By Beth Morrison HAVEN CEO
Imagine this scene in the Penn State Football locker room: Coach Paterno walks in and gives his players the horrific news, that one of their own was caught raping a young boy. He talks about how proud he is of his young graduate assistant coming forward with what he had witnessed. He shares how difficult it was to sit with this young man as they contacted authorities, including the police. He shares his outrage at the abuser and how victimizing children is wrong. He challenges his players to be active in ending violence against women and children and they discuss how they, this privileged team of young men, can make a difference.
Wow, what a powerful scene. Sadly, we now know that this is not the scene that played out at Penn State. Instead it was football as usual and the silence on this horrific crime was condoning.
Those of us that are parents, or work with children, look for teachable moments. Boy, did Penn State miss an incredible teachable moment! But it is not too late to turn current events into just that. With Joe Paterno out, as well as many others, it is time for the Board of Trustees, other coaches, players, and students to step up to the plate. What if the students who rioted on Wednesday night in support of Paterno put the same amount of energy into action – action to end sexual violence. Education on the crime of sexual violence, teaching and modeling how the community can take an active role in its elimination, relooking at coaching and how it is more than coaching to win, but to grow responsible young men and women – this should be the focus of Penn State.
Ironically, Penn State has been placed in the “Leaders” division of the Big Ten. We know Penn State failed in this area over the past 10 years in not fulfilling their legal, moral, and ethical obligation to protect children. Now is the time for their final exam – will they be a Leader in setting a new course for their community and for college athletics in general? Does Penn State and Happy Valley have what it takes to be a true winner, a winner for leading a life without violence?
But the same question can be poised for our own community – does Oakland County have what it takes to eliminate violence against women and children? Are our coaches, school officials, athletes, parents, and community members ready to step up their game and address the horrific crimes that are happening right here at home? Ready to learn more, ready to be engaged? Let me know, let’s talk, let’s start something new.