Sunday, November 13, 2011

Don't Even Talk To Me About Sacrificial Lambs

I have been thinking a lot about this Joe Paterno thing. One would think that I don't really have a dog in this fight. Football? Whatever. I am genetically incapable of even listening to a football game.

But. I was sexually abused as a child. Not by a coach or a priest or a teacher or a stranger but by my stepfather.
And the damage that did to me has never, ever left me and never will despite years of therapy and all sorts of help and a damn good adult life.
There is no way to escape sexual abuse unscathed. Those who may say they have are, in my opinion, simply in deep denial which is going to cause problems along the way of its own.

I was thinking about this last night. About how there is almost always a cover-up if a perpetrator is discovered whether in a vast religion, a huge university football program or a home. How the victims of sexual abuse are as plainly the sacrificial lambs as one can imagine. They and their pain are sacrificed to the altar of the illusion of goodness (and sometimes godliness) of the institution. To my way of thinking, it is not Joe Paterno who is the sacrificial lamb in this latest situation, it is the victims of the man who RAPED THEM.

A blogger whom I respect a lot wrote what I think was the most powerful piece on this whole thing I've read. Suburban Lesbian Housewife said, "I see something like that? I'm getting a baseball bat or the heaviest object near me and I'm stopping it. Then, I'm going to the police. But I do not wait and go to my boss."
Click on the quote to go read her entire post.
She writes through the lens of being the mother of sons and a football lover. And I admire her for her fierce cutting-right-to-the-quick of the situation.

But I keep coming back to the view I have of the situation which is to wonder why there is always this damn silence about people (usually men, not always) who sexually abuse children.

When Freud first started out, he realized that almost all of his "hysterical" women had been sexually abused by their darling papas. He wrote a paper about it and presented it at a prestigious gathering. He was met with great resistance to the point where he retracted what he had said.
Had those venerable men who attacked Freud for his theory molested their own daughters?
One has to wonder and the great cover-up was begun. Well, not begun. It had obviously been going on since the beginning of human-time but it was given gravitas.

And so it has gone that people who have witnessed the molestation of children have turned their backs. Perhaps not even witnessed but surely knew in their bones that something, something evil was going on behind the closed door in the next room whether that room was the bedroom of a child or the cloak room behind an altar or the shower room of a college university program.

There are as many excuses and rationalizations for silence as their are victims. Fear of loss of income in a family, fear of the shame, fear of authority figures. Fear. Always fear.
And with the cover-up, with the silence, the crime becomes even more heinous because NO ONE PROTECTED THE CHILD and the child knows it. And feels the overwhelming burden of the knowledge that his or her silence is the price of a world not tipping over.

Where are the voices of the victims of this crime? We hear the voices of those protesting that Paterno shouldn't have been fired. We hear those loud and strong. And we're going to hear discussions on the legalities of reporting and we're going to hear all sorts of crap but the fact is, the man who sodomized those boys, Jerry Sandusky may have left THAT job but he remained in a position where his "charity" work gave him access to plenty more boys. For years.
And don't tell me that fact didn't register with Joe Paterno among what had to be many others.

Look- I don't give a shit how much good a person does in this world if he or she allows the crime of sexual abuse of children to continue when they could have stopped it. There is no balancing act here. Silence equals so much pain that death is often the result. I am speaking from the heart and the gut here.
I am speaking from a place where yes, give me a fucking baseball bat and a cell phone to call the cops.

Okay. I guess that's what I think. I guess that I disagree with those who say there is no black or white in this situation, only shades of gray.
I guess I think that because I have spent my entire life knowing exactly how gray life can be if one was sexually abused as a child. How even on the most beautiful day imaginable when the sun is so bright that it lights up the wings of the butterflies flitting from one flower to another not fifteen feet away, there can be such grayness that it is nearly impossible to accept that light as ones own precious, simple gift for simply being alive. How fear, once instilled in growing bones, can never be completely shaken off.

Because that's what happens to children when they are made the sacrificial lambs. They grow up to be adults who learned that lesson too fucking well to ever throw that burden off completely.
If they manage to grow up at all. That fighting to reclaim the belief that life is not meant to be suffered through can take more energy than seems worthwhile at times. Which affects everyone in that person's life for forever and ever and thus, the burden is made heavier and people who had nothing to do with the original situation must carry it too.

So yeah. The sins of the father. Etc.

And no matter what Joe Paterno did to make the football program at Penn State such a fine one, if he could have saved ONE child from being abused, he truly would have been a hero.

That's my opinion.

That's my dog in this fight. And believe me- I wish to every power that might be that I didn't have one. But I do. And I am not going to remain silent about it.


  1. your every word ringing out like a bell that is finally

    with conviction, honesty and protection.

