Yes, you read that right- Fuck Joe Paterno. And you can HR me, unfollow me, curse me out or do whatever you want for saying that. Have at it. I don't care.
I don't care that Joe Paterno is dead. I don't care what he did for Penn State. I don't care about how many wins he got, or how great a coach he was. I don't want to see your glowing tributes to him, or gaze upon your precious photo layouts, or hear about all his great accomplishments. I don't want to hear about what a great man he was, and get told I'm complicit in his death or that I'm not a decent human being since I'm not saddened by his death.
But more than anything, I don't want to read your pathetic excuses for what he did-or more importantly, what he didn't do, or that what he did was not different really than buying chocolate or ignoring kids dealing drugs in the parking lot. And I don't want to hear about innocent until proven guilty, this isn't a court of law and his pathetic inaction is part of the public record.
And hey, while I'm on a roll here, I'd just like to say this too-Fuck you[redacted]. I know I'm not supposed to say your name out loud, because you were never convicted of anything, and innocent until proven guilty and all that, and because you are dead but you know what? Fuck you. Because you killed this kid right here
No, I can't speak for her-because you took her away from me. My best friend in the whole world, and you took her from me just like you took so many other things. I have no idea where she is now, if she is even alive, so I can't speak for her. But I can speak for myself, and I can tell you that the kid in that picture, the scrawny little blonde girl who could climb trees higher than any of the boys in the neighborhood even dared to climb, who was carefree, and fearless, and full of joy and the exuberance of being a kid- you destroyed that child just as much as you would have if you had actually physically snuffed out her life. To the point where I don't recognize the girl in the picture as myself- and can only talk about her in the third person. She's gone.
Do you know what it is like to be 10 years old, and get fucked by a grown man? Well, that's a stupid question, because you didn't know, and you're dead, but I'm going to ask it anyways-and all the people who are defending Joe Pa too. To all the fucking idiots who started a riot when he was justifiably fired, instead of going to the candlelight vigil for the victims that was held on campus that same night. Do you know what it is like to have a grown man crawl into bed with you, and tickle you, and then start touching you, and making you touch him? Do you know what it is like when he does things to you that make you feel good, even though you are physically disgusted by him and what he is doing to you? Do you know how wrong, and dirty, and sick in the head you feel because you are experiencing an uncontrollable physiological response to physical stimulation? Do you know what it is like to have your virginity stolen from you at 10 years old by a man who is old enough to be your father and big enough to physically crush you? It feels like you are being ripped apart inside. That's the only way I can describe it. And it doesn't even come close to the reality.
Do you know what it is like to pray for your best friend to get raped? Yeah, that's a mindfuck and a half. But it's true, every time I heard that bedroom door slowly creak open, and heard those slow, shuffling footsteps across the floor I would close my eyes and I would pray that once you got to my bed, you wouldn't stop there. My throat would tighten up, my stomach would start to churn and I would clamp my eyes shut and pray, pray really fucking hard, that you would just walk past my bed, and go to hers. And I would feel a sense of relief wash over me every time I heard the creaking of the springs in her bed as you climbed in, and I would stay silent, holding my breath and count in my head, trying not to hear the muffled noises, the soft cries, the rhythmic sound of the bed board hitting the wall, and you know what is really fucked up? That disgusting, gutteral sound you made when you finished off comforted me as much as it made me sick. It made me shed tears of relief, because it meant for that night at least it was over. And that I would be left in peace. And then, as soon as I heard the door shut again, I would feel the guilt wash over me like a torrent, because really, what kind of horrible person prays for their best friend to get raped?
And I'll always wonder if she felt the same way. If she begged me to stay over at her house maybe not just because I was her best friend, but because it meant that sometimes, some nights, she would be left alone. I don't know if a part of me didn't keep going because I wanted to protect her. But really, the fuck if I know...I just know that while best friends share secrets, those kinds of secrets don't bring you closer together, they pull you apart. And so that summer, I lost my best friend in the whole world. And in some ways, that was the hardest part of all.
It's more than just the fact that you killed that girl though- it's what you turned her into.
