Penn State University and The Golden-Age Home (Updated)

The recent news about an apparent child sex abuse cover up at Pen State University is so very angering and disturbing to me.  I don’t understand how university officials could not have have reported the incident witnessed by the grad student to the police.  Even if not legally required (two now former Penn State officials are challenging whether, under the PA law, they had a legal duty to report what the grad student saw), surely there is a moral and ethical duty to look out for our children, and therefore report the incident to the police.  Yes, our children.  Mr. Sandusky has denied the allegations and, to be honest, I find myself hoping that this is all one big nightmare that we’ll wake up from soon.  But then I think about the young children who he allegedly abused.  I mean, the Penn State grad student says that he saw Sandusky in the locker room showers performing anal sex (well, raping) a child that looked no more than 10 years old.  Jesus.  I’m even more perturbed that he allegedly abused boys who were under his care as part of a organization he founded to help troubled children.  This man is, of course, innocent until proven guilty and I hope that he gets his day in court to handle the 40 counts against him.  The Grand Jury report is here and it is graphic.

The laxness of the Penn State officials in 2002 likely gave an alleged pedophile 9 1/2 more years to do God knows what to other children.  And you know, even if they had no duty their actions toward Mr. Sandusky after receiving this report — banning him from the Penn State facilities, allegedly telling him that he’d never be head coach when he was thought to be “next in line” — betray a certain amount of willful blindness to me and makes them complicit in the abuse.  Maybe not legally but definitely morally.  At first Penn State was defensive, standing behind its Athletic Director and Senior VP…those men have now resigned and are facing charges, including perjury.  (Yeah so not only did they fail to report but they apparently lied to the Grand Jury…smart.)  When Penn State issued that statement of support one of the alleged victim’s mother asked who was standing by her son.  (And I focus on the officials here but I wonder, too, about the grad student and some janitors who saw things but feared losing their jobs….)

Among these complicit officials is well-loved and respected coach Joe Paterno.  I’m not a college football fan but I know this name and I know his reputation.  Currently, he’s not a target of the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s investigation but I have to wonder: for a coach who is known as much for his winning record as much as for his integrity and the clean way in which he ran Penn State’s football program, how is it that in a moment when integrity, courage and forthrightness were required he remained silent? And how can he now hide behind “doing what he had to do” (i.e. reporting the incident up the chain) and nothing else?  No, Mr. Paterno, you should have done what you must: call the police and have them investigate.  As far as I’m concerned, where children’s welfare is concerned we are obliged to exercise a high level of care and attention.  No child asks to be brought into this world; we bring them here.  That’s a serious responsbility.

All of this reminds me that abuse is about power.  It’s not about the sex or any pleasure…it’s about power.  Because of this, I’ve never been able to understand how people blame abuse or rape victims.

I’ve also never been able to understand how it is that people mistreat the young and the elderly.  As I read about and mulled over this Penn State Nightmare, my mind wandered back to a report in The Jamaica Gleaner about conditions and treatment at The Golden-Age home.  Treatment like

Many of the elderly residents are subjected to a mass bathing ritual each morning – stripped, lathered, and then sprayed with water from a hose. After the co-ed bathing exercise, the male and female residents are forced to walk back to their dorms stark naked.

Eh? Even if you’re not trained to take care of old or disable people, that sounds like acceptable behaviour to you?  It reminds me of what the Nazis did to concentration camp prisoners.  Yes, I went there.  In April as now I am sickened by the report…the video that accompanied the articles is heartbreaking (to put it mildly).

