A Response to Penn State Scandal

It has taken me over a week since the Penn State scandal broke to attempt to bring my anger under control and attempt to present a reasoned response to it. I will not say some anger may find its way into this blog entry as it remains but I will attempt to keep it under control. I however cannot remain silent!

Adults, no matter the position they hold in society, are to protect our children. Despite what the Pennsylvania “mandate reporting law” states; the adults involved in this story did not do that. They, in a few situations, may have met the letter of the law but they failed in meeting their moral obligations.

I can speak on this subject matter due to my own personal experiences when I was a youth.

I was raped as a youth and had another sexual abuse situation attempted on me. I for years blamed myself for this. It took me over forty years to even share these experiences with anyone because I was ashamed.

When I wrote my first book about my experiences in foster care I didn’t want to share these experiences but knowing I wanted to be as truthful as possible in my writing they had to be shared, though not in graphic detail.

In my book “Lost Son” I shared the following two instances:

One

“The stability of four years came to sudden end in May, 1960, when I was abruptly removed from the Monshor’s home. I was placed in the Wayne County, Michigan Youth Detention Center. My crime: at age ten I was guilty of not having a family to claim me as their son nor a place to call home.

The Detention Center was to be my home until a new foster home was found. Here I was placed amongst youth offenders who were charged with a wide assortment of crimes. My bed, to start due to overcrowding, would be a thin mattress in the open area of the block.

I am the youngest boy on the block, as well as the smallest. Though I attempted to fight as best I could I was unable to overcome the attacks of older boys. I was repeatedly sexually assaulted.

One day after being assaulted and left naked in a cell, I felt my life was no longer worth living and attempted to hang myself with a belt. I was discovered before the act could be completed and placed in an isolation cell, where I would remain for two months.

Those responsible for the repeated rapes are never charged or held accountable in any manner.”

Two

“On the night of April 15, 1961, I was told to pack my paper bag, and that I would be leaving in the morning. All I could think of was, “Here we go again.”

The final insult of this foster home came on my final night there. Their son, seventeen at the time, came back on the porch late during the night. He nudged me roughly. When I opened my eyes, light was coming through the porch windows so I could see him. He was standing over me, exposing himself, close to my mouth saying, “Take care of this for me.” I remember kicking out at him and then wailing away at him. I hit him everywhere I possibly could creating noises as he crashed into things. All the time I was yelling to arouse the rest of the house.

Finally his Mother came out to see what was going on. I yelled out, with tears rolling down my face, “He tried to force himself on me sexually.” He called me a liar and said he was just checking on me.

His Mother believed him and not me. She said, “You are a rotten no good for nothing boy, a dirty little boy, a liar. No wonder no one wanted me as I wasn’t fit to have anyone to want me. Good thing you will soon be out of our house, you ungrateful little bastard.” At least she got the bastard part correct.

I sat there in stunned silence with what I heard, while crying now uncontrollably. Then I had my chance. I stood up and decked her son. I got a good hit in as I knocked out one of his front teeth…not bad for a scrawny eleven year old.

I was so ashamed of what had happened that  night that I did not share it with the social worker. I have not shared it with anyone as I have remained ashamed until now…forty plus years later.

I always felt I needed to keep it as my dark, dirty secret. As I thought of writing this chapter, I finally came to realize I was not the guilty party that night, I was the victim and thus could now forgive myself and let it go. I still obviously remember that woman’s final words to me. I still shudder when I think of this foster home.”

I share these situations to help you realize how a victim of sexual abuse may respond or not respond to it. The depth of the negative feelings one goes through as well as it may take years before they are able to share it with anyone.

I am sure victims of the Penn State situation could very much identify with what I felt when this happened to me.

In the case of the very graphic incident of 2002 in the football locker room showers it was not abuse that occurred…it was rape it was a felony crime! It was witnessed and yet the police were not called.

The Pennsylvania law does not mandate the average citizen report the above described case to be reported to authorities but rather it be reported up their immediate chain of command on the job. Only seventeen of the fifty states makes it a crime to not report abuse of a child to the authorities. This has to change!

Various officials at Penn Stated failed the youth that were sexually abused. In a few of the cases that have been detailed there were actual witnesses yet they failed to even attempt to stop the abuse they witnessed but only told their immediate superiors of the events.

How the victims must have felt knowing someone could have rescued them but did not!

