I want to be able to write something warm and cheery my first week back in this arena. It's supposed to be a warm and cheery time of year. Lights should be twinkling. Songs should be ringing. Fun and laughter and time together with loved ones should be the focus. But all I have to do is turn on the news or step into my office to see sights that are not so full of warmth and hear stories that are not at all full of cheer. That's the way it always is in this world, there will always be harsh truths and unpleasant realities, and learning to help where I am called when I can and live in the moment and enjoy the gifts I have in spite of the sorrow sometimes, most times, is all I can manage.
But, sometimes what the newsreels play grabs me and draws me in, no matter how much attention I turn to light and love. And lately, the noise has been loud and pretty hard to ignore. I have watched the unfolding of the scandal at Penn State, followed by Fine and the young men he abused, and magnified by local news stories that report agencies are being overwhelmed with requests for information on how to cope with all the new stories coming to light. I don't listen to all of the coverage. I don't seek out more and more detailed information. But the fact that these abuses occurred around the institution, dare I say the religion, of sports means that coverage blankets the airwaves and inundates every media channel. And the ancillary editorials and posts and comments sparked by the issue continue to multiply. So, I find myself reacting on so many different levels that it becomes hard to sort out my own thoughts and emotions.
I am glad these abuses have been made public and that those responsible for them are being held to at least some standard of accountability. Such abuse usually exists, as these abuses did for so long, underground and hidden. And part of me is even glad that the institutions being held up for scrutiny are higher education and sports related. I think that fact has caused more attention to be brought to these cases and will keep them in the spotlight that makes us pay attention. But I ache for the unspoken abuse that I know exists, in other places. Schools, government institutions, churches, youth sports, and even families. Abuses that will never come to light. Children, youth, and women who keep the secrets because of fear. And stories that get squelched by men (and women) with power and lots and lots to lose.
My professional life just adds to this knowledge that part of me wishes I didn't have. I sat through a three hour workshop this week dealing with abuse, trauma and sexual deviance. I don't want to know the statistics. I don't want to know about the likelihood that an abused child will turn into an abuser themselves. I don't want to know how perpetrators groom their victims. I don't want to listen to how their twisted minds create rationalizations. And I don't want to have to sit daily across from people struggling to put the broken pieces back together. Not because I don't want to do the work. But because I wish the work didn't have to be done.
As a mom, my heart wrenches in fear. I want to keep my two daughters close. I am cautious about where they are and who they are with. I try to balance my own anxiety driven by all the information I have about these issues with the need to let them explore and be independent and experience life. I try to teach them about safety and healthy boundaries and how to trust their intuition without scaring them half to death. But sometimes, when I drop my twelve year old off at an event where I no longer know every parent or teacher or leader with the intimacy I did when she was four, I have to fight back the bile that threatens to come into my throat and pray to every god who can hear that she will be safe.
As a woman, I am alternately supremely sad and completely indignant. When a young woman comes forward with similar allegations, she is rarely believed. The game of "blame the victim" begins, even among educated people. The impact of the trauma on her life is minimized. She stands accused of making herself vulnerable at the least and of wanting what she got at the worst. If these had been young girls, everything they wore, did and said would have been scrutinized as if somehow they shared in the responsibility of what happened. If they had been young women instead, they would have been labeled with sexual slurs that I don't want to print. There will be pushback against this point, I have no doubt, but there IS a double standard that exists.
As a survivor, my heart just breaks. I know the road these young men, and everyone else who has suffered abuse, will have to walk. It's a long, hard journey. I hope they have people along their path to listen, to hear, to love, to light the path. Because it's not a journey that can be made alone. I hope they have resources, physical, financial, emotional to be able to access the help that they will need. I hope they find community where they can tell their truth. I hope they can reclaim the soul that was stolen from them. And I hope that through the courage of these young men who have stepped forward and reclaimed their voices that somehow something will shift and things will begin to change for the better.
It's supposed to be a merry season. It's not very merry for these young men and the innumerable others who continue to suffer in silence. But I hope they, and every person on the journey of healing, knows their courage lights the path for someone else and I hope that each and every one of them can find the light they need to continue on their way.