The report came out while Jamaica was gripped and being bamboozled by the mendacity that was Manatt.  Seven months later I haven’t seen any follow up about it.  The residents of The Golden-Age Home have no advocate in court or otherwise, it seems.  What’s become and becoming of them?  So, just a few questions…

What’s been the outcome of the investigation and report completed at the direction of by then Minister of State for Local Government Minister Robert Montague? What happened to the staff that rode a resident like a donkey? Have conditions at The Golden-Age Home been addressed? Improved?  The contract with the administrator was not renewed so who got the new contract? Who’s monitoring? What standards are expected? Elections are nigh in Jamaica, is the treatment of members of this constituency a matter being addressed by the Member of Parliament (Maxine Henry Wilson, St. Andrew South East)? Julian Robinson, what do you have to say?  At the time of the Gleaner report the PNP expressed its disgust *yawn* and the JLP said that the conditions were not up to standard *snort*.  And what?  Oddly, a week after the Gleaner ran its expose, The Jamaica Observer published a glowing review The Golden-Age Home that was (and likely still is) in stark contrast to the actual conditions.  Ironic since the The Golden-Age Home was created after Eventide burned down killing 153 people…and the article suggests that things have come a long way since the Eventide tragedy…right.

Old people and children are the most vulnerable members of any society.  I’ve always said and believed this.  Therefore, I think, they require our special care and attention.  Young people, children need as much help, guidance, and protection as possible.  They’re just learning the runnings. Yes yes there’s great value in learning from experience but that does not excuse an adult from ignoring the welfare of a child.  Old people may be on their way out of this world and regardless of whether they’ve made some stunning contribution to humanity, they deserve to be treated with respect.  They are old but they do not lack dignity.  To my mind, how a society treats its young and its old is a direct reflection of the health of that society.  Right now, the reflection illuminated on these two incidents is  a dirty one…unpleasant…disgraceful…sad…dangerous…and is in need of desperate attention.


Update – November 11, 2011
On Wednesday, November 10, 2010 at about 10 PM Coach Joe Paterno and university President Graham Spanier were fired by Penn State’s Board of Trustees.  Paterno was ignoiminously fired over the phone (and to be clear, while I think Paterno ultimately had to go, the Board could have at least spoken to him face to face…61 years of service though now blemished STILL counts for something & should be respected).  The then-graduate assistant now wide receivers coach Mike McQueary is still on staff.  I believe that he will be testifying against Mr. Sandusky.  I still wonder why he too didn’t do more that night in 2002.  After the announcement of the firings, many Penn State students rioted in support of Paterno — overturning vehicles, breaking things, being hooligans — and gathered outside Paterno’s home. it is clear that they love and adore this man.  I understand that there are many mixed emotions for Penn State diehards but I don’t mind Penn State cleaning house.  They should have acted a long time ago.  But it’s not only Penn State officials that should or can be ‘blamed.’  After reading the Grand Jury report I realize that many many people saw things, incidents, behaviour from and related to Mr. Sandusky and the young boys he mentored.  The grooming that a pedophile does, that we all know if even from a TV show was clear — gifts, special treatment, controlling the mentor-mentee relationship, being clingy.  A wrestling coach here, a parent there, a janitor in the midst of it all saw things that they could have taken more seriously.  Things that should have been reported.  Since 1998 at least folks apparently saw things that should have been addressed including Sandusky taking showers with boys; there was even an investigation into Sandusky then but the District Attorney at the time decided not to act on the results…prosecutorial discretion, a part of the U.S. legal system.  Hindsight is 20/20 indeed but it seems that alarm bells rang for some.  Apparently even in 2007 Mr. Sandusky was seen on campus in the company of young boys.  This after he was banned after the alleged 2002 rape was witnessed and reported.  Just a word: If something rings a bell for you, take a closer look…don’t dismiss it.  And for God’s sake if you see a child being improperly touched report it.  Don’t be hypersenstitive but be vigilant and attentive where our children are concerned. 

