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Longtime Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky has been charged with 8 counts of child molestation and two Penn state officials have been charged for not reporting suspected child abuse to police and perjury for lying in a subsequent grand jury investigation. What emerges is a typical case of how adults fail repeatedly to act to protect children when signs are all around them of adult sexual involvement with children. While 8 victims have been identified, Jerry Sandusky’s involvement with at risk boys for over 30 years. What stands out, is how he was repeatedly observed having sex with boys appearing to be as young as 10, by adults who did nothing which stopped it. University officials who learned of these abuses, also did not stop it. No one took the step of reporting it to police. Even a police investigation in which Sandusky admitted to “inappropriate contact” in a shower, had no consequences. It continued for over 10 years more.

Commission Frank Noonan of the Pennsylvania State Police correctly identifies culture as the problem. Important lessons can be drawn from this case showing how our ideas and cultural training about boys, men and sex get in the way of protecting children and actually contribute to allowing and permitting this to happen. I will discuss other information about sexual violence as it particularly affects male victims.

How adults protected a sexually abusive adult instead of the child

In a press release

Commission Frank Noonan of the Pennsylvania State Police details the long culture of denial about sexual abuse of boys at Penn State and how adults protected adults and allowed boys to be abused for years.

He states how :

In 1998 : Jerry Sandusky made admissions during a police investigations to “inappropriate contact” in a shower. Nothing happened to him, and the sexual abuse continued.
In 2000 : Janitors observed a sex act (oral sex in the grand jury report)in the shower room between Sandusky and a child but fearing for their jobs, did not report it.
In 2002 : A graduate assistant reports seeing a sex act (anal sex in the grand jury report) between Sandusky and a child said to appear to be 10 years old, to university officials and again nothing happens. Nothing changes.

Finally, Commissioner Noonan makes the correct assumption that these are not isolated cases. And continues by assuring boys and girls that the police will believe and help them if they have problems like this. And calls on adults who may have knowledge to shoulder their responsibility “as a human being” to call 911 and report their concerns and observations.


Learn the signs. Learn to think, investigate and act!

I believe the solution to this problem involves a change in culture. We need to start seeing child sexual abuse because it is happening everywhere all around each of us. I've heard many people talk about their abuse (I mean child sexual abuse in this diary when I say "abuse") or the abuse of their child and again and again, there are clear signs repeatedly ignored by adults that something was wrong. Adults are so uncomfortable with this possibility they simply "avoid seeing it". Demonizing perpetrators of child sexual abuse ironically serves to make it even more difficult to think about. The perpetrators are often family members, trusted adults or respected community leaders and rarely strangers to the child. It's a separate diary to write about perpetrators, but I encourage you to get to know someone you "have a funny feeling about", who you think might be abusing a child in order to discover what's really going on. Perpetrators are I think best seen as damaged people who must receive specialized help but we have to stop pretending like they don't exist in our lives. In fact, from the best research we have, they are all around us.

Stop It Now has the Warning Signs in Children that should trigger questions and actions in your mind. Also, the Signs in Adults that they may be abusing a child or Behaviors with Children to watch out for.

Teens and children are often sexually abusive to other children and there are signs to notice and follow up on. Frequently they are repeating behavior they learned by being abused by an older person themselves in a "traumatic reenactment". Simply put, they are expressing sexuality like they were taught, but we often prefer to blame them, not their teachers. Again, that's adults protecting adults instead of children.

Responding to these many signs of abuse involves asking questions and careful observation of your reactions and others reactions. These are difficult conversations to have and issues to understand and you  should shoulder your responsibility with the understanding that there is a lot of help. A great idea is to look for help in how to have conversations with adults about your concerns with their interactions with children in a neutral, non-accusatory way when all you have is a "feeling", suspicion or odd remark to go on. Often, it takes a lot of "detective work" to find out more facts appropriate to report to authorities who cannot act because "you feel he's creepy". At some point, police and child protection should take the lead. As commissioner Noonan says, you call 911, but I think the solution is also narrowing the gap between situations where you, me, everyone asks questions and checks it out and professionals with limited time investigate on the record.

