Helping the Chronically Overworked Find Life Balance

Penn State & Idolatry Part I

“I hope they write I made Penn State a better place, not just that I was a good football coach.” Modified Flickr CC image

Chapter 2: Idolatry Then & Now Part 9

This week we will be wrapping up the chapter on idolatry, by tying the traditional concepts to the modern day as a preference to the next chapter on corporate culture. 

In both 1998, and 2001, the top officials at Penn State University decided not to report assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky for child abuse, who in 2012 was convicted of 45 counts, including crimes that happened after 2001.

Why did this happen?  Because Penn State University propagated a culture of idolatry, a value system that put the interests of the institution, (its football program in particular) ahead of the welfare of people.

According to the report by former FBI Director Louis Freeh, Penn State had a “reverence for football program ingrained at all levels of the university.” This started from the top, with a “president who discouraged discussion and dissent,” and included the person who switched off CNN on the TV in the Penn State student center just before the Freeh Report was released.

Outside of Penn State, the reaction against Joe Paterno, the former coach who more than anyone else could have acted to stop Sandusky, has been swift.  Nike removed Paterno’s name from a child developmemt center on its Beaverton Oregon Campus.  Artist Michael Pilato painted over the halo over Joe Paterno’s head on the mural he painted in downtown State College PA.

 

2 pictures of PSU Graduation via Flickr CC

And now, the latest wrinkle says it all.  Should the 7 foot tall statue of Joe Paterno be taken down?  According to a recent article in the LA Times, university officials are unsure, and the community is divided.

Anyone care to guess what I think?

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Upset about Penn State? Then Prevent It From Happening Again!

Today’s guest post is from me.  We’ll get back to Busting Your Corporate Idol on Monday.

“The most saddening finding by the Special Investigative Counsel is the total and consistent disregard by the most senior leaders at Penn State for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims.” – The Freeh Report p 14

If you are interested in my thoughts on how the culture of Penn State enabled this tragedy, and is the embodiment of institutional idolatry, come back on Monday.  I realized that if that is all I had to say, I too, would be ignoring the victims of child abuse.  People come first, so let me share what I have learned about child predators.  Kudos to those news reports that have included experts on child abuse, who have taught me that this is no longer an issue of laws, it is an issue of awareness.

“The overwhelming majority of child sexual abuse victims are abused by someone they know and trust, someone most parents would never suspect.”

For those who prefer statistics, according to the American Psychological association, 60% of perpetrators are known the the parents, 30% are relatives of the child, and just 10% are strangers.  This particularly hits home for me.  I met a family friend’s husband at a wedding and later learned that he was sexually abusing their children.  His own children.  I met him and never in a million years would have guessed.  And she didn’t figure it out for years.

So wearing my business, problem solving hat, if 60% of the problem comes from known, trusted people, how to we as a society solve the problem?

I think a model system is the Safe Haven program, designed by the The American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO).  The Safe Haven program was designed to “prevent opportunities for abuse to occur while minimizing opportunities for volunteers to be misunderstood or falsely accused. The guidelines hold coaches responsible for all players, for maintaining supervision protocols, and maintaining appropriate adult/child boundaries.”

Here are the three rules I learned in Safe Haven training as a coach for my daughters’ soccer teams.

  1. A coach is never alone with a child, ever.
  2. A coach never touches a child, ever.
  3. For girls teams, at least one adult woman must be present at every practice.  And if no woman is available, the practice is canceled.  In San Carlos, where I live,  my town, this is taken very seriously.  Once  when I was an assistant coach, the head coach spent the first 15 minutes of practice calling moms until he found one to come to the field.
What is great about The Safe Haven is that everyone involved with the soccer league, the parents, coaches, referees, and kids are all trained on these rules.  The program works exactly as designed – the kids are safe, and the coaches are never in a position where they could be questioned or falsely accused.

What to do if you come across the unthinkable?

What would you do if you found out a close friend, coworker, or aquantance was molesting kids?  One mother involved with the Penn State tragedy confronted Jerry Sandusky when she though he had molested her son.  Don’t do it.  Monsters like him are master manipulators.  You would have a better chance of winning a chess match against world champion Viswanathan Anand of India than you would of learning the truth yourself.  None of us are prepared for such things.  Call for professional help immediately.
Your company may have a policy to inform HR,  your boss, or local security.  Some good people at Penn State followed that procedure, and Sandusky continued to hurt kids for years.  In my opinion, if you see something obvious, just call the police on the spot, and call the chain of command later.  After all the national scrutiny on the failings at Penn State, this is one time to ask for forgiveness later for not following procedure.
You do not need to have proof to call in the professionals like the police or a doctor.  It is not your call whether someone should be prosecuted or investigated.  Present what you know and let the professionals work it out.
Another option is to call the Childhelp.org hotline .  1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453).  After reviewing a number of websites, this one seems to be the best.  From Childhelp.org:
 “A qualified crisis counselor will answer and assist you, if you:
  • Have questions about the signs of child abuse.
  • Need to find out how to report known or suspected abuse.
  • Have questions about the reporting process and what you might expect through the process.
  • Want a referral to an agency, counseling or other services near where you live.
  • Need help and want to talk to a counselor.
  • Are in physical or emotional crisis and need support and encouragement
  • Connect you to the best possible resources in your area.
In summary, 90% of child abuse is by people known to the child.  We can do our part to dramatically cut down on child buse by doing the following two things.
1. Set rules for your kids that prevent them from being alone with adults.  Pedaphiles often groom kids by offering special favors or attention. For more information on the danger signs, see http://www.childhelp.org/pages/blow-the-whistle-on-child-abuse
2. Make sure that you, and everyone you know, knows what to do if they see something. Call 1-800-4-A-Child.  We don’t need a witch hunt, but we do need to make sure to bring in a professional if we have reason to believe children are being hurt.  Pedophiles can remain undetected for years, and  hurt multiple children.  And abused kids are much more likely to become abusers themselves.
As uncomfortable as the topic may be, please pass this information on.  It is a concrete step we all can take to make sure that something like this can never happen again.