The news this week has really brought me down. Two seemingly unrelated threads are really the same old story: a person in power (usually male) having a sense of entitlement toward other humans in positions of significantly less power (usually women or children) and bystanders doing nothing to stop the illegal activity.
Presidential candidate Herman Cain first had "memory loss" about his abuse of women in professional settings. Once his memory (partially) recovered, his acolytes and the media went into attack mode:
"She's a single mother."
"She's had financial troubles."
"If this were true, why didn't they come forward sooner?" (We know that at least two did!)
Um, maybe because they knew they would be attacked - LIKE YOU ARE DOING RIGHT NOW.
I don't think I know a single woman who hasn't experienced inappropriate behavior in some form by male colleagues. There is a very large sub-set of this group who have experienced such behavior directed at them by a male superior. It has happened to me. More than once. And no, I did not report it. Why? I am certainly no shrinking flower, but in each instance, the potential cost of such action was too great. Put simply: I needed the jobs. I had to support myself and my family. I knew that if I spoke up I would be forever marked as "difficult", "not a team player" or even worse, written off, fired, let go at the first opportunity. The legal community is small and word travels fast. I could not afford the potential, likely, backlash.
The people working around me saw these episodes or knew of them. Certain men have reputations in the workplace. When I was a young lawyer, partners that I worked for witnessed judges and other lawyers making vile, humiliating comments to me and did nothing. They were men who would never have said such things to me themselves, but they did not defend me or support me. They ignored the episodes as if they never happened or maybe they were especially cordial afterward - buying me a coffee or lunch. This was their way of saying "thanks for taking one for the team," but it was the kind of thing they would never have to "take for the team." I would tell myself, Don't let the bastards get you down. You are tough. You can deal with this. And so I did. Just as the women abused by Herman Cain did. That they endured does not make his actions legal nor absolve him from responsibility for them.
And just how does this relate to Jerry Sandusky molesting little boys in the locker room at Penn State? Because, once again, we have a person in a position of power imposing his illegal desires on other human beings, this time those with not just less power, but with absolutely no power. And even worse, we have witnesses, not just to the rumor and innuendo that surely must have been rife in, of all places, a locker room, but to the actual physical acts.
We know that a 28 year old assistant coach saw Sandusky, naked, anally raping a naked little boy in a shower in the locker room. We know a janitor saw Sandusky orally raping another naked little boy in the shower in the locker room. Neither witness stopped the illegal acts. Crimes were being committed against children, and witnesses did not stop them! If you saw a thief grab someone's purse, you'd yell, "Stop!" wouldn't you? So why wouldn't you say, "Coach - let that kid go. That's not right."
We know the assistant coach reported the incident.We know that officials at the university took the step of taking away Sandusky's keys to the facility. That sends a message, doesn't it?
Joe Paterno is revered at Penn State and elsewhere. If he was such a great guy, why did he let this happen? And he did let it happen. Sandusky's known activities go back to the early 1990's up through at least 2006. The assistant coach told Paterno what he had seen. Paterno knew what the university's response had been to that report. He knew Sandusky had a charity that effectively "groomed" under-privileged boys. He could have fired Sandusky. He could have gone to the police and asked them to investigate. He could have insisted Sandusky get help for his "problem." He did nothing and he was the power in that organization, make no mistake. What 10 year old boy could stand up to a system like that? What hope could he possibly have had that someone would believe him and make it stop?
Children are not chattels. They are human beings. No one has the right to do these things. There are laws against sexual activity with minors. And yet, in Joe Paterno's locker room it was allowed to happen. That's not such a great legacy, is it, "JoePa"?
What was it Jesus of Nazareth once said? "Whatsoever you do to the least of my children you do unto me"? Yeah, something like that.