To that end, Download and read the "Let's Talk" brochure to see how to have those "difficult conversations". Think about people and children in your life and do a little practice. The trick is to keep the idea of sexual abuse in mind while behaving in an appropriate way. Mostly, that has nothing at all to do with accusations or blunt uncomfortable questions. You might just notice Jeffrey suddenly doesn't want to hug his uncle, and talk to both of them about their relationship. Or he suddenly doesn't like his baby sitter. Get to know how they interact better.

While there would appear to be a certain good old boy network was at work, I don't think this analysis is best. I suspect that analysis is just more comfortable than something that involves ourselves. Rather, it's more the extreme discomfort we have with taboo sex that shuts us down. For example, here at DK, the only other diary about the Penn State cases got 55 comments and 25 recs (if I understand how recs work). While people frequently say things like the crime of child molestation is "the most disgusting", extreme or merits long prison sentences, it also appears it's not gotten much attention here. I submit to you, we all tend to look the other way. Making this about men or protecting your job is easier emotionally but reading the grand jury report, there are numerous signs people observed that could have been acted on without risking anything.  Outside of that, I believe many people (all genders) saw signs that could have lead to more information about this, and eventual reporting. While 8 victims are identified, Sandusky was involved with youth for 30 years. Again, this isn't about a few bad men. It's about how our culture fails to protect children.

Sandusky's 1998 admission to police of acting inappropriately is interesting in suggesting he might have been responsive to discussing his behavior with children. I wonder what conditions prompted that admission as well as why police didn't act. Often people assume molesters would never disclose their activities so there's no point talking to them. I don't believe that's true, nor helpful. Often I hear molesters are conflicted or of a dual mind about their behavior and would talk to someone they trusted. This of course would be part of how we could intervene to protect a child and nothing to do with become silent or complicit.

I'll now say a bit about male victims of sexual violence:

Truth

1 in 6 boys
Approximately 1 in 6 boys is sexually abused before age 16.Recognize what this means. You know lots of men who were abused and suffer the effects if you know many men at all. They just aren't talking about it. Similarly, you know boys who are, or who are going to be abused. You could learn to spot it with some effort, and save them a lifetime of lonely struggle. I might add, the (mostly female) partners of male victims suffer a kind of vicarious victimization when the unrecognized effects play out in his relationship. I've heard many women struggle to understand their husbands when he is silently struggling with a history of childhood sexual abuse.

Men and women respond similarly to sexual violence but express it in ways typical of their gender. The harm is the same.

All my reading and work with men has proven to me that men are severely effected by sexual violence as children and adults (and both). Men are socialized to always act strong and deny vulnerability, but just because they don't talk about it doesn't mean it's not happening, or they aren't suffering. We are more comfortable seeing alcoholism, depression or anger/rage in men and boys and avoid seeing the root cause when it's sexual violence victimization.

These are acts of violence and not sex.

Calling them sex degrades what sex should be, and normalizes violence. Sex is consensual, playful, affectionate, empathetic.

Men can have difficulty knowing and expressing their consent to sex just like women do.

Again, it has an expression typical of their gender. Men tend to think all sex is good for them because our culture tells them that's what they are like.

Knowledge and understanding of male victims of sexual violence is decades behind that of female victims.

That does not mean it doesn’t happen. I like to point out that we can understand sexual violence issues for male victims, if we look back to about 1960 in the women's anti-rape movement. There are a growing number of men who are becoming aware and able to speak out like myself. Most are cannot.  

A lot we just don't know

There are a lot of good questions about sexual violence that do not have answers. Or have partial answers (limited, or conflicting evidence). We weaken our progress stopping sexual violence when we create certainty where it’s doesn't exist.

Myths

Abuse doesn’t happen to men and boys (much).

