when they speak out against assault. It is a world that will only happen when we become braver. If I lived in that world, maybe I would have reported my assault. But I don’t. I live in Joe Paterno’s world.