Monday, November 14, 2011

Monsters Made and Born

[and an oops!  Totally forgot about Dave's noughties blogfest!  I'm very sorry and hope you will stay... I just had a big reaction to some weekend news and forgot former commitments].

So the tawdry sports news in the US this weekend has got me thinking... we are really SICK people.

To give you some perspective, I have a couple degrees in psychology. This is not just uninformed opinion, though neither is it my specialization (that would be where psychology and health behaviors interact). But there is some required content for any psych degree, and a lot of it applies here.

The Pedophile Rapist

Yuck. (that isn't a psychology term). I think people drawn to kids have a deep sickness. I think a person with this sickness raised in a healthy way recognizes it and addresses it and works against it. But I think historically, these people were channeled... I think this is the plight of the Catholic Church—men who KNEW what they felt was wrong, so they tried to hide from it by entering the clergy.

This is NOT meant to claim all people who enter the clergy have a problem. Most people are sincere and devout. It is saying an environment that lacks means to help sick people will draw them into places like this... they are TRYING to fight it. But this is not going to help somebody get better. In fact a learning environment where they are surrounded by a lot of young men is likely to make it worse.

Now I don't know how this translates to a sports environment, except maybe the machismo testosterone infused spot made Sandusky feel like he was going to be a real man and not need all that anymore... but then it became a shield. A curtain to hide behind.

I have a high school friend who played football in college, and he says this behavior would have led to a 'to the pulp pounding' in the environment he was in. I'd like to believe that's true. And maybe it is. But he was also at a smallish school in a small league, so the stakes weren't quite the same. I don't know enough about the Penn State system to understand the power structure... I don't know who Sandusky might have hurt. Though it seems to me getting caught at this cancels anybody's clout.. but who knows what goes into the mental processing?

And in all these cases, though, once protected behind the veil, the illness accelerates. Their behavior is enabled.

Pedophilia, as I understand it, it a result of biological or very early trauma... The brain is BAD and it needs to have active treatment to keep the actions from following suit. This isn't something just anybody can fall into. It isn't that a normal person finds this appealing. It is psychopathology. Path meaning SICK.

The Blind Eye

THIS, on the other hand, has been shown to be quite a 'normal', if abhorrent reaction. Bystander effect is well documented.

The first case taught in psychology classes is from 1964, a woman named Kitty Genovese in Queens, New York was killed in an alley, stabbed multiple times, screaming 'help me'. The police later determined more than a dozen neighbors had heard but nobody so much as called the police. All of them figured somebody else would call. Their responsibility was diffused (in their minds) by their numbers.

Now in a crowded city, this is a little understandable. There ARE other people who could call. But in fact... if everybody thinks that, nobody calls. There is a natural impulse we have to actively fight to do the right thing.

The same response is responsible for much greater atrocities... the holocaust comes to mind. But what we don't want to think about is this particular effect occurs among normal people. This could be US. In fact, absent awareness and effort, this WOULD be us.

That isn't to say we shouldn't be better. We should. But it IS to say perhaps we need a heavy hand to MAKE us be better.

When I lived in Oregon I was a state employee for a while. I had to sign a form committing to being a 'mandatory reporter' for crimes I witnessed, first and foremost, if I witnessed anything where a child was at risk. This was not only for when I was on the job. This was in my day-to-day life. I was criminally responsible if I saw something and didn't report it. If my neighbor was beating her child in their own home, I had to call. (not that my neighbors were abusive—this was hypothetical)

Now I wasn't a social worker or a care provider, or even a teacher. I was a researcher. But the state of Oregon felt this level of 'eyes' in the community would protect children. I believe that's true.

Joe Paterno didn't directly witness these crimes (that we know) but he DID have them reported, and in turn reported them... but to his supervisor. NOT the police. Somewhere buried in the MUCK of policy, there was a decision that PR was more important than not only ethics, but safety and humanity. How many lives were ruined forever because some uppity University officials didn't want to deal with the dirt? I'm sure this was all in the name of avoiding a scandal, but holy SHEESH did they call it wrong. An abuse quickly caught and rectified dies quickly. Something like this, allowed to go on for over a decade? Not so much.

And then the BIZARRO World Fan Reaction, which I hear isn't so uncommon...