This is controversial and provocative, but I believe it quite possible than about as many men are raped in the US as women. Perhaps some time I will attempt to make that case, but honestly, it's quite unknown. It's very difficult to know in part because it is so shameful to men (they won't disclose), so unwelcome an admission, so lacking in research. Statistics are not complete. The FBI is only now including penetration of males in the definition of rape, etc. Prison rape is rarely considered but the justice department studies show About 80,000 men per year in US prisons and jails. Plus juvenile detentions. Plus the "free population". Plus military assaults. Newsweek reported that Last year nearly 50,000 male veterans screened positive for “military sexual trauma” at the Department of Veterans Affairs Those numbers add up to a large fraction of estimates of female victims of rape. Still, we are not trying to ration sympathy or decide who merits our concern. Again, certainty is lacking except to say this is a scourge on humanity we must confront and eliminate. We all suffer directly and indirectly.

Ok, so it happens, but it doesn’t hurt men like it hurts women. Men and boys always want and like sex.

Wrong. Men and boys may say that in compliance to their gender role, but it doesn't play out. I believe the harm is best thought of as equivalent though not exactly the same. Here's more.

Abused boys grow up to be molesters.

Also known as "The vampire theory". This is extremely stigmatizing and silencing to male victims. It's horrifying to be seen as a perpetrator and this belief, or suspicion is pretty common. There is no evidence that this is true generally. Honestly, there is conflicting research in this question. Here's a longer answer


Or become gay. Or it happens because they really are gay.

Again, this is violence not consensual sex. I hate homophobia in the context of a man trying to figure out what his abusive past means because it just makes it so much more difficult. People are gay because they choose that identity based on their own free understanding of themselves. No one "makes you gay". Especially not by force.

Women don’t abuse children sexually.

Various studiesand clinicians report about 20% to 40% of abused men report female perpetrators: aunts, babysitters, mothers, girlfriends of brothers, etc. Lack of awareness of this reinforces how hard it is for men to be believed, taken seriously and helped when the perpetrator is female.

Women can’t assault or rape adult men.

While uncommon, this certainly happens. While men are generally stronger, they also freeze in fear just as women do. Fighting back isn't what matters for anyone. It's about consenting: knowing what you want, communication and agreement. There was the brave diary at DK a while back of an adult male assaulted by a female titledI was raped But it Doesn't matter.  I have heard other stories like this where men froze in fear and were assaulted by women. Often I suspect prior experience in childhood leads to a freeze response to sexual aggression. Men often have to counter the expectation that they should have fought off their attacker if they didn't actually want it.

Complications of sexual violence for males

Various issues show up to complicate the situation for male victims:

Much less likely to be believed, taken seriously or helped. Lack of resources. Discomfort with men as a victim or “weak”.

Generally, men face an uphill battle being believed. Frequently I hear them talk about having once disclosed to someone, either as a child or adult, and not being believed or taken seriously. They then go silent for sometimes many, many years before talking again. Experienced therapists and support groups are harder to find as well.

Male sexual response during abuse is very confusing to boys

Boys experience erection and ejaculation as a physiologic response, even in frightening or painful situations. It's not voluntary. Rapists, abusers of children or the victim himself will often see it as proof "he wanted it", or "enjoyed it". Many boys feel intense confusion, shame and guilt because they experienced arousal or pleasure while being abused.

When the abuser is same sex, it creates fears of being suspected of being gay. When the abuser is opposite sex, it creates great confusion that something harmful even happened.

Again, seeing this as sex confuses the issue. The issue is violence and force.

A testimonial

I was interviewed by media to provide a victim's perspective on some reporting on this story. I was molested by older men twice in childhood and had other experiences of sexual violence that have had big impacts on my life. I speak out now and advocate for male victims leading a support group and raising awareness.

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Comment Preferences

  •  'Learn the signs" is too subtle a lesson here. (5+ / 0-)

    The signs, at least in the episode most widely discussed, were that someone saw an actual sexual assault.  Not much ambiguity about that.

    But nobody's buying flowers from the flower lady.

    by Rich in PA on Tue Nov 08, 2011 at 09:55:52 AM PST

  •  I haven't commented on DK (20+ / 0-)

    in years, but I'm so mad about this that I'm breaking my silence.

    If you see a child being hurt, then you've GOT TO STOP THE CRIME! I don't care if you are risking your career, income, or even your LIFE!

