[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.
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.
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.
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.