I hope we learn the lesson of Penn State

I woke up this morning to the news that Penn State removed the statue of its famous and beloved coach Joe Paterno because of his decade-long cover-up of child rape at the university.

As I listen to a few pundits debate the situation and report about people upset with the removal, I am glad to hear a voice of reason …. “Paterno did a lot of great things at Penn State but nothing good he did supersedes the cover-up of child rape.”

Amen.

Most people have both good and bad in them. Most people do both in their lifetime. Most people struggle with personal actions that are suspect.

However, erecting a statue in honoring a man whose bad actions destroyed the lives of many people and dismissing those bad actions as something worth forgiving because he helped a team of athletes win on the football field is horrible and a sign of our times.

Our moral compass as a society wants to believe in our heros so much that we are willing to ignore the chilling horror that can be causes.

I’ve seen this in my own life over and over. I believed that my abusive ex husband who nearly killed me more than once with his physical abuse was somehow OK and kind. I have seen a handful of people accept his choice to beat me when he was upset as something unreal and out of character …. an anomaly … so therefore should be forgiven.

Abusers and the like should only be held accountable. Abusers should not be in charge of young men and women’s lives. Abusers should not be allowed to explain their behavior and more than we would allow a thief to explain his need to steal from a home. Abusers are criminals who largely don’t accept responsibility for what they do.

My ex says “I have to live with what I did.”…. Really? Just how are you living with it? Do you feel guilty? Do you feel sorry? Well, I bet its better than feeling terrorize or having flashback of being choked, kicked, hit, spit on.

My ex has never, ever said to me, “You must have felt so scared.” or anything like that. My ex doesn’t feel empathy, so why should he receive empathy for others?

I know that it hurts to give up a fantasy about someone beloved. I know because I have lived it. But, come to acceptance as quickly as possible and let go is the best medicine. I am sorry for all the Penn State students who are sorry to see their hero go, but he was not a hero. He missed that opportunity.

Penn State is just another example of how people of power have the power to abuse

Nov. 13, 2011 _ I am one of three children, nine grandchildren, the mother of two, an aunt to three and sister-in-law to two _ so in my immediate family there are 19 people plus one living parent.

Of those 20 people, more than one was the victim of a sexual predator and more than one was victimized by a domestic abuser. I write that sentence carefully because I want to make it clear that my family members were not victimized by a syndrome, such as child abuse or domestic violence, they were victimized by people, adults to be exact, and in some cases, by adults who claimed to love them.

Some of these criminals are also my family members, but they did not go to jail, or were ever handcuffed or ever charged with a crime because their victims stayed silent.

Instead, the victims kept their abuse secret for many years, sometimes because they were so young and didn’t know what to do about their attackers and sometimes because they didn’t want to hurt their family with an ugly truth and sometimes because they didn’t think anyone would believe them.

Nevertheless, for decades and decades abusers of all kinds have for the most part gotten away with crime after crime. What has happened at Penn State is disgusting and shocking, but it is not unprecedented. Men have been preying on little boys who want desperately to trust a father figure for hundreds if not thousands of years. And societies after societies have allowed it to continue.

The coaching staff at Penn State were right to be fired, albeit too late, but they should also be criminally investigated. It is time that our justice system stops cringing when faced with such facts and take appropriate action. Yes, abuse is ugly and dirty and makes us all want to look away and pretend that our worlds have not be altered by such horrors. But, that doesn’t matter.

In the words of Hillary Clinton, it takes a village to raise children, care for the elderly, help the poor and underprivileged, and take care of those who need help. I am not judging those who don’t want to step up to the plate and get involved through their tax dollars or local volunteer organizations, but I draw the line when someone backs away from taking charge to save a victim from a perpetrator. Call the police. Be a witness at a trial. Stop the abuse if you are presented the opportunity.

Don’t look the other way when you see someone abusing another. We are put together on this plant to help each other again and again. Don’t shirk your responsibility. We are all counting on you.

When I think of my family members who suffered at the hands of sexual predators, I am sick at what they have experienced and how their lives were forever changed by it.

It is time that our society is sickened by abuse and by people of power abusing it. But most importantly, it is time for our laws to be properly enforced, written and executed to protect victims from abuse.

Too often, we assume that victims of these crimes are some how partly responsible for their attack. Wives complain too much. Girls wear provocative outfits. Men harbor latent feelings. Too many excuses that have nothing to do with one person using another as if they have no souls.

Victims are not responsible for another’s actions ever. If they were, they would make that person stop abusing them.

Our legal system, our institutions, our support systems, churches, schools, and so on, need to have a zero tolerance for such crimes and that change needs to happen now. Please do what you can to help and don’t allow another person to suffer at the hands of a criminal.