    I am appalled by the behavior of people who saw this happening or had it reported to them who didn't immediately stop the crime, comfort the victim and call the cops.

  •  Disgusting. And I must say... (4+ / 0-)

    I fully expect that if Sandusky were a republican running for office, conservatives would be out arguing that they boys were gold-digging liars working for George Soros.  

  •  I also wonder how much homophobia is due to (9+ / 0-)

    men who've been sexually abused as kids.  My brother is rather homophobic, which is kind of odd since we weren't raised that way - both parents were LGBT friendly for as far back as I can remember.  (Dad's best friend from college, in the early 50s, was openly gay, rather out of the ordinary back then.  Ironically, they grew distant over the last 20 years as the friend became a Log Cabin republican, and trended more right wing.)

    My brother was an altar boy, and I've often wondered if he encountered one of the predatory priests.  It's not the kind of thing that he'd ever talk about, and I'm damn sure not going to ask him.  But have wondered for years if that's the explanation for his attitude.  He knows better than to make homophobic remarks around me, but he was never very good about hiding his response to seeing gay couples here in SF.  I think he's better than he used to be, but I know it's still there at a certain level.

    •  Sounds possible... (3+ / 0-)

      I've certainly seen that...   but it's complex. Hard to say. You might as I suggest, just make it "welcome" for him to say whatever he wants around that topic.

      Insanity is a perfectly rational adjustment to an insane world... -R D Laing

      by crazyamerican on Tue Nov 08, 2011 at 11:05:20 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  He's extremely private about that kind of thing. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        cassandracarolina, FarWestGirl

        We have had a few conversations about various personal matters over the years, and he knows I'm always there for him.  There are a few other things that he's discussed with my husband as well.  But it's just not his way, and I'm not going to nudge him because that would certainly cause him to clam up even tighter.

        •  Can't force him... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          FarWestGirl

          forcing people is of course the problem and has no place in the solution.

          Insanity is a perfectly rational adjustment to an insane world... -R D Laing

          by crazyamerican on Tue Nov 08, 2011 at 04:03:41 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Talking about this case, after a couple of beers, (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          kait

          in a safe place, your house or back yard might give him an opening. One of the reasons that many don't talk is because they're terrified of the response and being vulnerable again, out of control. People in general don't have the social framework, 'scripts', if you will, to respond supportively. Many people will feel at a loss and look down or away. They're don't know what to say and they may be trying to give the man privacy by looking away, but it comes across to the man, (or boy), as another rejection. They may feel like they're so 'ruined' that people don't even want to look at them once they know. They're afraid that once someone knows that about them they'll always be defined by it. And because awareness is so low, they may be right. When we finally bring it into the light and deal with the true numbers they won't feel as isolated. They won't be alone anymore. I'm a nurse, and a certified hypnotherapist, the men who have spoken to me about this truly believed that they were never going to be able to tell anyone, ever, in their lives. They assumed that it was a secret they would carry to their graves. I can only hope that my being accepting an supportive helped. I believe it did, but how much, I can't know. We need to work on this.

          The only time I've ever seen it addressed was an episode of CSI. The Nick Stokes character was investigating a murder in an electronics store. They did a very good job with it, as I recall.

          Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

          by FarWestGirl on Tue Nov 08, 2011 at 04:38:39 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Let's see... (0+ / 0-)

            Thanks for the thoughtful comment. Lot's I could say here but:

            The reaction upon disclosure is crucial. His shame can activate others (cultural) shame around this resulting in the downcast eyes, looking away, silence and reinforces the isolation. That's what I mean about the stories I hear all the time about ... a disclosure (went badly) followed by 10 years of silent drinking before another attempt.

            By talking openingly here, I hope to reduce the "cultural shame" reactions and ignorance in part.

            It's in the media more and more. A recent Law and Order:SVU "Personal Fouls" on abuse by a basketball coach. http://1in6.org/...  I had mixed reactions because of the suicide content.

            A number of other SVU shows have had very accurate content.