    "if he could have saved ONE child from being abused, he truly would have been a hero."

    well said.
    there are countless people whom i cannot fathom being able to sleep at night. what a heartbreaking team to belong to.

  2. Joe Paterno is totally unknown here to Europeans, so I went to Suburban's blog to read up. It's disgusting. And that guy has protesters rooting for him? Come on...
    Sexual abuse is sexual abuse, it's predator and prey. I can not imagine seeing it happen and NOT do anything... What are some people thinking????
    It's a power game with only loosers. The abused suffer for the rest of their days, often turning into abusers themselves and the circle keeps going round and round. As a total outstander I would say put Paterno in jail and slice a bit of his weewee every day... I hope he will be punished... and kept away from children and teens... What is wrong with this world?????

  3. rebecca- Thank you, sweet woman. Always.

    Photocat- No, whoa! Paterno wasn't the accused abuser. It's just (just?) that he was involved in not going to the police about it all. Now- as to the abuser- Jerry Sandusky- Yes, he deserves whatever the hell he gets.

  4. You stood for us beautifully with your fierce words Ms. M.

    As a fellow survivor whose life has been virtually destroyed by this crime that went unpunished and even covertly denied for more than 50 years I am here to witness with you that the silence of those who knew is every bit as vile and punishable as the perpetrators evil deeds. No human life is of less value than a university, a football team or even a family.

    The pain and shame and stress and anxiety never go away. No matter how much therapy, counseling or prayer. But the compassion and fellowship of others who understand and validate the truth AND the pain of survivors is invaluable.

    Thank you little warrior sister. You have always made me feel more seen and valuable and I hope I do the same for you.

  5. This sort of stuff has been a major source of confusion to me since our society finally began the discussion openly with the Catholic priests. I've always wondered why if we say sexual abuse is wrong nothing is done to punish the offenders. And, it has made me think there is an enormous group of men who believe sexual abuse is an acceptable thing to do. Perhaps women also.

    So we say it is wrong but don't believe it is? Kind of like those who say drugs or bad but everyone is doing them regardless? There is so much unsaid around this issue. What do these people really think? The drug analogy is the only one I can think of to compare this to because damn near everyone does drugs (or has tried them) and damn near everyone says they are wrong -- in public.

  6. Fuckin' a, Mary Moon. I'm floored (K.O., out for the count) when I read about people ROOTING for this guy. These men chose to fuel their football wins with the repeated rape of young boys. To my mind every game won under this cover up- no matter how glorious or difficult or fantastic- it a fucking travesty and a black, seething shame that will follow every person inside this thing far past the grave. I don't believe in hell, but moments like these give me an idea of why it's such an attractive notion to so many.

  7. The whole situation just boggles the mind. Makes my mouth drop open and hang there. I just don't get it. I do get the sexual abuse as those people have been around from the beginning of time. I do not understand the silence, the enormity of the evil -- that in the latter part of the twentieth century and on into the 21st, someone, anyone, didn't call the police and, yes, even take a baseball bat to that man. I just don't get it and probably never will. I refuse to enter the gray area. This IS black and white. That's it.

    And I applaud you for speaking out with your own experience.

  8. Sister Moon! Yes, yes, yes!!!

    I told someone the other day that my number one goal as a parent is to try with all my might to protect my children from anyone or anything that robs them of their innocence prematurely. It infuriates and nauseates me that people do that under the guise of being a trusted pillar in the community. By the time someone finds out it's to effing late.

    Yes. I see these effed up people every single day in the hospital. All messed up and all tracing back to someone robbing their innocence in one way or another. I can't imagine, after all the work I put in trying to raise my boys into good men, having some sick and selfish person come along and unravel all of my hard work. All of it. And worse for somebody else to just stand by and watch. It makes me want to holler. And then lock my kids up away from any and everyone that isn't me. Crazy I know.

    Those protesters haven't closed their eyes and imagined their child being sodomized at ten. Nor have they thought of how hard it will be to make those victims understand the aftermath of dysfunction that comes after it.

    Sorry for the soliloquy but you got me with this one. I am clapping my hands and stomping my feet. . .and banging a tambourine right here in the choir stand at the church of the batshit crazy.

  9. liv- I am sorry you understand so well. I am glad to speak for all of us. No matter what the circumstances or actual acts, childhood sexual abuse is never gotten over. NEVER. We know that. We live with it. And I agree with you 100% about the vileness of silence.

    Rubye Jack- You nailed it, baby. We may SAY it is evil, but I think that for many more than we will ever know, it is something that can not only be imagined, but is practiced.

    See Kate Run- I am with you, baby. Especially on the hell thing.

    Elizabeth- What else can we do? I love you.

