I posted one of those funny e-card pictures on my Facebook yesterday. It was so totally me. The caption reads, "All spring and summer she was a graceful, classy lady...then football season started." I am a huge football fan. I've gone to games at my alma mater all my life - helps explain my choice of college when you find out that it was also my Daddy's alma mater. In fact so many family members went there we oughta have a wing named after us - except we ain't rich - especially after paying tuition. And when football season starts it's often like a family reunion. Parents, kids, cousins, grandparents all converge to watch a game. And it's probably like that at every college - a family event.
I've watched the Jerry Sandusky horror show with horror. Part of my horror comes from the involvement of my favorite sport, part from the involvement of a school I have always admired, part from the involvement of a coach (Joe Paterno) I had always admired, but most of my horror comes from being a mother and a human being. How could anyone do this to a child? How could anyone not make sure the highest possible punishments were handed out to such a monster?
My 14 year old son is off this week backpacking in the mountains. It's an adventure arranged by the Boy Scouts, and he's actually not with a single person I know until he gets picked up to return home. Talk about a leap of faith sending your kid someplace - this was it for me. I did try to talk to him about sexual abuse before he left. Of course when he was young, and through the years, we've always had the talks about appropriate touching. But I thought one more was in order. He very quickly assured me that he's read the articles, he's aware of the situation and nothing like this would happen to him. All assurances were given with that certain arrogance of youth, i.e. the eye roll, which was meant to assuage my concern. Yeah, right.
We send our children to activities in the hope that they will meet friends, learn something, have fun...and to be honest sometimes to give ourselves a break. But these activities are mecca to the pedophiles. A large gathering of their potential victims, and they are predators. They know who to target, and how to target them. Every organization where youth gather has had this horror hit them - churches, youth groups, schools, and so on.
I do a fair bit of volunteer work. A couple of years ago, I joked that the State Bureau of Investigation might be getting tired of me. See I had three background checks done in the same month - Boy Scouts, our church, and our school district. I passed since they weren't interested in other housewives opinions of my clothing or how fast I drove at 18. I may have joked about it, but in reality it is no laughing matter. Background checks are a necessary evil because of the evil in society, and yet no background check would have picked up on Sandusky - BECAUSE HE HAD NEVER BEEN ARRESTED! It's also pretty easy to skirt the background check if you are the founder of the group, and perceived as a "good man". So many of the criminals have not been caught.
I can, and have ridden on activity buses, spent the night chaperoning, driven youth group kids in my own car, and on and on. It makes me sound so unselfish when in reality, it's purely selfish on my part. Good luck getting to my kid when I'm there. I may be short, but I would take you down in a heartbeat, trust me. Along the way, I can also tell you that I'm keeping an eye on your kid.
My hope is that out of this will come improved processes to prevent such abuse. The Boy Scouts now have processes in place which require yearly training of volunteers such as myself along with a requirement that NO leader is alone with a Scout unless that Scout is the leader's own child. I do not think that Penn State's football program should receive the death penalty from the NCAA (the NCAA is the governing body for college athletics and the death penalty ends the sport for the school). What happened there was not a result of payments to players or tutors cheating for players, and sadly what happened there could happen at any institution unless all of us work on stopping it.
Volunteer, know who is involved with your kids, watch, drop in unexpectedly, and pray. Each of us should have a responsibility here, our children deserve no less.