Thursday, November 10, 2011

Football and Rape

I have been debating writing about Joe Paterno and the child rape cover up at Penn State for a few days now. I was going to mention it in yesterday's Weekly Roundup, but decided it probably wasn't the right time or that perhaps this venue wasn't the best place for that discussion. But after the events of tonight, I can't hold back on this topic any longer, and I feel that it's more relevant than ever to talk about it here. 


Students at Penn State are currently on the verge of rioting. They are outraged by Paterno being fired for doing nothing when he found out that former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was sexually assaulting children on PSU grounds. Sandusky runs an organization to help inner city youth, and also has full access to the football grounds at PSU - the field, the showers, etc. And if you're having trouble putting two and two together, let me spell it out - Sandusky was molesting the inner city children in his youth organization on the grounds of PSU. The very children he was praised for helping were actually his victims. That alone sends me into a rage and is why I am up later than I should be, writing this post and getting it all out of my system. 


Paterno found out about this in 2002, and went to his superiors about it. They did nothing, and so did he. He did not go to the police. And now he has been fired from PSU and the students are pissed off. Not pissed off because of the child rape, but because Paterno was fired for helping cover it up. If that makes you angry, congratulations! You have a moral compass. 


I'm currently discussing this situation with my friend Matt, and he said "What the fuck is wrong with them? [the students] How can they be so stupid?" These were my responses:
There is a well establish precedence, particularly in Pennsylvania, that football is more important than justice for victims of sexual assault, rape, and molestation. Look how many sex crimes offenders are in the NFL, consequence free. It's sickening.
I think we've become way too desensitized to the plight of other people. We are exposed to horrific news stories every day (mostly via the internet), but at the end of the day we're looking at lolcats or bullshitting on Facebook. Most people read the news as if it were just another story on the internet and not as if real people's lives were impacted or destroyed. These kids are a product of that. Football is real to them. A faceless child who was raped is not. It didn't happen to them, they can't relate, they don't care.
I have been a victim of sexual violence. It's a horrible thing to go through, and no two people deal with it in quite the same way. But I can say with all certainty that recovering from sexual assault is made even more demoralizing and dehumanizing when the people around you praise your rapist and call you a liar. Can you imagine what it must be like for the victims of Pittsburgh Steelers' quarterback Ben Roethlisberger? (or as we call him around here, Rapistberger) To have thousands of people, including women, cheer him on week after week and call you a whore, all because you spoke up about what he did to you? Can you imagine what it must feel like to see your rapist get a slap on the wrist because he "found Jesus?" Or was part of the football legacy of a major university?


Now imagine you're a kid, and an adult has done a horrible thing to you. And imagine that another adult knew, and didn't help you. And imagine what it would be like to see the students at PSU rioting because that person was finally made accountable for their actions (or inactions, in this case). It's already hard enough to reassure a sexual assault victim that it isn't their fault, especially when the victim is a child. It's almost completely impossible to process that someone did this because they are a sick and twisted. It's much easier to believe that you did something to cause it. But you didn't. Some people are just that fucking evil. 


And I won't even get into how the Occupy protesters have been arrested in some places for far less than what these students are doing. It's un-fucking-believable.