Note: This may trigger due to talk of abuse and the Sandusky abuse scandal.
Cold, hard concrete floor
Wooden seats, newly stained
Tree silhouettes dance across the window
This is the first verse of a poem that I wrote today. I won’t share the rest of it with you, because it’s too raw and personal.
Raw is probably the best way to describe how I’m feeling at the moment. I’m struggling to make sense of what is going on, and there might not be too much of this which makes sense, but I’ll try to keep it coherent…
When the news of the Sandusky scandal broke, I wasn’t surprised to find that this man had been protected by those around him. It makes sense – power, loyalty, pack mentality, morality, etc; all play a part in people staying silent about abuse for so long. This, I understand. I even understand the anger that some of the students exhibited at the firing of Joe Paterno… when your illusions of someone are shown to be false, it’s difficult to cope with. I know that this is only an assumption about their motivations, but it makes sense to me.
It also makes a certain amount of sense that the photos I saw associated with the scandal headlines, were not those of Sandusky; but instead of Joe Paterno. He was the more well known of the two. But it also shows another sign of how the real tragedy of this scandal gets lost… where is the talk of the victims? These boys (some of whom are now men), were vulnerable and allegedly abused. As far as I can tell, they have yet to determine the identity of the victim in the showers. I realise that identifying this person might be difficult after all these years; but to me, he’s symbolic of how anonymous and vulnerable these victims were.
This is where it becomes difficult to separate my own experiences from the ones surrounding the scandal. I often describe myself as being invisible and disposable; and this is exactly how these boys seem to have been treated by Sandusky. They were vulnerable, and he was in a position of power… he is described as paying attention to them, giving them gifts and opportunities that they wouldn’t have otherwise had – that is, he groomed them.
The cynic in me says that this invisibility and disposability has spilled over into some of the media coverage of the scandal, as the victims take a back-seat to the careers of football coaches…
I’m the first to admit that I don’t know anything about football, but I do know a bit about the sports pack mentality that can contribute to this sort of cover-up. I grew up in a small town where the weekends were dominated by sport. It was a crowd that you were either a part of it, or not. If you were part of the crowd, then your life became intertwined with these other people to such an extent, that your children would call your friends “uncle” or “aunt”; you would laugh as you watched your drunk friend stumble towards their car when the bar closed; you would laugh at the racist and sexist jokes, then tell a few of your own… It was very much “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”. Admittedly, this was 30 odd years ago, but some of that sport culture still remains. Even if the acts have changed, the camaraderie and sense of community remains. When things get bad, you talk to one of the crowd, you don’t involve outsiders… So even though I don’t agree with his actions, I can understand why the graduate assistant called his father, and then talked to his superiors within the organisation. He failed that boy in the shower; and in so doing, kept his position within the crowd – it takes courage to stand up to the crowd… isn’t it sad that it takes courage to do the right thing?
The problem is, that understanding the potential reasons why people failed those boys, doesn’t help. Firstly, it’s only conjecture on my part; but secondly, and more importantly… those boys were allegedly abused. All of the reasons why, won’t take that away. Nothing will reverse these events, all we can do is support the people who need it… the victims.