I feel nothing but contempt for those witnesses who failed these youth!

Though the officials at Penn State are not required under their current laws to notify authorities when they were informed how could they not feel their moral obligation. How could they basically wipe their hands of the matter after they were informed feeling they had met the letter of the law and that was the end of it.

Abuse of a child is despicable! For one to not act to protect a child when they see abuse happening to a child is despicable! For those who are informed that child abuse has happened to not report it to proper authorities is despicable!

I can only hope and pray that those who were abused have or will soon find a way to heal, to realize it was not their fault but rather the fault of the one who abused them. It is my hope that their lives have not already been completely destroyed.

It is time that ALL fifty states pass a law to make it mandatory that whoever witnesses or has reasonable suspicion abuse is happening to a child MUST report it to law officials.  If the states will not do this then the federal government must. This law must be the same in all fifty states. We must protect our youth!!

We can never allow a situation such as Penn State, the Catholic Church (I am Catholic), to ever happen again!

9 Responses

  1. This is so well thought out and so well stated. I too have been abused and lived in foster care. Unlike you I had wonderful foster parents and foster homes and I thank G-d every day for that, with that said, I agree with you that the whole Penn State Scandal has opened a whole bag of worms for me that I didn’t know was even there to open. I have been having dreams again that I haven’t had since I was a kid and dealing with feelings that I thought I dealt with through years of counseling while in foster care. I guess this whole scandal has ticked me off beyond unbelieveable measures and the fact that people seem to think that they didn’t do anything wrong is what makes me so sick over it. That is what has upset me the most I believe. I appreciate your message here and I appreciate that another FCCA member is also having issues dealing with this mess, I was beginning to think I was the only one having a hard time with the whole Penn State thing. I have been having all kinds of “flash backs”, lack of sleep, headaches, and just can’t sleep ever since this all started. Can you imagine what these poor victims must be going through?

  2. Are you aware of how many paragraphs begin with “I”?
    One paragraph has every sentence in it beginning with “I”.
    Your style of writing prevents the reader from fully appreciating and empathizing with your point of view albeit valid and correct.

    • You see “I” often as you say because I share my expereince and my thoughts…not someone else. If one is speaking of their experience and their thoughts then I is appropriate.

  3. Lawrence. I was also abused as a child while I was placed in a dentition hone in Sandusky Co. Ohio. I can’t stand people who abuse children, and if it is sexual. they should be punished. The person who abused me was the matron’s son. It was reported but got buried by the powers that be. Of course this was in the 50’s when children had no rights. I was only six years old at that time. They said they no where else to put me, BULLSHIT !

  4. http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20091121175055AAKoF06
    http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20110620181202AA1tQgS
    I think the use of to many “I’s is awkward to read.
    I believe it is the author’s prerogative. I don’t think I
    want to convey that I am an expert on what the law
    should be just because I have been a victim too.
    Hey, I like using a lot of “I”s too.
    If the whole Catholic church is responsible for the actions that
    take place in each dioceses does that mean that all universities
    are responsible for what happened at Pen St. ?

  5. Larry, thank you for writing this. Also Denise, thanks for your reply. I’ve only just begun working through the stuff that happened to me in therapy. I was making a lot of progress and starting to feel better and then all of a sudden lately everything’s been crashing down…like I’m just stuck and can barely function. It totally makes sense that even though I’ve been tryin to avoid following this too much (just can’t handle knowing details) that just having it out there would cause an increase in the nightmares, flashbacks and all the intrusive thoughts. Of course I still have no idea how to deal with it or process this or any of that, but it makes a bit more sense why I couldn’t get out of bed today, and I couldn’t sleep last night. I really appreciate you both being willing to talk about how this effects you. It helps me make sense of some of my thoughts.

  6. Under existing state law "a member of the staff of a medical or other public or private institution, school, facility or agency … shall immediately notify the person in charge" about suspected child abuse. The person in charge ultimately has the responsibility to report alleged incidents to government authorities.

  7. Please if you don’t mind post information in your blog. I am with Fostering MS Youth Connections, a project of CASA MS. Our aim is to aid former foster youth ages 18-24 in gaining the needed skills to advocate for change to the foster care system on a local and state level. Please like our face book page and help us grow. http://www.facebook.com/FosterMSYouth if you know of a youth in MS that meets that criteria please go to our page for more information

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