As more of this has unfolded and more is written about it I have two observations.  One is related to something I alluded to in my original post: that abuse and rape are about power.  To be honest it is not surprising that this 2002 incident received scant attention and was not even reported to the CAMPUS police.  All across this country, rapes occur on college campuses.  Many are not reported.  Some that are reported do not make it to the local police’s crime desk.  Instead, they are dealt with through the college’s or university’s disciplinary system.  How this is OK I cannot understand.  Yes, rape, sexual assault, and abuse often involve alcohol or young people, but they also usually involve someone the victim knows.  Matt Millen’s befuddlement about this Penn State tragedy is even more pointed when he is asked to describe what Mr. Sandusky is like…he keeps saying that he’s the guy next door, the one who helps out, the one you can trust.  Yes, the molester or abuser often lives next door or is a family member.  These cases on college and university campuses are difficult to prosecute and prove because of they often involve alcohol and young people but also sometimes because the eye witness – the victim – is deemed unreliable.  Sometimes the victim IS unreliable.  Often her (yes, usually rape victims are female) past is brought up as a way to discredit her version of events.   These kinds of cases are also difficult because victims are often afraid — because of the shame and because of the fear and shock that come with knowing their abuser.  But these difficult factors do not mean that incidents of rape, sexual assault, and abuse shouldn’t be vigorously investigated and appropriate action taken. This culture on campuses across the U.S. of keeping things “in house” or “sweeping things under the rug” is NOT unique to Penn State.  Make no mistake about that.  And I shudder to even think what it’s like in Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean, where these kinds of cases seem to get such inadequate attention from the community and seemingly little justice from the legal system

The second observation was piqued by a NYT article that drew a parallel between the power structure of a powerful football program and the Catholic Church.  There is a certain amount of arrogance that comes with power and powerful people.  It seems that no where is it on clear display than when we have these kinds of cases to contend with.  The abuse ‘scandal’ that still plagues the Catholic Church is still something I cannot wrap my mind around.  Generations of young men were forever affected by the action of parish priests and the inaction and complicity of the priests’ superiors.  Maybe even shocked and disbelieving and devout parents.  Here again — with a renowned and successful football program — we have a formidable power structure apparently protecting an abuser.  Why?

While we hand out blame — and there is quite a bit to go around — it is also clear to me that our societies must also share some blame.  Remember, when pointing the finger there are 3 pointing back at YOU.  It is not just the people who know or should have known and who do not act (adequately) that are at fault.   We — society — also create an atmosphere where abuse, assault, and rape are tolerated, where it is not talked about.  We literally do not use the words.  Like in this incident a 10 year old boy was allegedly raped, sodomized, by a grown man.  We instead say the “shower incident” and Penn State officials allegedly reduced it to “horseplay” and “something of a sexual nature.”  Here too is a presidential candidate accused by (to date) 4 women of sexual harassment and still we dismiss the claims — for various reasons — as not credible or not a big deal…the claims are old, no longer a concern, women just are not being able to take a joke, men are just being men, the liberal media is crucifying a Republican candidate because he’s a black, why did so-and-so not report it earlier, but she accepted a cash settlement.  All this really is is excuses and an inability to fess up to our own role in creating a society where these crimes against a person’s body AND soul are shied away from.  We are embarrassed by the words and what it could mean for people we know to be shown to be abusers.   Sometimes in the back of our minds we blame the victims — Why did she go there with him? Why did she wear that? He should have known better than to let him touch him? Why didn’t he say something?  Well, if a victim came to you would you believe them? Why? Why not?

Which brings me to the victims of rape, abuse, and sexual assault — these alleged ones…and actual ones.  Future ones.  I cannot imagine what it must be like.  So, even in the furor over Penn State or whatever other ‘scandal’ will happen (because, sadly, there will be more) and as I and whomever else asks ‘WHY?’, remember where the real focus should be…  

2 Responses to “Penn State University and The Golden-Age Home (Updated)”
  1. Girl, idk where to start…..

    That Penn State story gets more interesting everyday

    “What Golden-Age Home story? u mean the lil incident that happened the other day? that was so bad. Well, when I become MP for the area, everything will be ok….so vote for me, u poor, gullible ppl”

    i give up, really \(*_*)/

  2. Grrr– I agree with you Ren. The idea that our society’s most vulnerable are left defenseless just rankles me! Disgusting. I guess the take away for me is: be bold in speaking up when you witness injustice because you may be the victim’s only advocate. I couldn’t even read the Grand Jury report. As a parent dese tings boil the blood even *more*…

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