I was planning on writing something completely different today until I saw the online headlines of the Sandusky trial. It is the horrific case of Jerry Sandusky’s sexual assault of young men under his care over at least a fifteen year period. I will not go into the details, the gore is splattered all over print, television, and internet to whatever graphic detail we may wish to feast upon like ghouls bent over a rotting corpse.
My stomach turns as I write and I want to give into tremors of disgust. I was sickened and appalled when these allegations first came to light, but I blocked out these outrages while the case was awaiting trial. I was able to go about my normal days, with their normal aches and pains, with the things I considered to be difficult. I retreated into my own problems because there was suffering going on that had nothing to do with me.
I WAS WRONG. There is no suffering that a child goes through that does not concern all adults. Too readily we turn our heads at child abuse/child assault. The Sandusky case is a typical example in that suspicions were raised and sent up the chain of command like a hot potato no one wished to touch, only to disperse as so much insubstantial smoke from a stack when it reached the top.
What is the mindset? Is it too much trouble to get one’s hands dirty over? Is the sanctity of the institution discovering the perversion (be it Penn State or the Catholic Church) more important than that of a victimized child? Or is it simply a case of “Not my problem”?
When allegations are made, the white hot interrogation light often first blinds the innocent eyes of the child. “These are serious charges, are you sure? This is a person’s life we are talking about?” As if misplaced shame isn’t burden enough, at these times the child is made to feel more offensive than the offender. The initial investigation into the perpetrator will often find, “He is too kind to have ever done that”, “He’s a good man, you must be mistaken”, “Look at all he has done”. Why is it a surprise that evil and pathological predators are proficient in the art of camouflage so to appear as people of authority and trust? Not all animals have sloped brows, dark stares, and slavering mouths.
The boogieman walks among us in our clothes, feigning our customs, pretending to eat what we eat, and to think what we think. When an enemy looks different than we look, and lives differently than we live, it is easy for us to defend ourselves. We don’t know what to do when the enemy could be smiling to us from across the table.
All too often these predators come to light only after multiple premeditated assaults on multiple children, leaving a blood red scar that swells hotly across generations. Each time a priest, or coach, or teacher is found guilty of this perversion we ask how could this have happen. We ask, we shrug, and we block it out and go about our lives until it happens again.
The Sandusky tragedy should not end when the trial ends, we must continue to ask why, and this time we must look for answers. Sandusky is a dark spirit that went so far as to start a foundation that would give him easy access to his prey to feed his grim unspeakable appetites. I am in favor of whatever judgment which will rush Sandusky into the judgment of a higher power. However, we cannot forget those that aided him by turning away. We cannot forget about men cowed into submission because they did not want to dirty their hands in the matter, wanted to pass the buck, and did not want to sully a revered institution. How many boys would have been spared had Sandusky been held accountable the first time he was caught “wrestling” in the shower with a young boy? We cannot just wait for things to improve, we need to push the system, scream to it, demand of it that children be protected, that the pedophiles that pursue them be more aggressively prosecuted, and that their support system, the people who see and pretend not to see share in the blame and punishment.