    Gradydoctor- You know it. Did you just see that study where women who were sexually abused as children have a much higher rate of stroke and heart attack? When I go to a new doctor, I always tell them that I was sexually abused as a child. They often look at me curiously- why did I offer that information?
    I think it is highly pertinent for any caregiver of mine to know.
    Your boys will be fine. They are not being raised as victims. As we all know, most of these perpetrators find the children most in need of love. Your babies have the love they need. And support.
    Thank you for banging that tambourine. You're on the frontlines. You know.

  10. People are weak and frightened. The horrible truth is that sometimes it's easier to sacrifice the children than disrupt your own life and job on a crusade to save them. I agree with you and I'm not saying it's right. Just that some people are frightened and selfish and it's easier to be frightened and selfish than heroic.

    When I was 17, I walked past a house in California. Out by the gate was a grandmother repeatedly whipping her six year old son with a leather strap to force him back into the house. He kept refusing and crying, obviously having got that far to escape the beating that he'd get from her inside.

    I looked in horror as I walked by, and they looked at me - but how could I save him from that? I didn't have the words. And I know from Oprah how firmly black women who beat their children believe in their right to do that. What could I have said or done to make it better? Now I think I should have reached for the strap, taken it out of her hands. But what worse fate might have awaited him back inside?

    It's not exactly the same, no, and it haunts me - in doing nothing I did the wrong thing and I failed that child. I still feel sick about it over 18 years later.

    I wish we were all braver, more assertive, sure.

  11. it saddens me that football has taken precedence over the actual crime that was committed.

    the victims will be now vilified for speaking out.

    please hand me the bat. i want the next hit.


  12. When my child was abused by the neighborhood creep (and a repeat offender, no less), I felt a kind of rage I had never felt before. I wanted to kil him. I wanted to torture him slowly and viciously. Rage and pain and guilt.

    So the Penn State situation is appalling. They're all guilty, in my opinion. A moment of silence before the game started? WTF? Those children carry the burden of their violation ALL THEIR LIVES.

    Bless you, dearest MM, for your honesty and bravery. My arms are holding you and us all.

    Beth the midwife

  13. With apologies to all the good men out there, I have to ask...what the fuck is wrong with men?

  14. Jo- You CANNOT compare yourself with those coaches. You weren't even an adult. That child was not in your care. And I'll bet that if the same thing happened today, you would step in so fast that old woman's arm would snap off.
    You were NOT the one who failed that child. I swear to you. You were NOT.

    Mrs. A- I hate to admit this, but I would love to take a baseball bat to a child abuser. God, it would make me happy! And me a damn pacifist.

    Beth- I swear to you- your pain over your son's abuse has to be a million times worse than my pain. But you, I am sure, stood by him. You, I am sure, did whatever it took to heal him. So the keeping-secret part of the equation did not happen to your son. Which means he has so much of a better chance of being VERY okay.
    I love you, Beth The Midwife.

    Ellen Abbott- I know. But. We have to remember that in a HUGE percentage of child abuse situations, it is a woman, a MOTHER! who is silent. It is wrong all the way around.

  15. I would have taken a bat or a fist to the guy. He would have gone down. And I would then have called the police. What was the Graduate Assistant thinking? We know that he heard the "slapping sound" as Sandusky was doing this young kid. Hell, I've told people to stop whailing away on a dog. Paterno made a huge error in judgement. As did so many others involved.

  16. thank you for speaking so true, mary moon. the whole thing is horrific and yes, i too cannot comprehend anyone seeing a man raping a child and walking away. i don't get that. i am stuck right there. it just fries my brain.

  17. The invisibility of the rapists and paedophiles has troubled me for years. So many adults knew my father was hurting his children and kept their own children away but would not call the police or do something to stop him.

    A few months after my father died, I began writing about his paedophilia because finally I had the courage to begin doing what should have been done years before. And it helped. The blog post I wrote was the hardest entry I have ever written but it helped me to just put it out there. I go back and read it whenever I hear about abusers getting away with what they did.

  18. Yes to all of it. The first thought I had when I heard the report of how someone witnessed this one incident and reported it later...I was thinking "are you kidding?" They didn't step up right then and bitch slap that mother fucker and grab that child and hug him and give him a towel and call the cops?! WHAT?

    I'm too fucked up about this to even keep going, but I agree with everything that you said and I'm glad you are not silent about your feelings.

  19. Syd- True and true and true.

    Angella- Sometimes, I think, the horror is just too much to be believed. Or something. I don't know. I do not know.

    Mary LA- As I said in a comment on your post- that man, your father, was a monster. You may love him still and you may have forgiven him but I would not. I am not that good of a person. Bless you for surviving.

    Ms. Fleur- Exactly.

  20. YES. I have seen what it can destroy in too many people. Yes.

  21. Fuck shades of gray. You are right Mrs. Moon. Black and white.


Tell me, sweeties. Tell me what you think.