We are…not Penn State

Some things hit closer to home than others.

Like the case of this week’s news surrounding the child sex abuse scandal at Pennsylvania State University.

I grew up with Nittany Lions in my backyard. Half my graduating class either applied to or attended Penn State or one of its many satellite campuses. Paw prints and Happy Valley magnets are stuck on hundreds of cars around here.

I’ll never forget the joke my seventh grade science teacher told us almost every Friday afternoon in the fall: Why is the sky blue and white?

Because God’s a Penn State fan.

But we never really cheered for those colors, my family and I. We were Patriots fans, Red Sox, Celtics. We didn’t root for the home team, so to speak.

And today, as I sit here reading over the reports, the horrifying, painful details of each victim’s allegations, I’ve never been less of a fan. And I doubt God is either.

How could He be when innocent children were so frighteningly violated? When the people who were supposed to protect them didn’t? When the whistles that blew every day on the field fell silent off of it?

I don’t get it. And I don’t get why we’re not more outraged. Like on facebook. I’ve heard more complaints about the time change than I have from the locals about this scandal. How can that be?

It reminds me of when Rainey was in first grade. The school was hosting a “Keep Me Safe” program for kids that gently talked about the issue of sexual abuse. Parents were welcome and even encouraged to attend, especially if they had any questions or concerns regarding this sensitive topic.

I was the only one who showed up.

If anything, I wanted Rainey to know that I was there, that I was an advocate, that I’d always be her safe place to run.

We talked about that this afternoon when we were driving home from our homeschool co-op, after she overheard me tell someone about my current status as a Penn State fan.  She asked me why. Instead of brushing it off, I decided to dive in discreetly.

“A former football coach has been accused of doing bad things to some children,” I explained.

“Like what?” she wondered.

Carefully, I replied, “he touched them where no one should ever touch a child. Do you know what I mean?”

“In their private parts?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said, “and some people knew he was doing this, some people even saw him doing it, and they never went to the police. They tried to keep it one big secret.”

“Why wouldn’t they tell?” she seemed as flabbergasted as me.

“I don’t know, sweetheart. But that’s why I’m so upset. It was bad enough that this man did those things to children. But for other people to know about it and do nothing, that’s just as awful.”

We talked for several more minutes, reviewing what she’s to do in the unimaginable event someone ever tried to do the same thing to her. And I reassured her that she can always come to me, no matter what. No secrets allowed.

“But what if the person holds a gun to your head?” she asked when I vowed to go to the police if I knew someone did that to a child – mine or anyone else’s.

“Then I’d dare him to pull the trigger.”

I went on to clarify that most people who make threats like that are afraid of getting caught, that they’ll try anything to scare kids into not tattling.

“But you go right ahead and tattle. It’s okay, you’ve got my permission.”

We rode for a minute or two in silence, then she said, “I hope those boys aren’t really badly hurt.”

And something inside me ached – for the victims involved, for their parents, for myself. I tried to explain that no, those boys probably don’t have any bumps or bruises to show, no bandaids or bleeding, but their hearts were indeed hurt. That trust is something kids feel, too. And when that is damaged, it can hurt worse than any cut ever will.

“I don’t think I’m a Penn State fan, either,” she said quietly as we pulled into the driveway, and after putting the car in park, I turned around and looked at my daughter and said, “Let’s make a deal. I’ll root for you, and you root for me, and we’ll let God deal with Penn State, ok?”

We shook on it, and I held her hand tightly as we walked through the yard, praying she be kept safe from lions everywhere, nittany or otherwise.


  1. Colleen Martin says:

    I am crying as I write this. I am touched by your conversation and I am inspired to make sure that I talk about this with my children some day.

    I went to a MOPS group where they had a professional group come in to talk with us. They made a statement that stuck with me and will forever.

    They said something along these lines – Child sexual abuse is a subject that society considers taboo to talk about when truly, if it were talked about more widely in regular conversation it would be more difficult for abusers to get away with.

    These are conversations we need to be having with our friends and around anyone we invite into our homes regularly so that -just in case they are secretly offenders – they will know we take it seriously and our children know what to do and that it will not be a “safe” place for them to practice their perversion.

    I have thought about those things a lot since the meeting. I just thought I would share.

    Love you Megs.

    • What a great MOPS group discussion. Kudos to your steering team for bringing in the professionals. And I completely agree: this atrocity grows in darkness, like fungus, so the more we talk about it and bring it into the light, the bigger impact we can have in erradicating it.

      Love you, too.

  2. WOW! Megan this puts a lot of what I am feeling into words! SO frustrating to me when people on FB are putting what PS is, not just this scandal… but they have lost A LOT of support from me! I would like to share this if I can on my FB… Thanks Megan, you have such wisdom… I need more of that! 🙂

  3. So glad i read this before Gabe asked ????s this am

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