Fans are distressed on Joe's behalf... Are you kidding me? Rather than these CHILDREN?  But not so unusual... apparently in Ancient Rome there was a Charioteer who sodomized a young boy. He was sacked by the (governor?--old titles are unclear to me). The 'fans' were so angry they MURDERED the governor over the matter. People will be STUPID about their sports. But it doesn't mean we should settle for that. We should strive for better.

I urge ALL OF YOU to seek out the regulations governing the institutions you care about. Find out what the LAW is and what the RULES are, and URGE THEM to deputize their employees. Make everybody responsible. Because sadly, I have my doubts anything else will force good behavior in some environments, but policy just may.


Michael Offutt said...

The pedophilia scandal that Sandusky committed is horrible. He should be beaten to death in my opinion. Those young men trusted him, and they just wanted to realize their dreams. He turned that trust into an opportunity to rape. makes me so mad. I can't even talk about this without getting angry. What a horrible horrible person. Boys need to be loved and nurtured in order to turn out as decent men.

Old Kitty said...

I need to read up on this case as I think it's more US news - but whatever - it sounds absolutely horrible - a boy was raped by some sports personality and so it's all being hushed up because he's a celeb and lotsa monies are involved? and of course no-one is thinking of the victim/survivor? Is that the gist?

Not good at all. :-(

There was this one outrage a few weeks back - little girl in China gets run over twice and no-one helped until it was too late. Very sad indeed.

Take care

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

This has been a very disturbing story to me. And honestly, the reaction of the fans has seemed worse. Hard to imagine some of these folks are more concerned about *football*...!

A Daft Scots Lass said...

Visiting from Dave's Noughties Blogfest

GigglesandGuns said...

Perhaps this will help you realize that all PSU fans aren't heathens, uncaring hurtful people.

Not Hannah said...

Stewart Mandel wrote an article about it that pretty much lays the blame square on Paterno and the system of idolatry that permeates college football: I think this makes sense. The fact that the 28-year-old man who witnessed the event (and who was SEEN by the child being raped--my God) didn't automatically STOP the event and then call the police, instead calling his father and THEN Paterno speaks volumes. I've said it elsewhere, but I think that the best thing to do would be to burn that damn fieldhouse to the ground and give the football program a nice long rest...maybe thirty two years would do it--exactly as long as Sandusky had, via the program, access to thousands of little children.

vic caswell (aspiring-x) said...

this whole situation makes me angrier and sadder than i have the words to express. great points.

Hart Johnson said...

Michael-I agree so much--all kids need our love and protection like that and people who use positions of power to hurt kids are reprehensible.

Jenny-that is absolutely what happened... over a decade of it. People turned a blind eye because of who he was. The story about the girl in China is horrible!

Elizabeth-that really is a level I don't understand either. I get that it is hard to reassess when you've believed something for a long time, but this is a pretty big game changer.

Daft Lass-Sorry I forgot about it!!! Uff!

Mary-I didn't figure they were--it is nice to see evidence to the contrary though. I think the bad actors just are most visible because it is the bigger media story.

Heather-Yeah--I can't imagine what that man was thinking. His father's advice, too, was baffling. And because of the administrative involvement, raizing the program may very well be the just end.

Hart Johnson said...

Me, too, Vic. Me, too.

iZombie said...

visiting from the blogger-fest... and read some of your post... sad and disturbed.

Jeremy [2thumbs]
Two Thumbs

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

The whole thing is shameful. As is the whistle-blower clause. Everyone involved should be fired and charged. And the kids protesting the release of the coach? Really sick. Those abused kids matter more than the football team!

LTM said...

you know, I totally missed this whole story! (I'm thinking thankfully.) I've been in the revising cave, I don't care for the NFL, so I totally missed it. But your post is very strong and good. And from the sick abuser to the sick stander-by not calling the cops, you're right. We have to demand justice be served. YGG~ <3

Talli Roland said...

I don't know anything about this scandal but it sounds absolutely dreadful.

Shelly said...

As a teacher, I am bound by our state laws to report even the suspicion of child abuse and neglect. Each report consists of forms that take approximately an hour to fill out, and then are sometimes "eaten" by the computer system, requiring a restart from the very beginning. Discouraging? Yes. Will it make me more selective in reporting? No. Every kid deserves someone who cares enough to take hard steps to ensure safety.

Carol Kilgore said...

