My husband, Bobby, walked out of his workplace one afternoon and was shocked by what he saw…a young man was hitting a young woman. In public. No one was coming to her aid. At great risk to himself, my husband intervened by physically separating the man and woman, yelling at the man to stop. He restrained him away from the woman and asked if she needed the police. The man looked at him and said, “Hey, it’s okay. No worries. She’s my girlfriend!”
He responded, “So! You still can’t hit her!” He gave the girl a chance to walk away and then let the man go. The following day he saw the young woman again and she thanked him for intervening.
When he told me about the incident, I was proud of my husband for stepping in when he saw someone being abused in public. I believe he did the right thing. I believe that when you see someone being hurt or treated unjustly, it is your moral and ethical responsibility to either step in or call someone to help.
This week the Penn State University football program was rocked by a sex abuse scandal. According to news stories based on grand jury testimony, a former Assistant Coach, Jerry Sandusky, sexually assaulted at least eight young boys over a 15-year period. Sandusky worked with a Penn State organization called The Second Mile, a non-profit that serves at-risk youth. According to the findings of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury (warning, the testimony is graphic), Sandusky was the non-profit’s primary fundraiser. The organization focused on helping troubled young boys, and Sandusky used his position in the organization to find his victims.
In 2002, a graduate assistant caught Sandusky in the act of molesting a 10-year old boy in the shower of the football locker room. The grand jury testimony says, “He left immediately, distraught.” He then went to his office and called his father. After discussing the situation, they decided to talk to head coach, Joe Paterno, the next morning. That conversation happened in March of 2002. After that, not much changed. Joe Paterno kept working on his record number of victories; Jerry Sandusky continued to prey on young boys; and the graduate assistant who witnessed the abuse, Mike McQueary, continued to coach. This week he was featured in a NY Times article, and I could not help but compare this man to my husband. My husband saw a woman being hit by a man in public and made it stop. He refused to walk away and let someone else suffer. Mike McQueary saw a 10-year old boy being raped and did nothing to stop it at all. Nothing. How can someone see such an act of inhumanity and not try to stop it?
According to US Census data, a majority of kids considered “at-risk” are African-American or Hispanic. There is nothing in the grand jury testimony stating the race or ethnicity of the victims, but in all likelihood they are children of color who come from situations of poverty. The mother of one victim recently agreed to an interview on ABC, and while her face is masked to protect her privacy, she is recognizably African-American. Sandusky seemingly preyed upon poor boys of color and no one did anything to stop him, not even McQueary, who caught him in the act.
I am left wondering: Would things have been different if the child-victim had been white? Did racism play a part in McQueary’s decision to walk away while a ten-year old boy was being raped?
I am saddened and sickened by this story. I do not understand how any human being can see such an atrocity occur and just walk away as McQueary did. Even more confusing is the fact that Penn State has fired head coach Joe Paterno and other staff, but McQueary has so far only been placed on administrative leave.
Recent stories like the Casey Anthony verdict and the execution of Troy Davis make me wonder what the verdict will be in the trial of Jerry Sandusky. He is a wealthy white man representing a prestigious Big Ten football program, and his victims were poor kids of color. His victims will forever carry the scars of this scandal. But will justice be served?
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