That's me, less than a year after that first picture was taken. You see that chubby, homely looking kid with the glasses who is wearing long sleeves and layers even though it's the middle of summer? Yes, that's the same kid. The girl with her arms crossed over her body, the girl who cut off all her hair and used to stuff socks in the front of her jeans so that she would look like a boy, because she didn't want anyone to touch her. That was the girl you turned me into. A girl who stopped climbing trees, and stopped going outside, and stopped doing anything other than hoarding food in her room and eating until she felt like she was going to explode- pancake batter, jars of peanut butter, the hersheys bars I was supposed to sell for my school fund raiser, everything I could get my hands on. The girl who got teased and called "Philsbury Dough girl" and "dyke" and had twinkies thrown at her by kids in the cafeteria. The girl who had no friends anymore-because you took away the only friend I had, and I didn't want another one.
That's the second reincarnation of the little girl you killed. She is 13 years old there and she weighs 85 pounds because she doesn't eat anymore. She has stopped menstruating. Her breasts have, mercifully, shrunken to the point where they can be hidden. That picture is a bit of an anomoly-usually she dresses in big baggy clothes, to hide her body and the scars, and I can assure you that smile is only for the camera.
There are other pictures, ones I have lost or destroyed or never taken. I had several reincarnations. There was the slut, the sexual provacatuer, using my ability to attract men to manipulate them because I felt like that was putting me in control somehow. I was the bitch who would fight you, the juvenille delinquent, the junkie, the drunk girl, the punching bag of various boyfriends. The girl who tried to kill herself 3 times. The girl who got raped again, more than once. More times than I even know, because the entire period between my 17th birthday and the day I found out I was pregnant with my daughter a little over 3 years later is pretty much a blur and a black hole.
And here is the worst part of all-when I was going through all that shit, I didn't know I wasn't alone, or that I wasn't crazy or a horrible person-I didn't know any of the following:
Effects of child sexual abuse include guilt and self-blame, flashbacks, nightmares, insomnia, fear of things associated with the abuse (including objects, smells, places, doctor's visits, etc.), self-esteem issues, sexual dysfunction, chronic pain, addiction, self-injury, suicidal ideation, somatic complaints, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, other mental illnesses (including borderline personality disorder) propensity to re-victimization in adulthood, and physical injury to the child, among other problems. Victims of child sex abuse are over six times more likely to attempt suicide and eight times more likely to repeatedly attempt suicide
Nah, I didn't know any of that. I just thought I was a piece of shit. A worthless human being. An empty vessel. For years.
I didn't know because nobody told me. Nobody told me, because nobody helped me. Because even though [redacted]'s wife knew that her husband was raping her daughter, she didn't tell anyone. And the person I finally told didn't believe me. And when it finally came out, only after my best friend went to the school nurse complaining of a stomach ache, and it was discovered that at 12 years old, she had fucking Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, only then did someone finally call the police. And almost immediately after that happened, that piece of shit took his wife and his step-daughter and he moved away, and nobody ever tried to find him. And for months, I lived in fear of him coming back. Until the day I found out that he died. [redacted]
I was happy when I found out. I was relieved. And that was more guilt and shame piled on top of everything because really, what kind of horrible person feels happy when they hear about a [redacted]?
But I don't have guilt over that anymore. And on this day, when some people want to mourn and be "torn" and "conflicted" over the death of Joe Paterno, I have no guilt or shame about saying to every single person who knew, who suspected, who was outright told and passed the buck on to someone else while children were being raped by grown men, fuck you. Fuck you for not doing your goddamn job or fulfilling your most basic moral obligation as an adult to protect children who were being harmed. And spare me your excuses, and your pleas for "respect", and "remembering the good things" you are rubbing salt in the wounds of every child that was victimized by Jerry Sandusky while he sat back and did nothing.
I feel no sympathy for Joe Paterno. I feel nothing for him at all. He died at 85 years old, and for the majority of his life he was at the top of the world- a hero, a saint, an icon. A rich and powerful man, in a position of power at a rich and powerful institution, that just so happened to allow countless children to be brutalized in order to maintain it's precious reputation and the money and power that went along with it. And he was complicit in that, no matter how much pretzel logic you use to try to excuse it away. At the very least, he was a moral coward, at worst he was a knowing enabler of the torture of children. Maybe he did have regrets, and maybe he was genuinely remorseful, but whatever personal hell he dealt with in his final months doesn't even come close to what the children who were victimized experienced, and they are still living with it every day.
