There are many commentators and interested persons stating that the NCAA went too far. However, I believe the NCAA took the correct action and could have gone further, though it still would not bring enough relief to the young men victimized by Sandusky. These young men - boys at the time of the incidents - are our children. Sandusky's ability to molest and abuse the 11 children that we know of was facilitated by the failures of the leadership at Penn State. The ramifications of all their actions and inactions are already disrupting the lives of the survivors of Sandusky's abuse and all the families of the victimized, and will likely ripple through their lives in unexpected ways for innumerable years, if not generations. The same is true for the lives of the survivors of abuse by priests, ultra-orthodox rabbis and other trusted adults.
What is unprecedented about Sandusky and Penn State is that we know about it. What is not unprecedented is that a respected adult molested and abused children, repeatedly, and that other trusted adults covered it up - and I am not just talking about the Catholic Church.
We know that the Air Force most recently uncovered a problem at Lackland Air Force base. Yet, sexual abuse in the military is also not new.
According to the American Association of University Women, the majority of sexual assaults on college and university campuses still go unreported. AAUW also asserts that the majority of bullying and other types of harassment are under reported.
We have a societal problem when it comes to protecting our children, boys and girls. We have the worst record in the industrialized world when it comes to protecting our children, according to childhelp.org - and that ought not to surprise anyone. For too long we have viewed child abuse and neglect as well as violence against women as the failings of individuals, and the consequences of such crimes as limited to the individual victims and families.
When are we going to wake up and see the collective wreckage?! We continue to teach our children to watch out for strangers. Yet, it is estimated that 93 percent of the time, a child knows her/his abuser. We know that not all kids who are abused or neglected become criminals; however, we also know that a number of juveniles offenders are or were also victims.
That the actions of the NCAA holds ramifications for the entire Penn State community, including the young men who were expecting to play football for a great program, the merchants expecting to make money off the crowds, and the legacies of otherwise good men is indicative of the ramifications we pay as a society for the neglect and abuse of our children, young people and violence against women. Most of the time, we are blind to the ripples or assume we cannot do anything about them.
I say we can do something about child abuse and neglect and violence against women, beginning with loving our children, grandchildren and community children enough to tell them the age appropriate truth about being safe. We can take an interest in the lives of our neighbors, the truancy and absentee policy of our school districts, and educate ourselves about the rates of neglect and abuse in our communities - and ask our public officials what are they doing to curb abuse and neglect. We can talk to our children about self respect; ask our daughters, nieces, their friends and our friends about injuries, clothing that seems out-of-character and reclusive behaviors also out-of-character. We can ask about changes in behavior of our sons and the men in our lives.
We can admit that we are capable of misjudging people; assuming that wealth, education and/or stature is a vaccination against abusive behavior. It's not; never has been, never will be.
We can demand that Congress pass the Violence Against Women Act and take crimes against children seriously; that the military really get its house in order to create an egalitarian culture, and that the NCAA conduct an appreciative inquiry into how it contributed to the pathology that produced the mess at Penn State.
This is not the beginning of the end of abuse and neglect of children or violence against women. However, we can use it as a sea change opportunity if we are willing to make the changes in ourselves we want to see in the world. We cannot all do everything, however, each of us doing something will make a difference.
(c) Copyright Sabrina Sojourner 2012