Penn State: The Shame of it All

Post edit: There seems to be some confusion by some to my statement that I won’t allow my children to be alone with anyone outside of family members or friends who have earned the highest level of trust.  The operative word in that statement is alone. My kids will, and do, go to homes to play with people that I don’t know well.  But there is still a level of trust that I’ve developed even with those families and I know that my kids are in a group and are safe.  There are also a number of wise, godly men that have no relation to us that have earned such a level of respect with me that I want and desire them to have an influence on my boy’s lives.  But even those men would agree that taking my kid on a weekend trip alone would be unwise and outright foolish.  When my boys are teenagers, a little more freedom will be given to them to meet with godly men who have earned my trust.  But, in my mind, no matter how trust worthy a man (and yes, I have singled out men in this case because I am specifically talking about male leadership and its effect on my boys) there is never any reason for my boys to be meeting with him in private some place.  Not only does it open the door to speculation, but it leaves them vulnerable.  I won’t do that to them.  I don’t distrust men.  In fact, most people I meet earn my immediate respect and trust after just a few minutes.  That doesn’t change the fact, however, that I don’t want my boys alone with them.

Did I explain that more clearly?  Carry on…

I read the Grand Jury report against Jerry Sandusky the other day.  I wish I hadn’t.  I’m not linking to it here on purpose, but if you want to read it for yourself it’s a short Google search away.  But I’ll warn you that it is both graphic and disturbing.  So disturbing, in fact, that I was sick to my stomach for most of the day after reading it.

I am not a big college football follower so to be really honest, I had no idea that Joe Paterno was a college football coach.  I knew his name by the mere fact that I live with Lee Stuart who is pretty much an expert on all things sport.  I just figured Paterno was some famous Pro-team coach.  That’s how deep my level of college football expertise runs.

Today, however, I know more about Mr. Paterno and the things that I know, I do not like.  Great football coach?  I guess.  But he’s also a man that put football before a child.  He put a game and a program before a little boy.  He and several others chose silence and somehow they were able to sleep at night.

I don’t have a lot of repect for Joe Paterno.

The devastating details of abuse at Penn State go beyond football obsession.  It is more than just money and prestige that kept numerous people from doing the right thing and going to authorities and making sure Sandusky never had access to small children again.  The problem is deeper than that.

Lack of love.

The root of the issue is a selfishness so dark and wicked and ugly that it allows a man to remain silent after witnessing an act so heinous.  Love of a game?  Nah.  Love of life?  Nope.  Love of self?  I do believe so.  The very idea that Sandusky was caught more than once makes me so deeply angry I find it hard to see straight.  What stops someone from going to the authorities after seeing such evil?  What resides in our hearts that allows us to choose right over such wrong?

Where was the respect for human life?  Where was the simple act of putting the interests of someone else – a child, no less – above your own?  It’s baffling to me and yet somehow I know that I possess the same ability to cover up wrong to protect…me.  Perhaps not to this horrific of a degree, but that type of self preservation resides in all of us.  And I hate it.  With every fiber of my being, I hate it.

Reading the report only confirmed to me the thing which I had already determined in my heart the second I found out I would birth a boy.  My sons will never, under any circumstances, be alone with another man other than their father or close family members in whom I have placed my fullest trust.  No youth worker, no teacher, no pastor or leader – no one at all will do anything alone with my boys.

I’ve long since held this position, but reading the report confirms it and then some.  Jerry Sandusky gave every appearance of being trustworthy and good.  Heck, he seemed downright admirable.  Look at all the work he did for underprivilieged and at risk kids!

Yes, look at all the work he did for underprivileged and at risk kids.

There are kids who will never be the same because of Jerry Sandusky and the network of men who silently supported his sick addiction.  How can we sit silently through this madness? At what point does our silence add to the problem?

How did those boys feel, knowing someone saw but nobody came?  Silence can be deafening, you know.

I can understand why those young boys were allowed to spend time with Jerry Sandusky.  Most of them were in need of a male figure and why not let your child spend the night in the home of a seemingly upright man with a heart of gold?  I don’t really blame the parents, though I wonder why they missed the signs.  One mother tried.  She noticed, she knew and she reacted but to what end?

Where was the justice?!

For my part, I won’t ever leave my child in the care of a man alone.  My children won’t sleepover at anyone’s house unless I know the people extremely well, I know what goes on in that household and I have the topmost amount of respect for the people in whose care I’m placing my child.

The risks simply don’t outweigh the benefits.

My sons won’t go to lunch alone with another man.  They won’t participate in Bible studies where they are alone or secluded with another man.  A public place?  A group?  Yes, provided I know and trust the person they’re with.  But alone?  Never.  It just won’t happen.  You see, these boys?  They’re mine.  And I’ll protect them at all costs.