And for the record, nobody should feel sorry for me either. I didn't write this diary to get attention or sympathy- I wrote this first and foremost because I was pissed off-really more pissed off than I have been in recent history, reading all this sappy bullshit about precious Joe-Pa, but also because reading the comments here it's become apparent to me that a lot of people just have no clue just how brutal and horrific child abuse is, and why it is therefore so morally reprehensible to sit back and let it happen. So please don't respond to this by saying "I'm so sorry"- I'm ok now. I really am. I don't know how or why, but I somehow got out the other side ok. I stopped being a victim and became a survivor a long time ago- not just a survivor, but a fierce advocate for victims of sexual abuse. It is something I plan on dedicating my life and my career to. And I have a child of my own now, who I protect with my life. And I would do the same for any other child. It would never occur to me not to.
But I'm one of the lucky ones. I am unlike the millions of kids who never escape from the cycle of psychological torture and self inflicted violence- the kids and adult survivors who kill themselves, either directly or indirectly. The ones who never make it out ok.
And when they die, they don't get photo layouts, or tributes. They are faceless. They are nameless. They are forgotten.
If you are going to grieve for anyone, grieve for them. Not Joe Paterno.
And it is sad that this even needs to be said-but if you know, suspect, or even have an inkling that a child is being abused, do what Joe Paterno and so many, many others had neither the basic moral decency or the courage to do, and report it to the authorities. I don't care if it is your neighbor, your husband, your wife, your beloved coach, your boss, or the effing Pope himself, report it, and follow up to make sure that child is safe from harm. YOU have the power, the child being victimized does not.
To do this is not an act of heroism, it your most basic basic obligation. It should not even be a question in your mind. There should be no hesitation, no "well, but", no passing on the responsibility to someone else. It falls on you.
And if you don't live up to that very basic obligation, as an adult, to protect a child- I say fuck you, unequivocally and apologetically, no matter who you are or what other wonderful things you may have done with your life. And you do not deserve, nor will you ever receive, my sympathy or my reverence.
Symptoms of Child Sexual Abuse
Many sexually abused children exhibit physical, behavioral and emotional symptoms. Some physical signs are pain or irritation to the genital area, vaginal or penile discharge and difficulty with urination. Victims of known assailants may experience less physical trauma because such injuries might attract suspicion (Hammerschlag, 1996).
Behavioral changes often precede physical symptoms as the first indicators of sexual abuse (American Humane Association Children's Division, 1993). Behavioral signs include nervous or aggressive behavior toward adults, sexual provocativeness before an appropriate age and the use of alcohol and other drugs. Boys "are more likely than girls to act out in aggressive and antisocial ways as a result of abuse" (Finkelhor, 1994). Children may say such things as, "My mother's boyfriend does things to me when she's not there," or "I'm afraid to go home tonight."
Child Sexual Abuse Reporting
Children may resist reporting sexual abuse because they are afraid of angering the offender, blame themselves for the abuse or feel guilty and ashamed. In order to increase reporting, parents and adults who interact with children, such as school personnel, teachers, counselors, child care workers, Boy and Girl Scout troop leaders and coaches, should be educated about the behavioral and physical symptoms of child sexual abuse (American Humane Association Children's Division, 1995). Children are more likely to reveal sexual abuse when talking to someone who appears to 'already know' and is not judgmental, critical or threatening. They also tend to disclose when they believe continuation of the abuse will be unbearable; they are physically injured; or they receive sexual abuse prevention information. Other reasons may be to protect another child or if pregnancy is a threat ("Child Sexual Abuse . . .", 1993).
Suspicions of child sexual abuse should be reported to a child protective services agency or law enforcement agency. Local child protection agencies investigate intrafamilial abuse and the police investigate extrafamilial abuse. The law requires professionals who work with children to report suspected neglect or abuse.
What if I'm Not Sure, Where Do I Go?
