At first, when I heard about what Jerry Sandusky was alleged to have done to young boys, I couldn’t stop thinking about the boys. How scared and worried they had to have been. How hurt and ashamed. And, this is really what bothered me the most, how unimportant they were in the bigger scheme of things at Penn State.
They were not important enough to listen to. Fundamentally, that’s what happened. Their little 10-year old selves, no matter how many of them there were, could not compete on that big Penn State turf. Little Gatorade bottles on the sidelines, that’s what they were. That put me in a weird place where nausea and rage intersect.
But lately I’ve been thinking about these boys as men. We haven’t heard or seen any of them so we don’t know how they are feeling now about what happened then.
So I am just conjecturing based on my own life and what I know and have seen and have felt. I think that what happened to them had to have been crazy-making.
Oh, I don’t mean this in the sense of causing depression or PTSD – those conditions are probable consequences of this situation. I’m talking about something else.
I mean this in the sense of a boy’s trust in reality, perception of the facts, recollection of events as they actually happened being cracked and smeared and run over by Humvees until he’s not even sure his own life was real.
A source I found (http://verbalabusejournals.com) defines crazy-making as an “abuser’s weapon of choice. If s/he successfully throw you off balance and teetering, then you are easier to control. Easier for the abuser to control – you feel crazy.”
I think that’s what happened here – that the reality, the normalcy with which people continued to treat the alleged abuser, his continued welcome on the Penn State campus, the lack of repurcussions or law enforcement concern – all of it had to have piled up into a sharp and rusty, tangled mess for those boys to men.
I know these boys/men have their own mothers to comfort them and go to war for them. But if I could lead a mothers’ march to each of their houses, I’d have a big sign that says —
HEY, YOU ARE NOT CRAZY.
Do not be ashamed.