I’m not a huge football fan, but I am a native Pennsylvanian. I grew up in a house with a dad who was a Nittany Lion fan. And because of this connection, I am up on the Penn State scandal. Many of my facebook friends are still Pennsylvania residents and/or Penn State fans, and I’m seeing a lot of comments about the scandal, about Joe Pa’s fireing… etc.
The images of the rioting of Penn State students last night and various comments via social media enraged me. Is our culture more upset at the firing of a beloved coach or about stolen innocence of children? God have mercy!
I know that I look at life through a different lens than many because I am a social worker. I know that I have heard stories and seen things that many have not. I have worked with so many children, youth, and adults who were victims of sexual abuse. I also have many friends who were victims of sexual abuse. So when I hear about scandals like the one in Penn State, it’s personal to me!
It took tremendous courage for the victims to come forward and tell their story. And there are others who have not yet come forward. I can’t imagine how they and their families must feel to know that there were people in power that knew about the abuse and who didn’t take drastic measures to stop it. I can’t imagine how they and their families must feel as they see rioting and news about outrage over job termination, but not outrage over their victimization.
Here are a few statistics to put things into perspective for us:
Adult retrospective studies show that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men were sexually abused before the age of 18 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2006). This means there are more than 42 million adult survivors of child sexual abuse in the U.S.
The primary reason that the public is not sufficiently aware of child sexual abuse as a problem is that 73% of child victims do not tell anyone about the abuse for at least a year. 45% of victims do not tell anyone for at least 5 years. Some never disclose (Smith et al., 2000; Broman-Fulks et al., 2007).
Let this scandal in State College remind us all that we have coworkers, friends, and family around us who have been victimized even if we don’t know about it. Let it remind us to never joke about abuse, or take abuse lightly. Let it remind us that we are responsible to care for our fellow human beings (and when necessary, report suspected abuse).