Child Abuse Helplines have staff specifically trained to deal with questions about suspected child sexual abuse. Call Darkness to Light's helpline, 1-866-FOR-LIGHT to be routed to resources in your community, or call the Childhelp USA National Child Abuse Hotline, 1-800-4-A-CHILD.
*Children's Advocacy Centers coordinate all the professionals (legal, social services, medical) involved in a case. If you're unsure about whether to make an official report or just need support, contact a children's advocacy center. The staff will help you evaluate your suspicions and your next steps.
*To find a center near you, contact The National Children's Alliance at www.nca-online.org or 1-800-239-9950.
*Local Community Agencies, such as local hotlines, United Way offices, or rape crisis centers can often help.
*Talk to the child's parents (as long as they are not the abusers) and provide educational materials, such as this booklet. If the parents seem indifferent or unlikely to take action, call one of the recommended sources.
These resources can help you if you are unsure of whether abuse has occurred, but they do not substitute for making an official report. Remember that you may be a mandated reporter in your state and you may be the only source of protection for that child.
Other sources for information, resources and support:
National Sexual Assault Online Hotline
National Sexual Assault Hotline- 1-800-656-HOPE(4673)
1 in 6: (for male sexual abuse survivors)
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
(If you have any more links you think are valuable, let me know and I will add them)
h/t Kossack Renee- www.radkids.org (training courses for children in preventing abduction and reporting assault
10:47 PM PT: I had not planned on coming back to this tonight, as I stated in an earlier comment. Writing this took just about everything out of me, and while I thought I was doing pretty much ok, I'm actually now realizing that still, all these years later, that pain is still there, much more than I realized.
But, given that the response to this has been so overwhelming I feel like I have an obligation to. And I want to take the chance to respond to everyone in a way that I cannot individually given how fast this thread is moving.
For starters, I'm astounded by the response this post has gotten in such a short time. When I first wrote it, I was just mad. I figured it would garner controversy- cursing the dead is bound to do that, no matter who it is, and there is clearly a large contingent of people here who are very loyal to Paterno. I figured I would get a few HR's and a few recc's, and maybe a few people would at least see the links and I would have it out of my system. I would have never predicted that it would get on the rec list, or that it would get this many shares. I did not expect that my inbox would be literally inundated with messages from people- some horrid, but most of them positive, and so tragically many of them from other survivors of sexual abuse who have poured their hearts out to me, and thanked me for speaking out for them.
I am not going to focus much time or energy on the personal attacks made against me (although I will get to some of the criticisms I feel are worth addressing in a moment) Again, I expected that to happen. It was expected, and just as specious as I assumed it would be. The majority of those making such attacks have clearly not even read what I wrote. I have gotten HR'd maybe once or twice in my time here before today...ironically one of those times was when I said “fuck you” to a rape apologist. I guess some people don't like that. I will wear the HR's I got today with pride.
What I want to focus on instead, is the absolutely incredible outpouring of support, the words of love and encouragement, the people who “get it” and were able to look past an inflammatory title, written out of anger, and see the pain and anguished place where it came from. To every person who took the time to read, to understand, to respond with empathy and support, I am feeling overwhelmed with love and warmth tonight thanks to all of you. I have cried tears of a mixture of pain, joy and relief reading so many of your comments and messages. I cannot possibly respond to every single one of you tonight, because this thread is just too fast and it's late in the day now...but just know how much I appreciate it. Seriously, I'm beyond words.
That being said, putting the very intimate and painful details of what happened to me out there for the world to see, along with my own images, is one of those things I regretted almost immediately. Especially since the immediate response was 2 hr's, and someone calling me filth. Did that hurt? Of course it did. Does knowing that this has now been shared apparently over 400 times less than 3 hours after I wrote it, and that possibly thousands of people are going to end up reading about the most horrible thing that has ever happened to me, and that debates will be had over something that is intensely painful and private freak me out? Yes. I've been alerted that this has been posted on a pro-Paterno forum of some kind, and that the response has been pretty viscious and very personal. Does that make me uncomfortable and a little scared? Yes. And especially since this is the first time I have ever publicly shared, in detail, my childhood abuse. But I'll deal with it. Because The good thing about this being seen by so many people, is that it means so many people will see those links at the bottom and maybe it will move them to act where they might not have before. Maybe reading my story will empower others who have been living in this secret shame like I have to speak out about their own experiences, or at least realize they are not alone. If this ends up saving one child from the hell of sexual abuse, it will have been worth it.