            As for working on it, how do we do that? It doesn't fit the political narrative on this site, it's too complex, and as someone here commented "I don't want to see it". The Herman Cain case gets 10 times the interest despite being adults propositioned crudely .vs. several 10 year olds raped. Repeatedly.

            I'm NOT saying sexual harassment isn't huge. Just as I wrote about... we all look the other way.

            "Learning the scripts" isn't all that hard. I linked to some. I believe it's more we "don't want to see it".

            Thanks for being accepting and supportive. That would be a hugely helpful response!

            Insanity is a perfectly rational adjustment to an insane world... -R D Laing

            by crazyamerican on Wed Nov 09, 2011 at 07:08:06 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  I too am dumbfounded by what has happened (10+ / 0-)

    at Penn State.  The head coach was told, banned the guy from the main campus facility, and then told his bosses.  That was it.  Then the heads of the Penn State programs were told on more than one occasion of what was going on and did nothing.  The grad assistant should have called the police right then and there, no questions asked.  The image of these men were protected.  But, more importantly, the money these men brought to the football program was protected above all else.  They've known for years.  They are complicit with the actual offender and all should do time in jail for their parts.

  •  I don't want to see it (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cassandracarolina

    It turns my stomach. Crimes committed against children are hard to stomach. Yet it is important to confront. But look what is more important in this news cycle- allegations against Cain.

    •  Think of it this way: (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      SoCaliana, eataTREE, FarWestGirl, kait

      You see the way that Cain's alleged victims are being vilified in the media. They are adults, strong enough to take some action when they were subjected to harassment or abuse.

      Now imagine that you're a child. Your word against any authority figure in your family, school, church, scout troop or other organization will be doubted because, well, you're just a kid.

      ANY adult who learns of - or suspects - a child being abused must speak up and be their advocate. There's no greater vulnerability than that of a victim who is disbelieved.

      Incremental change frightens excremental minds.

      by cassandracarolina on Tue Nov 08, 2011 at 11:29:08 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Interesting timing with Cain's sexual (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tobendaro, FarWestGirl

    harassment being in the news and the different reactions.
    Members of the media outraged about this straight up and down (perhaps seeing themselves as possible victims when they were children) whereas the media focus on the Cain cases is on the victims (as usual), and the possible ramfications of it on his candidacy. Littel to no outrage about the harassment itself.

    "I'm sculpting now. Landscapes mostly." ~ Yogi Bear

    by eXtina on Tue Nov 08, 2011 at 10:55:11 AM PST

    •  Who's talking about helping these boys? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      eXtina

      Now in their 20's.

      There's great ambivalence about victims. We're uncomfortable I think helping these young men...

      The attention on Cain's victims seems to be to somehow discredit them or make Cain the victim.

      Insanity is a perfectly rational adjustment to an insane world... -R D Laing

      by crazyamerican on Tue Nov 08, 2011 at 04:31:58 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Remarkable diary! Thank you for writing it. (3+ / 0-)

    Very well written and incredibly informative. Just friggin excellent!

    I do have a question as to one sentence you wrote:

    People are gay because they choose that identity based on their own free understanding of themselves.
     Would you elaborate?

    Are you saying that being gay, is a choice?

    Yes, this is my country Retchin' and turnin', she's like a baby learnin' how to live ~ Buffy Sainte-marie - Soldier Blue

    by denig on Tue Nov 08, 2011 at 11:00:03 AM PST

    •  Choice? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FarWestGirl

      Not for a second like the right wingers would say choice.

      Period.

      Well, I was in a same sex relationship for many years. Some things are a choice but of course, a lot is kind of dealing with the cards you are dealt. Meaning, a lot is kind of given. I believe the experts who say it's a complex mix of things that's determined pretty early in childhood. But how one builds an identity and figures out all of it... well, we all need to do that ourselves in connection with people who care about us. It's all good though. Being gay is of course fine. Doesn't need saying though in my world.

      That said, sexual abuse sure complicates developing a healthy sexuality. Our norms for sexuality are so unhealthy that it masks a lot of what looks like sexual trauma to me. And research supports basically that view.

