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Lessons from Penn State

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Penn State Lessons

As a survivor of child sexual abuse, the shameful story of Penn State and the abuse and subsquent cover up, have been more than unsettling, they have been triggers to my past and to the path of millions of other child survivors of sexual abuse. I say millions because according to the CDC, almost 1 out of every 4 of our kids in this country are sexually abused before the age of 18.

The reason Penn State is on everyone’s lips and Facebook pages is because it is such a prime example of abuse.  A powerful school, a legendary football team, an equally powerful coach, a powerful charity doing “Good Works”, it’s the plot of the inevitable movie on Penn State and abuse.  For survivors everywhere hearing of the mistreatment of the weak by the strong can be triggering.
My triggers were elsewhere, my triggers were in the comments in the New York Times and discussions on Facebook, my triggers were ESPN and others and the discussion, the endless discussion of how this could be allowed to happen.Penn State happened because we have a culture that allows it to happen.
The studies that show 25 percent of girls and 17 percent of boys are abused are consistent and thorough, they are not in doubt. They are reinforced anecdotally by the experience of survivors, like me, who go public. Given time and a safe environment thousands of people have revealed their own personal stories to me, each one as sad as the last.

How can almost a quarter of our children get abused in America and yet we’re only focused and talking about Penn State? How many Penn States are there? How many one of us, right now, are covering up for someone abusing a child?

Who is the sick Sandusky on your block?  Who is the protective Paterno putting the short term interests of the powerful ahead of the interests of the child and of society. How does the then President of Penn State, Graham Spanier, hearing the allegations of child rape,  come to the conclusion that it is OK to not report it to authorities and not investigate?

The biggest lesson I draw from Penn State is we need to focus on the abuse closer to home, talking about Penn State without making this link is to miss the point of why those brave men who stood up to Sandusky did so.

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