I hate bandwagons. I really do. But sometimes something comes up in the news that I have a hard time shaking off. The Penn State scandal is one of these things. There is no reason for me to repeat how awful it all is. No reason to speculate about what should be done in the football world, of which I care so little about, but there is reason for me to talk about childhood sexual abuse and whistleblowing.
Accusing someone of sexually abusing a minor is a big deal. What are we supposed to do when we suspect—when we have a gut feeling—that someone we care about is being abused?
That was my situation.
I never witnessed any actual abuse, but I began to suspect that something bad was happening. My suspicions were based on the behaviors of the victims, the children, and the fact that the abuser gave me the creeps. I didn’t have any hard evidence to go on, but as I was getting more mature and learning more about the psychological fallout of sexual abuse, things began to add up.
Still, I didn’t say anything.
I was afraid of being wrong. I was afraid of not being believed. Even though the clues were all there, I doubted myself. I even tried to convince myself that I was wrong because to be right about such a thing meant that a family I loved would be torn apart.
Eventually, the truth came out and the abuser was exposed. But his downfall had nothing to do with any courage on my part. The victims, the children he hurt, were the ones who were brave, and they had so much more at stake than me.
Every day I wish I had said something. I wish I had confronted the abuser. I wish I had talked with the children, established myself as a safe person to talk to. Instead I let my fears and my insecurities keep me quiet. I let denial and Christian goodwill cloud my better judgment.
The very ugly truth of the matter is that had I voiced my concerns in some way the abuse might have stopped sooner than it did. I suspected that something was very wrong and yet I was so worried about being wrong or causing a scene, that I said nothing.
Many years have passed since all of this happened and I still ask myself the question every day. “What could I have done?” I never draw a blank. I can always think of something I should have or could have done.
I am ashamed and I am sorry.