So here I remain, a woman who knows little about college football but too much about a “legendary coach.”  I pity Joe Paterno, but I do not feel sorry for him.  My heart breaks instead for the young men who were violated by his silence.  Young men who were shown as boys no more than a blind eye and a blank stare.

What are your thoughts?  What rules and guidelines do you have for your children regarding who they spend their time with and how they protect themselves from predators?

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  1. Let me start by saying that what happened at Penn state is beyond horrific and I have to leave it in the hands of God who WILL make all things right!

    That being said, I think it is important to realize that there are MANY admirable and wonderful men walking on the face of this earth seeking to make it a better place. As parents we are responsible to set guidelines and teach our boys (and girls) about predators, but we do not want to instill in them a paranoia for men in general. As parents we are to be mindful and careful, but ultimately we have to remember that our children belong to God and HE loves them and cares for them more than we possibly could.

    • This is true. With that in mind, I feel like I need to do all I possibly can toro text my kids and also toro text the integrity of the leaders and teachers around them. Thwre’s just never a reason, in my mind, for my children to be alone with someone who isn’t family or at least trusted as such. Perhaps when they’re teenagers this will be a bit different, but as little ones, it just makes sense to me to protect as much as possible.

      • I do not disagree that we need to protect as much as possible and we had our radars on all the time.

        I don’t understand the phrase ‘toro text’… that a typo?

        • Yes. Sorry. It should say to protect. Landon messed up my iPad keyboard yeaterday and I can’t figure out how to change it back! I am going to have a lot of typos until I figure it out. 🙂

  2. Kelli, very well put. I am having a really hard time even hearing about all of this. I can’t fathom how so many people are putting more value in a school football program than the irreparably damaged lives of the young men who were his victims.

    That being said I also have to think it is not only men who we as parents must worry about. Since Boogie has come along I have made a pledge to myself, my child and my husband that if there is ever a shadow of a doubt about a person I owe it to her to act on that. I have been reading so much lately about evil adults of both sexes doing horrible things to children and it is so disturbing.

    • It is disturbing. On the one hand, I want to trust others fully. On the other, I want to protect. Without being psycho Mama… 🙂

      • You’re NOT psycho momma…and anyone who tries to convince you that it’s OK for your child to spend “alone time” with them is not deserving of that alone time. I look at the way that Sandusky condoned his behavior (and others that knew him also) as “horsing around” and “I showered with them but it was nothing sexual” and I’m baffled that he thinks that’s ok (remind anyone else of the Michael Jackson trial?) First of all if you’re showering with a minor that is still illegal, because you’re exposing yourself to a minor. Second, who horseplay’s in the shower with someone that they aren’t having sexual relations with? This whole thing is sick. The moral of the story is you be a momma bear and when your kiddos are all grown up, well adjusted, and know that you did your best to raise them in the safest environment possible they will only love you all the more for it. What I worry about most in “these days” are the ‘single-moms’ who go out and begin dating, introducing those men into the lives of their children. It’s a gamble and often the children lose sorely. Very sad world.

  3. That is kind of where we are at. We were going to disallow sleepovers all together, but decided they will be on a case by case basis, if we know them super well. (which still doesn’t mean total safety, I always think of Rach’s friend in you know where)Just last week I let P go to a party but picked him up at midnight cuz I didn’t know the dad super well and there were teenage siblings. The thing is I seem to fear more for my boys than for my daughter, I wonder why. Are the rules the same for her? That will be tougher cuz sleepovers are the thing to do for girls. And can you believe the interview that scumbag did with Bob Costas, he all but admitted it all, what a perverted idiot.

    • So true! I’m equally protective of Tia and obviously she’s not going anywhere alone with a man either, but you hear of more and more cases of sexual abuse against boys by men than you do of girls by women. I’m all for having sleepovers at my house. I’ll happily lose the sleep in exchange for knowing what’s going on.

      • And no, I didn’t watch the interview. After reading the report O don’t think I could see it without throwing up. Why the H&*% are we giving that guy air time?!. Makes my blood boil.

  4. Don’t even get me started on this topic, but I agree with you 100%. What disgusting human beings. All of them. Shame on them for picking football over the safety of these children. I don’t care how “legendary” you are. You are just as guilty for protecting the others and not notifying the authorities. I don’t care what the laws of Pennslyvania are or what the procedures are at Penn State. As an adult there is a moral and ethical code. Period.

    • Amen! This isn’t about following the letter of the law. It’s about right and wrong and what they did was wrong.

      • exactly – this is about right and wrong, not what the law says.

        one thought i’ve had repeatedly is that i’d be willing to bet none of paterno’s 17 grandkids were allowed around sandusky. yet someone else’s child/grandchild was always fair game when someone like paterno stood on the sidelines doing nothing.

        being a part of the big ten (illinois plays penn state almost every year), i’d always thought paterno was someone to be respected…he came across as gruff, but successful and obviously, a legend. now, he’s just a pathetic old man.

        and don’t even get me started on mcquery.

