The more I listen to the coverage of the Penn State-Standusky the more upset I get. During a recent round table discussion that included Dan Rather, New York Magazine’s John Heilemann, the topic focused on why this scandal happened. Rather said that Penn State was so “money-conscious” and that the school’s concern with profits was an “indication of what has happened to the country.” Heilemann disagreed with Rather. Heliemann said the “institutional failure” stemmed from the school’s concern with protecting its “reputation, status, and the privilege and power of adults.” I have only seen one real article focused on the victims. It was written by of all people, a Wall Street Journal columnist. I am furious on two levels.
First, there has been no discussion on the impact of the victims. Just as with the Catholic Church scandal, the Penn State scandal coverage is focused on the accuser. The schadenfreude of watching the powerful fall. As a person who was raped several times in several circumstances I can say with all certainty that it is about pure arrogance.
The Catholic Church felt that they were above man’s law and untouchable. Penn State felt the same. Standusky felt the same as repeatedly violated his victims. His position in the community, like a priest or Michael Jackson, was beyond reproach. The brothers who rapist must have had the same attitude. One set, being the children of a DC cop felt they were untouchable.
This is a scenario that plays out more times a day than the human brain can conceptualize. Research shows that one out of every three to five women, and one out of ever five to seven men are sexually abused by the time they reach their eighteenth birthday. Although women account for 20% of the [sexual] abuse of boys, approximately 60% of boys and 80% of girls who are sexually victimized are abused by someone known to the child or the child’s family. Rape is one of the most repeated crimes and most underreported crime. I am truly weakened when I read the coverage and see no reporting on the trauma of the victim.
The impact long term differs considerable between boy and girls. Sexual assaults on boys tend to be more violent and are more likely to result in serious physical injury or death than those perpetrated on females. Men who were sexually abused as children are twice as likely to become substance abusers, commit suicide, be prone to illness, have problems in school, be antisocial or overly aggressive, and be verbally or physically abusive to their mates. Because of the culture that exists in much of the world, men have additional constraints that impede their ability to cope with the aftermath of sexual abuse. Because men are expected to be “macho,” or to be in control and not show any weakness, issues are raised that the victim refuses to deal with.
With these circumstances, men and boys who have been in any way sexually abused do not get the support and help that women have come to take for granted in the last two decades. Statistics published in 1992 and 1994 by the U.S. Department of Justice show that only 52% of rapes are reported, that one of two rape victims is under 18, and that one in six is under 12 years of age. There are a number of reasons we choose not to talk about our ordeal; a deep sense of shame, fear of revenge by the perpetrator and of ostracism by friends and family. The most common experience is dissociation. That is the minds desire or ability on the conscious level to escape an unavoidable and intolerably painful situation.
I have talked to several men recently who suffered abuse on one level or another. All of us saw ourselves, as coping with it and that it had no long-term effects. But after a deeper discussion we saw how it still affected the way we view or have sex or dealt with people in intimate relationships.
The reality of the Penn State/Catholic Church scandals is that society will focus on the failure of the powerful to police itself while ignoring the victim because in the face of the victim they will see an emotional intensity that will scare them.