A Response to the Unfolding Penn State Story

I hate to do this. I really do.

It is my intention as a blogger to provide light-hearted reflections, or candid recollections, or… whatever… to generate thought and conversation around working with youth, being a parent, and/or being a human being.

The last thing that I want to write about is nasty, sensationalistic, disgusting-on-every-level-story like the story unfolding out of Penn State University regarding former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.

I hate to do this. I really do.

Most of you are probably familiar with the story I’m referring to. After 20 minutes of searching this is the least graphic article that was also the most complete to this point.

I hate to do this. I really do.

I hate to do this because admittedly I don’t have all the facts, and undoubtedly the facts I have are general enough to be classified as inaccurate. I hate to do this because I’m not trying to pick a fight.I hate to do this because it’s never a good idea for a professional (or a parent) to document their thoughts when they’re as heated as I am.

Today, I was planning on writing another blog in “What Makes a Successful Teen” series. Today’s topic: Support. Topic #1: Support. The first component necessary in creating heathy environments for teens (at least according to the Search Institute): Support – family support, positive family communication, other adult relationships, and…. to be honest after reading “other adult relationships”, I couldn’t even tell you what the other three aspects were.

Other adult relationships – a crucial component in the initial stages of “building” successful teens.

I hate to do this. I really do.

But as a parent-to-be, and as a youth worker, how could this story not affect me?

As someone concerned with the development that happens to adolescents/teenagers/future grown-ups at the most influential period in their lives, We all must be concerned with “support”ing adolescents/teenagers/future grown-ups at the most influential period in their lives. It sickens me to see someone in a position as “an other adult”, use the sacred and volatile power and influence they have to do such damage.

Let us not be those church leaders, school leaders, parents, who become either disgusted to the point of remaining on the periphery, or worse, desensitized all together.

I hate to do this. I really do.

If you google this story, several of the first results are from the sports pages of different online newspapers indicating that the impact of this story first lies upon the sports world. If you go to cnn.com the feature video is of a presidential candidate denying allegations of sexual assault by four different women – it is however mentioned 7th under their “Recent News column”, right under “Rapper Heavy D Dies at 44.”

I think sexual assault is one of the most damaging catastrophes a person can be forced to overcome. Sexual Assault on a child/teenager is one of those worst things one person can do to another person at the absolute worst time.

We as adults will argue over the economy, the climate, the white house, the school district – all in the name of making the world a better place for our children. We must not take lightly the threats they face daily – from the other adult relationships that have the power to help make or break them.

I hate to do this. I really do.

But the Church (capital C ) has not yet earned a reputation as an institution quick to respond, address, and take accountability for sexual assaults within its domain. Many school districts I know of haven’t either.

This Penn State story reeks of a familiar odor. Evidence a plenty, consequences legal enough to cover the lawsuit, the story swept under the rug as quickly as possible before reputations and institutions get sullied. Our Youth deserve better. And so do our churches and schools.

We’ve got to start doing more to hold sexual predators more accountable. We must remain vigilant, and we must not accept when indicators or evidence is swept under the rug.

I hate to have had to do this. I really do.

Our youth and children depend on adults. They do. They depend on us to care for them inside and out of the nuclear and church family. I think Search Institute is right, they depend on us for support. As a part of that support, we need to be addressing their safety strongly and swiftly.

We teach our kids that sex is sacred. We teach our kids that THEY are sacred. We teach our kids that they are our number one priority. We need to hold each other (adults) to that standard in a no-compromising, no-excuses sort or way.

If you have a kid, student, youth friend, or whatever, tell them they are sacred. Let them know that it is NEVER okay for their minds and bodies to be disrespected/molested. Assure them that you are there to fight to protect their rights and safety and then hold yourself accountable to that promise.

And then maybe we won’t have to do this anymore.

May God grant comfort and peace to all the children who do not know the support that I know, or that they deserve. May we be given wisdom, courage, and persistence, to make a new day where no such children exist. Amen.


  1. L Trax says:

    Neal-Thanks for putting to words what most of us have been feeling – RAGE! I am more than angry, more than frustrated, more than infuriated at this life-story. I have RAGE against all of the men and women who swept this – absolutely nasty, distasteful, degrading to children – abuse under the rug to protect the “school”. I have RAGE that the media is still covering the story in regards to the school’s reputation not how these people have affected the lives of so many young and innocent children. RAGE that the bottom dollar has become more important than the sanctity of a child’s innocence. RAGE that I have to continually have an open conversation with my children about how to protect their body from others – they are only 7 and 9 years old. They have no idea what things could or might happen to them – only that I’m dead serious when I speak to them about the subject…and this gives them a little fear….I feel RAGE to think that because of these individuals I’ve taken away some of my children’s innocence to protect them. When will enough be enough? When will we as a society really stand up to these predators….