Now to the criticisms
1. The title is offensive- Obviously. I knew it would be offensive when I wrote it. I wrote it after an entire day of hearing and reading tributes to this man that barely mentioned the victims, or simply tacked it on at the end, like an irrelevent footnote. This diary is a response to that- to the fawning, to the outpouring of grief over this man, who most people didn't even know, with barely a word spoken about the victims. I found that offensive.
2. What about all the other people involved? Why are you only blaming Joe Paterno? I'm only responding to this because it's been said so many times. If you think I don't hold them responsible and am equally outraged at them, read the diary again. Specifically, the last few paragraphs.
3. Joe Paterno is not responsible for your sexual abuse. It is unfair to conflate those two issues.- No, Joe Paterno was not responsible for my sexual abuse. I never even met Joe Paterno. But people LIKE Joe Paterno were responsible for not stepping in and stopping what was happening to me and my best friend, when they knew or at the very least had suspicions. Joe Paterno is no different than millions of other men and women who do not live up to their moral obligation to protect children from harm. Especially when those suspected of the abuse are people of power and stature. It is the culture of silence and complacency in the face of horrors that children face on a daily basis that was responsible and continues to be responsible for staggering numbers (ONE in SIX, and that is a low estimate) of children to be sexually abused. And as long as we continue to make excuses for those who perpetuate that silence, the cycle will continue. I call out Joe Paterno by name, because right now he is the most high profile example of such an individual- but make no mistake, the same goes to all of them. Again, I did make this point clear in my last few paragraphs.
4. It may be appropriate to do this at some point, just not TODAY- Well, at the time I post it, it's already tomorrow, so there you go. Frankly I don't see how the number of hours or days someone has been dead makes that much of a difference. I do understand the point about his family possibly seeing this- But to be fair, that horse got let out of the barn when their apparent requests for privacy and no glowing tributes were ignored. Had his passing been dealt with appropriately, I probably would have written something very different. But it wasn't.
Also I would point out that I have a loved one- an uncle who I've spoken about on here before- who was in the news recently after he died, because he was convicted of a notorious murder back in the 90's, but was later found to be innocent of the crime. I have seen horrific things posted in comments about him while he was alive, so I chose not to read any comments or editorials about him after he died. It was very simple to avoid doing so. I trust that the Paterno's will be able to insulate themselves if they want to, and what some random woman on Daily Kos has to say about their loved one is probobaly not very high on their list of concerns right now. I do wish them peace and healing, and hold no ill will towards them.
5. I really like/appreciate your post but the title bothers me and you should change it- I will not change the title. The title speaks to how I felt at the time I wrote it. It speaks to the pain, the anguish, and the anger of being a child who is powerless. You know what? It felt GOOD to write that. It felt empowering. And the absolute overwhelming majority of people who have gone through similar situations who responded to me in comments and messages have said it felt GOOD to read it too. One of the things you never really let go when you go through something like this is the anger-and anger, if it is not expressed, turns inward. I described how I turned that anger inward on myself for many years- it is a miracle, frankly, that I am alive today. Were it not for my beautiful little daughter, I don't think I would be. I've learned to channell my anger in positive ways for the most part- as a necessary means of adaptation and survival. But that anger is still there-and it will still come out, every single time that wound is re-opened. And I will not apologize for expressing it, even if it offends you. And quite frankly, if me saying “fuck Joe Paterno” outrages you so much that you cannot look past it, that you cannot read past the title (as many here have admitted they did not) then I think you need to take a good look in the mirror and ask yourself why you worship power so much that you would strike back when someone speaks truth to it? Why are you more offended by me saying F**k before the words Joe and Paterno than you are by the fact that at least 1 in 6 children are victims of sexual abuse in their lifetime, and that for all the good the man may have done in his life it doesn't change the fact that he helped enable that?
