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Sunday, November 19, 2017
HomeHealthCeteraWhat matters at Penn State

What matters at Penn State

Like many others, I have been following the ongoing media coverage of the Penn State sexual abuse scandal. My response to the news coverage is a mixture of horror and disgust for what those boys endured, and critique-turned-annoyance at the way the networks have handled this.

For the first few days, it was all about Joe Paterno and football. As I write this,a report is airing about “Penn State Nation” — today’s game and  how the alumni and students showed up to support the blue and white. A brief mention about the victims before the talk turns back to Joe. They’re missing the point.

It took until about halfway through tonight’s broadcast before  there was finally some substantial discussion on this issue — a report on various state laws on mandatory reporting. I don’t think some of these media outlets get it.

It’s not about football. It’s not about a university. What really matters is talking about the horrors of child abuse – sexual and otherwise — educating parents about signs to watch for, how to talk to your children, what to do if you have suspicions, and policy changes that must be put in place to force mandatory reporting to police by any adult — not just teachers, or medical professionals, or coaches. What really matters is making adults understand that keeping quiet is never an option.

Sexual abuse victims face a lifetime of psychological trauma. Their families suffer. Society suffers. Joe Paterno has to live with his decision — apparently he followed the letter of the law, but not his ethical obligation to protect children instead of protecting a football program.

Too many members of the media are busy glorifying the coach, talking about the game, and the fans. How about changing the discussion to what really matters?

Latest comment

  • Thanks for this post Liz. Want to share two links to stories that do address the the critical issues. Anna Clark states “This is a call, then, to integrate and strengthen understanding of sexual assault and abuse on college campuses nationwide, including an emphasis on the appropriate ways to respond to abuse that has been witnessed or reported” in her post for American Prospect http://prospect.org/article/penn-state-rallies-victims. Another American Prospect by Nicole Rodgers, http://prospect.org/article/good-ol-boys-good-ol-cowardice she writes, “The men who covered up Jerry Sandusky’s crimes aren’t necessarily evil; they’re part of a powerful network that values conformity.”

    These horrific incidents point to the need for a larger public conversation about whistle blowing in all institutions. We’ve had weeks of news now about sexual harassment chargers against Herman Cain and now this incident of decades of child abuse that went unchecked by at last count 15 leaders of a university. In order to protect others, those who can must seek justice and help stop it from happening to someone else. Once reported and investigated we can work to provide the victims with what they need to heal from these abusive situations.
    Barbara Glickstein

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