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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Of Pedophiles and Collective Responsibility

My reaction to the Penn State mess is complicated. On the one hand, I absolutely hold Curley, Schultz, Paterno and any other witnesses (whether first hand or by rumor) responsible for not adequately sounding the alarm when Sandusky's activities became known. How dare they value the sanctity of their football program and college community over the safety of those children? They deserve to be thrown out on their asses and blackballed from ever working with children (or young adults) again.

Where my reaction gets complicated is that it was fairly widely known in my town, growing up, that Gerald Klever was "inappropriate" with young teenaged girls. To my knowledge, nobody walked in on him raping anyone, but the cohort of girls several years older than me all knew that you turned down babysitting jobs at the Klevers'.

I've written before about the guilt I carry from not having reported his abuse to anyone other than my mother (and my guilt for letting her talk me in to not taking it any further, "for [my] own sake"), but shit, I was fourteen. I was a kid.

There were adults who knew what was going on. Why am I easier on them than on the Penn State crowd? Don't get me wrong, I am angry that no one in my town did anything, but I don't, in my heart, hold them to the same level of responsibility that I do the coaches and president of Penn State. Even though their silence almost certainly allowed Klever to abuse many, many other children before he was finally arrested.

The disparity in my reactions feels somehow dishonest to me, and I can't quite figure it out.

2 comments:

Kristy said...

Perhaps because (rightly or wrongly) the idea of an adult man and a teenage girl is somehow less abhorrent than an adult man with a pre-adolescent boy? Perhaps because you and other girls were warned and had the opportunity to stay away? Perhaps because Sandusky was so devious as to start a charitable organization from which to harvest victims. There are any number of reasons, but ultimately, they are pretty insignificant. Abuse is abuse. Rape is rape. It just shows how society has trained us to react differently to different situations.

MemeGRL said...

I'm going to guess--and it's only a guess--that people were thinking of the Klever kids.

There's some saying along the lines of "Don't introduce me to that man! I hate him, and I can't hate a man I've met." And I think this is similar. We'd all love to think we'd do differently but the fact is--if it weren't so unusual, it wouldn't be newsworthy.

Thinking of you and others I know for whom this drags up all kinds of unpleasant memories.