Just a humble request. If you feel that way, read the diary in it's entirety. Read it a second time if you have to (several people have told me they needed to do just that before they “got it”) and then see if you still can't get over it. If you can't, then I really don't know what to tell you.
It is almost 2 AM here on the east coast. I am going to bed. Well, I'm going to go upstairs, sneak into my daughters room and give her a hug and a kiss first, but then I'm going to bed. And tomorrow, maybe I will be better able to respond. But for now, I'm tapped out.
Blessings to all of you who have shown me support. Solidarity and love to my fellow survivors. And peace, prayers, love and support for every child who was or is still being victimized- and if by chance, one of them happens to be reading this, please know you are not alone, and you shouldn't have to go through this alone. Reach out for help, it is out there- use the links I provided, or reach out to me personally- Swedishjewfish@gmail.com. Know that this is not your fault, and you should feel no shame for what is being done to you. And even if there are some grown ups in your life who won't help you, there are MANY of us who will.
Mon Jan 23, 2012 at 3:16 AM PT: Just a note- redacted portions are due to the amount of attention this has gotten and the nature of some of the comments and emails I have received. I do not want to risk someone "sleuthing" around and possibly "outing" the other girl I talk about in this diary based on the details I originally included
Mon Jan 23, 2012 at 10:31 PM PT: I just wanted to say to everyone who emailed/kosmailed me...I WILL write back to you. It might take some time, because I've gotten so inundated and some of those who wrote to me are going through crisis and I need to help them...but every single (positive) message has been read, and appreciated more than you know.
As you may have heard, a public memorial service is being held for Joe Paterno at the Bryce Jordan Center on Thursday, January 26th at 2PM. Tens of thousands are expected to attend, and I'm sure it is going to be broadcast across the country, and replayed ad naseum. I'm sure I'm not alone in saying I will be avoiding the news for pretty much that entire day.
I had an idea occur to me this morning though. This was the part of my diary that I felt most impassioned about:I'm one of the lucky ones. I am unlike the millions of kids who never escape from the cycle of psychological torture and self inflicted violence- the kids and adult survivors who kill themselves, either directly or indirectly. The ones who never make it out ok.
And when they die, they don't get photo layouts, or tributes. They are faceless. They are nameless. They are forgotten.
Well, on Thursday, I want to change that.
Many people have commented and sent me messages about their own experiences with sexual trauma- including tragic stories of loved ones who have died, in no small part, as a result of that trauma. I would like to use Thursday, 2:00 PM, to honor them.
If you know someone who falls into this category, and you would like to honor their memory, and THEIR legacy, instead of Joe-Pa's, please send me their information to Swedishjewfish@gmail.com. Please use "Tribute" as the subject line, so I know what it is. You can share as much or as little as possible-you don't need to reveal their name or their picture, but just something about their life, that they could be remembered by. Childhood pictures also work to preserve some anonymous, while still putting a face to the person talked about.
Send me your own survivor story too, especially if like me you feel that a part of you did in fact die as a result of your trauma. I can post it under your name, or anonymously. Send me artwork, poems, anything you would like. Anything that helps you heal.
My sumbission deadline will be Tommorow night, just so I have time to put it all together. It will be a SAFE SPACE for victims and survivors (I will explain what that means when I post it, and it will be strictly enforced) But it will be "open to the public"-those who have experienced it, those who have not, those who want to show support, or stories, or simply understand.
Also, like any memorial service, I want to set up a memorial fund-with the proceeds going towards RAINN-The Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network, which is The nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization. I have seen the generosity of this community before, and I know we can make a huge difference.
What are your thoughts on this? I think that for all of the controversy, and pain, and yes some very horrid ugliness this diary produced, there is also something very beautiful and cathartic taking place here too. And obviously, the overwhelming response is proof that this is something that happens far too often, but is talked about far too little. I feel like this can become something bigger, something positive, and transcend the ugliness that has shrouded this sad chapter in our culture, and consumed far too many of our lives.
P.S. A couple people have asked me what the new avatar is all about. That's a picture I found yesterday morning- I literally opened my shoebox full of pictures, and that was the one right on top. I had never seen it before-but that was the girl who climbed trees. And for the first time in as long as I can remember, I thought of her as myself.