Good for you for speaking out. I think most of us would be shocked to know what goes on behind many closed doors.

Johanna Garth said...

I'm not a football fan and this story feels like part of the reason why I'm not. There's something wrong with a culture that allows this to happen and fans who become outraged when the problem is addressed.

Journaling Woman said...

I'm a mandated reporter, but even if I weren't I would be reporting anything unappropriate with children.

Hurting children in any way is unacceptable to me.

Hart Johnson said...

Jeremy-very sad and disturbing...

Alex-completely agree.

Leigh--worse than if it was NFL. This is college ball where there should be some semblance of decency we can count on.

Talli-I forget that some of this doesn't hit internationally, especially as football has a different definition other places... This was the defensive coach at Penn State over almost 15 years... REALLY disgusting.

Shelly-well they should make it EASIER than that, but I agree--you need to anyway--the kids need the safeguard.

Carol-I don't mind being shocked among consenting adults, but yeah, this is bad.

Johanna-I don't pay attention to pro stuff, but I feel like we should all be demanding good citizenship at the college level, even though this wasn't a PLAYER but a coach.

Teresa-I agree--report anyway. I just wish the mandatory reporting went farther.

Cal's Canadian Cave of Coolness said...

That was extremely well written. I hope this is a watershed moment for the college sports system which has abused and exploited young men for over a century. This transgression is so agregious that it may change the system or at least regulate it. There is a special room in hell for anyone who give any sympathy to the school. FU** the school. They need a 'teachable moment' here aned they need to hear it loud and clear. Banned from all sports for ten years. Give it time to clean out the garbage in that attic. Let them spent their money in court defending themselves.

Don't get me started on the evils of the Catholic Church. Institutional sanctioned abuse is way over where I draw the line. Those practices and allowances for evil to be practiced took any joy or relief that religion could have ever brought to my life.

So basically, I hate all of this and I STILL hate LEGO.

Dave said...

No need to apologise, I can understand how this beat out The Noughties Blogfest.

Dave Wrote This

Deb and Barbara said...

Oh, I know, this just ENRAGES me, this blind-eye-turning. And yet pedophilia remains one of the last crimes to go on the block. I mean really go on the block. There isn't a person alive who would condone it or sanction it, in fact most will -- as we do here -- scream and rage about it, claiming we would kill over this crime. And yet, and yet, it is often dealt with in a negligible way by the system, by the very same people who say they abhor it. So that does make it our failure. We have to put our foot down against this. That people are rah rahing "JoePa" is so odious to me, like he's a victim in all this. I can't imagine what the real victims must be feeling...

Christine Murray said...

I haven't read about this story, but being Irish have come across many cases where those in a position of authority abused the trust placed in them by the community. What always gets me about these cases, especially the Catholic Church, is the amount of people who knew and covered up. That to me is worse than the act itself, because it is a rational and cold-blooded decision. It is, quite simply, chilling.

Anonymous said...

I was shocked by the student reaction to his firing. Penn State did not handle that well, but what do we expect after how they handled the entire situation for the past decade? You are right, things need to change. My heart breaks for those kids.

Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy said...

Hi Hart,

This is a great post. The whole thing is horrible and so many lives were destroyed by one man (one man getting away with horrible things). We have been following this at our house, and it seems nearly inconceivable, but it did happen and kept happening.

I think that there are so many people in on this (we heard at one point that he was even pimping out the little boys to those who donated money to his camp, but I haven't researched that). His bail was not even set very high, and the judge is one of his contributors. Is this a huge pedophile ring that is being uncovered?

I thought the same thing as you, being from Oregon, what happened to mandatory reporting? Maybe they don't have it there in Pennsylvania? It is odd how different states each do things so differently.

On Saturday morning, before the game, both teams gathered on the field and prayed for those little boys. It still gives me chills to think of the good battling the bad, and I am glad to have seen the group prayer as it happened. I am praying that the truth will be revealed for all to see, and that justice will be done. I am also praying for all those individual boys and young men, for their healing.

This is such a sad, sad thing to a) have ever happened and b) to have been flaunted and never stopped until now.

Thank you for writing about this topic and opening up discussion.

Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy said...

P.S.- I just learned that the judge is a woman who donated money to S.'s football charity camp thing (not a guy). More little boys just came forward ... there are 19 boys now and 40 counts against S.