We’ve all had those days, especially within the past few months, when we’ve wanted to just delete every Penn State student we know from our Facebook pages and Twitter feeds. But we haven’t because of the sole fact that they are, indeed, our friends.
The truth of the matter is that we all have a friend, or 30 in my case, that go to Penn State. With that being said, we should join as college peers and offer unconditional support.
And no, I don’t mean sending grieving cards for the loss of their beloved JoePa. I am referring to reestablishing their prominent name as our fellow state-related university by giving enormous efforts toward the fight against sexual abuse.
The unfortunate reality of this is that it could have happened anywhere. Nobody knew upon the hiring of Jerry Sandusky what he was capable of doing. It is sick to know that he almost got away with an alleged 40 counts of sex crimes against eight young boys and unforgivable to see how the situation was handled by his superiors. However, the bottom line is that it happened. Now we need to stop it from ever happening again and offer help to those living in post-sexual abuse trauma.
In November 2011, after the firing of former head coach Joe Paterno, Penn State students attempted to shift the media focus from undeserved riots and destruction, to the victims of sexual abuse, by holding a candlelight vigil and planning a “blue out” for their last home game against Nebraska, where T-shirt proceeds went to Prevent Child Abuse Pennsylvania.
Yet, the current student interest seems to have dwindled. And I must note that at the same time, Temple students have been sitting back – me being one of them – and criticizing all of Penn State for being “embarrassing” or a “disgrace” to our state. Why haven’t we helped?
I understand that Penn State students are busy with THON, their year-long effort to raise money and awareness for pediatric cancer, but it’s not a reason to brush a sex abuse incident off and pretend it never happened.
And Temple students, although not effected by the media coverage, shouldn’t act like this is a problem that is out of their hands or unrelated to their interests. I bet Syracuse students were feeling the same way until their assistant men’s basketball coach, Bernie Fine, was fired – just weeks after the Penn State scandal made the news – in response to similar accusations of sexual abuse.
It is beneficial to consider the eight victims in the Penn State case, who were tricked and forced to engage in sexual encounters with a man who they were supposed to be able to trust, rather, a man who was supposed to be helping them with their already troubled lives. If you don’t understand, I encourage you to read the Sandusky grand jury presentment.
Involvement, raising awareness and never forgetting that the abuse happened is important. When considering the capability that these prominent officials – who have been recognized as some of the most powerful individuals in college sport history – possessed the ability to keep such disturbing, tragic events hidden for as long as they did should not be overlooked.
Powerful leaders tend to get away with such crimes because of their popularity and support. Students must realize this issue and constantly look beyond the outer shell, into the reality of the situation. And the reality is that these boys, some now men, involved in the Penn State and Syracuse sex abuse scandals will never live a pure, peaceful life. We shouldn’t be arguing and criticizing these schools about who did or didn’t do enough, we should be helping those who were hurt along the way.
I can’t lecture students to donate money to funds like Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network or other sexual abuse services, but I can suggest that we campaign for awareness, volunteer at local crisis centers and form groups within organizations to raise money for the cause.
If Penn State students can raise more than $9.5 million for THON 2011, they surely can do something for victims of sexual abuse, and so can we.
Lauren Hertzler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.