        • McQuery acts like he’s a victim. I don’t buy it. He told someone, yes, but not someone who was willing to act. It’s like walking by someone being beaten and acknowledging their beating but spins nothing to stop it. Lame.

          The only person I feel sympathy for is the janitor who saw things and was so upset they feared he would have a heart attack. But again, all the hush hush protection garbage meant that the abuse was once again ignored ON PURPOSE! Seriously…it makes me so mad. I need to go drink tea and listen to Christmas music to calm down…

  5. To clarify- this is not to say I will never let my kids have sleepovers, but they won’t be going anywhere unless I know the parents extremely well and have full trust in them and know the type of supervision that will be provided.

  6. Is anyone else super concerned about the students who protested for JoePa? Is that really the mentality that people have now…to rebuke an establishment for properly firing a man who was deeply seeded in a sex scandal cover-up. Those kids should be ashamed of themselves for putting a “legend” on such a high pedistal that they defend a man who wouldn’t defend a ten year old rape victim. These boys must feel like they have been raped again watching their assailants being defended on TV.

    • I did find it a bit disturbing, but I also see those as kids blinded by youth. I hope, though, that there were more than a few set of parents who called their college students up and gave them the finer of points of who should be defended and who should be reprimanded. I can hope, right?

      • The students that were protesting did not know the whole story when it happened. It was a mob mentality. If you ask the students today, they feel totally different.

        • I assumed as much. How many of us jumped on band wagons as college students? Granted, this was pretty heinous, but I figured most of those kids had no idea what they were fighting for. 🙂

  7. Robin Harms says

    I have always been extremely cautious and said no to many invites for sleepovers for my boys and my girl. It was really tough and I will yet again say no to an invite this weekend for my 9 year old. I will allow him to go over and play but will pick him up early. This has always been something on my heart and if I have to err on the side of caution then so be it. They are mine to protect. Yes they sometimes think I am psycho but really have never given me grief over it. I think they see it on the news and somehow understand. I talk about it with them often, of course only to the extent that I feel their age can handle.

    • So parents ever get upset with you or offended? Because we’ve honestly not run into this situation yet. The only sleepovers ours kids have had with friends have either been at our house or with people that I know really, really well and trust expressly. How do you handle it without offending someone?

      • What Carol said is correct. I never had to confront the situation directly. The kids just told their friends that I said no. Also if was a situation where I knew the parents but not really well I made sure it was a group sleepover and I would remind them about our ” talks “. One thing I have talked to my kids about is if they are not confident enough to say no to things that we have set boundaries on in our home then they are not yet ready to be out away from mom and dad. For example, if they are at someones home and a friend wants to watch a movie that I would not approve of then they have to be strong enough to tell their friend they can’t watch it. And there were times when they called home to ask me. My hope is that this set an example early about saying no to peer pressure. So far two kids have made wise choices into their teens and young adulthood, and I have two more to get through. That all being said one of my younger ones has a really hard time making good choices so he doesn’t get to have sleepovers.

        • This is Robin, I am on an IPod touch. 😉

          • I really like that, Robin. I never thought about making sure my kids were strong enough to say no before giving them permission. Thay’s a great barometer to live by! Thanks!

  8. carol prosser says

    We had many friends that were welcome at our home but our girls never went to their homes. I don’t think anyone was offended but if they were …they were. I think you are absolutely right here Kelli. We had a dear, wonderful, Godly friend who was accused of abuse. I will never know if it was true – but it made me think I couldn’t trust ANYONE to be alone with our girls. The opportunity for abuse or accusation of abuse – either ruins lives. Really, it is wise and prudent for us as adults to not put ourselves in a position to be suspect and certainly wise to not put our children in a position to be taken advantage of.
    I am so thankful that ultimately God is their protection, but we need to be smart in our parenting. Well said and you are an awesome mom!

  9. When my husband and I decided on our family rules, we decided that we wanted there to not even be the opportunity for something bad to happen. We have a no sleepover policy, period. As some previous commenters noted, you’d be amazed how many people who are trusted end up having violated that trust. Those closest to these people often comment that “they never could have imagined that person doing that thing.” Luckily, all the families in our church have adopted this policy, so our children don’t feel alone in this decision.
    More than that, we have also implemented rules to keep my husband safe from any possible accusations. He does not drive home the baby sitter. He does not come home first if the babysitter is here and I’m not home yet. He never drives a woman on his own. He is never alone with a woman in a room. These rules aren’t because he thinks he will find himself in trouble, but because he doesn’t want there to be even the possibility of an accusation.
    I think it’s sad that we need to be so stringent on rules like these, but it’s necessary when protecting our family in today’s world.

    • These are wise principles, Terri-Ann and I agree it’s sad that we have to set them, but the reality is the risks do not outweigh the benefits.