A Culture of Abuse

image via iStock Photo/primoz_design

Let me start by stating that despite what this post sounds like, I am not male bashing. I happen to have some incredibly good male friendships and a very strong marriage. I have worked with male mentors and have a male babysitter. This post is not about my disdain for men in general. But I am disgusted by a certain ilk of men in power who take advantage of their station in life and criminally abuse others. It’s those monsters I’m talking about here.

What irks me most about the heinous news of child molestation allegations coming out of Penn State is the fact that hubris trumped humanity. Once again. Violence and abuse against women and children have been rampant since the beginning of time, and until the strong stand up for the weak, it shall continue. When we live in a world where men make decisions and laws and policies to protect each other rather than protect the victims, we end up at the once hallowed halls of Penn State. Could this possibly be the proverbial straw to break the camel’s back to change laws to protect the abused instead of the abuser?

Women have been abused and discriminated against in all aspects of life. I have been a victim of sexual discrimination at work and worse. I have even experienced sexual harassment in my son’s first grade classroom. Our recourse lies somewhere between a gray area of “he said, she said” and the rock and the hard place, with very little justice in sight. Victims of abuse are often further victimized when they speak out, and they are not encouraged to speak up. The onus of proof is on the victim. A wretched mix of guilt and shame and pain understandably prevent victims from speaking up. Yet, we expect the weak to be strong and take a stand.

The one and only time I felt a sense of justice when I was harassed was when a male colleague turned in a man whom he saw say lewd things to me at the office. I was working at a major financial institution (whose credit card you probably carry in your wallet). The man who said offensive and highly inappropriate things to me happened to be a top performer at the company and all around golden child. He faced no penalty and paid no price. I assume he was simply pulled aside and told to be more subtle in his harassment. Then he went on to frequent strip clubs and ogle women at conferences (on the company tab and with company executives, no less). The sense of justice I felt obviously didn’t come from his lack of punishment; I felt justice from the man who reported the incident. At least someone was on my side and was appalled enough to take a risk and turn in a fellow heavy hitter. This gentleman stood up for me, a rarity in the confines of the Fortune 100.

Too often as human beings we stand back instead of stand up. We let fear, shame, embarrassment, and apathy take over. When we see pain we turn away. It’s easy to do, right? Domestic violence, child abuse, and sexual assault have touched us all, whether you realize it or not. I have friends who have seen their children hide under the bed when their daddy beat their mommy with a pistol. I know women who have literally barely escaped the hands of their abuser. I know children who bear the marks of a violent childhood. I know women who hide their shame and pain in alcohol and addiction. Note that I know of these horrific stories. I have never witnessed such atrocities. But let me tell you something, if I ever saw an act of violence against anyone, I would report it. 9-1-1 is always there. I don’t need policies or guidance or media training to tell me how to do what’s right. I have a brain, and more importantly, I have a heart.

Penn State officials can face no adequate punishment if the allegations of egregious disregard for children’s safety are true.  If allegations are to be believed, they deliberately abused their power and endangered children in order to protect a f*&%ing football program and a brand. What kind of human being is Mike McQueary? He said he WITNESSED a little boy being molested by a grown man and essentially DID NOTHING. Is it not instinct to rescue the child, poke your fingers through the eyes of the molester, and call the police?! I am sick beyond measure. Everyone in the chain of command should be jailed. Penn State shouldn’t pay one more day of salary to McQueary or fund Graham Spanier’s or Joe Paterno’s retirement.  To disregard abuse is part of our culture because no one wants to get involved and deal with ugly situations. It’s just easier to turn away and pretend nothing happened. But how can you do this when children are involved? What’s allegedly happened at Penn State is the ugliest, vilest form of abuse that has sunk us to a new low.

In our society, we so often bend the rules to protect abusers and offer no recourse or support for victims. The most vulnerable and innocent among us should be protected. We need to advocate for their rights and end the cronyism and hubris and abuse of power among the ranks of men who stop at literally nothing to save themselves.

“All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” — Edmund Burke


  • Kristen

    I really liked your article from the heart. Thank you for sharing. And caring.

    • Thank you for writing about this, Ilina! I have been disgusted by the number of people who actually came out in support of the Penn State coach. I believe even Ashton Kutcher had to recant his support. Disgusting.

      Now there are similar allegations coming out of Syracuse. Dear God. How did we allow this to happen to our children? I agree with you: it’s a strain in our culture that worships football coaches or strong male figures even they are morally corrupt.

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