On the sexual abuse story coming out of Penn State
November 10, 2011
This post may be triggering for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. If that is you, please guard your boundaries carefully, and feel free to skip this one if you need to.
When I hear about a child who is sexually abused, my heart breaks. I am horrified into silence. What can I say in the face of the suffering of a child who is raped by an adult into whose care that child was placed? Whether the abuse is at the hands of a parent, a teacher, a babysitter, a coach, it is unthinkable to me. And if I allow myself to imagine someone hurting my child in this way (God forbid, God forbid, God forbid) I overflow with fear and rage.
Among the circle of people I know and love there are many victims of sexual abuse. Most are women, though some are men. Many were abused by people who were supposed to be taking care of them. One of my dear friends was raped by her father. Another was raped by his babysitter. These stories are real and they are everywhere.
I have some sense of how childhood abuse and sexual assault has hurt, and continues to hurt, these people that I love. And I know that as the story of the allegations of sexual abuse at Penn State unfolds, many survivors of rape and sexual abuse are suffering all over again, remembering their own histories -- and maybe remembering, too, what it was like to be told that this "couldn't" have happened to them or that they "shouldn't" make such accusations about people everyone knew were honorable.
If that is your story: please know that you are in my heart today. Please take care of yourself.
To those at Penn State, and those who have an emotional investment in the football program there, who are feeling anger at the firing of Joe Paterno: I hear your fury. But I ask you to hold your attachment to the Penn State football program up against the pain of eight boys who were sexually abused by someone they trusted. Please don't give those boys, and others like them, any reason to believe that you value Joe Paterno's (or Jerry Sandusky's) reputation more than the integrity of their bodies and their hearts.