      Insanity is a perfectly rational adjustment to an insane world... -R D Laing

      by crazyamerican on Tue Nov 08, 2011 at 03:52:43 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you for this excellent diary (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SoCaliana, white blitz, FarWestGirl

    I can't imagine knowing that something this sinister is being done to a child and keeping silent to save one's job, marriage, community status, or reputation.

    I have a good friend who underwent some sort of trauma - my belief is that it was child sexual abuse - and chose not to talk about it, even with people to whom he was close. He is serving a lifelong sentence for a crime that someone else committed.

    Incremental change frightens excremental minds.

    by cassandracarolina on Tue Nov 08, 2011 at 11:19:29 AM PST

    •  Oh dear! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FarWestGirl

      I so want to reach people like your friend. It can be a terrible road, but I tell my group members, ... the men who do this work pretty much all say it is SO worth it.

      You can't believe how much better life can get. You don't need to be alone. Or heal alone. There are thousands of brothers who will support you in your struggle. All of it, ... it's not his fault.

      Let me know if I can help. The 1in6.org site is a good start. Or malesurvivor.org. If he likes the on-line world.

      Insanity is a perfectly rational adjustment to an insane world... -R D Laing

      by crazyamerican on Tue Nov 08, 2011 at 03:58:59 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you for the diary and opening the (0+ / 0-)

    conversation. There were a couple of diaries a couple of years ago that went into this, personal experiences, and a lot of (mostly) good discussion resulted. I'm disappointed that this one isn't getting more, but maybe on a different day. Tipped, rec'd and hotlisted. I've been thinking about finishing up a one act play with this subject. I should probably push it higher on the to do list.

    Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

    by FarWestGirl on Tue Nov 08, 2011 at 04:49:16 PM PST

    •  Any tips for how to participate? (0+ / 0-)

      I don't diary here at all because this is typical of my interests. Sort of....  doesn't fit into politics. So I'm not interested in politics. Which should concern people who believe in the political process, but it doesn't.

      Insanity is a perfectly rational adjustment to an insane world... -R D Laing

      by crazyamerican on Wed Nov 09, 2011 at 07:33:41 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Sorry it took so long to get back too you, got (0+ / 0-)

        hung up offline for a few days.

        There are a number of Kossacks that diary on primarily social issues like this, and I think that as long as this mess is going to take to filter through the media, it's going  to offer numerous opportunities to open the subject and bring in some sunlight and acceptance, consciousness-raising, as it were. And sure, some people aren't going to be comfortable and some may look away, but many will, (there are a lot of lurkers that hang out and just read at DK), and that gets the message out and circulating where  it can do some good. My only advice on a practical level would be to not expect much  from a post that goes up on an election day. ;-) Just part of the whole, 'know your audience' thing. ::grin::

        Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

        by FarWestGirl on Sat Nov 12, 2011 at 03:08:36 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  I have a question. (0+ / 0-)

    I have wondered more than once how much of our attitude, our silence, our hesitance to respond -- might be due to an incredible amount of familial sexual abuse still occurring. What do you think?  If we peeled back the layer of the sacrosanct nuclear family, would we be even more horrified? Maybe you are aware of research. I am not. But my intuition tingles every time this topic is discussed.

    Excellent diary/post. Thank you.

    •  In a sense... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kait

      Like a majority of us, as some deep level, feel shame/fear/powerless because it's the dark secret of MY family too? Certainly in the sense of my human family. We all feel responsible for protecting children. And here, we all failed.

      I think shame is an important thing to understand. It has complex "dynamics" between people. It's usually silent, not verbal. And we fear it.

      Generally girls are sexually abused more often in the family, boys by "trusted adults". It's not a huge difference and I don't know if I could do more than "support" that with studies. Proof is often difficult.

      I believe the 1 in 6  boys, 1 in 3 or 1 in 4 girls sexually abused in childhood statistics. I would use the words "incredible amount" for that.

      Thanks!

      Insanity is a perfectly rational adjustment to an insane world... -R D Laing

      by crazyamerican on Wed Nov 09, 2011 at 07:29:23 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

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