Most of you know I am a HUGE Michigan Wolverines’ fan. I love college football and, for me, there is nothing like Saturday afternoons in autumn. Love, love, love them!
Although Michigan wasn’t scheduled until 3:30 Saturday, I was up and interested to tune in to the Penn State/Nebraska kickoff at noon. Most of the world knows what has happened at Penn State in the last week. When news of a scandal involving a former assistant coach allegedly engaging in sexual acts with young boys broke last Saturday, it took less than a week to topple the career of one of the most beloved and successful coaches in the game, as well as ending the careers of several high-ranking officials deemed culpable in the scandal’s coverup. The fallout is far-reaching and it promises to continue for months and, more likely, years to come.
I watched last night as ten thousand people from the Penn State community held a candle light vigil for the young victims, now in their early twenties. I watched today, prior to kickoff, when an entire stadium fell silent as both teams kneeled at midfield in silent prayer.
The images were touching, absolutely. But I couldn’t help thinking to myself….
Stop the silence.
Stop moments of silence and vigils of silence. Stop bowing your heads and stop closing your eyes.
I wish they would have had a moment of screaming. Of noise. Of punching their fists in the air and stomping.
I wish the band would have played a hundred different songs at the same time. I wish the fans would have jumped up and down in the bleachers until it registered on the Richter Scale.
Because silence is what got us to this place to begin with.
It was silence along too many disturbing links up the chain of command that failed to save, not only the child in the shower with the 60-year-old man, but every boy molested by that man afterward.
In disturbing and criminal moments of silence all over the world, people choose to turn the other way, to not make waves, to not create awkwardness, to mind their own business, to keep peace in the family, to keep their jobs, to keep things simpler, to pretend it didn’t happen…
And the sounds of silence, of all that screaming silence, has been the graveyard for countless dreams, for future healthy relationships, for wonderful self-esteem and all the other facets of life stolen from young victims everywhere.
I was seven when I was first molested. Seven.
Seven is for snow pants and construction paper turkeys for Thanksgiving. Seven is for flag football and dance recitals and patent leather shoes. For swim lessons and cursive writing and licking the mixer of cake batter. Seven is for dressing up and dancing around and singing freely and watching cartoons.
I was seven and enduring the sickness of a man forty years my senior. His words. His whispers. His mouth. His hands. His body.
It went on for five years. And, in that time, there were some before me and some after me who suffered as well. And the sounds of silence saved none of us.
There were people who knew and people who suspected and none stepped in, stepped up or stepped across that line where doing right means more than anything.
None barged in and threw him off me. None grabbed those huge hands from the teeny nipples of a seven year old and beat him for me. No one called the police. No one did anything.
And I found out about the sounds of silence. Silence only pierced by the sound of young tears wondering why…..
I am a healthy 46-year-old who has put in the time and done the painstaking work of sexual abuse recovery. In therapy. In my heart. In my body. In my mind. In my soul. I know healthy love and I enjoy healthy love. I have self-esteem and confidence and pride. I will look you in the eye and I will shake your hand. I will stand up for me. I am not ashamed of what I experienced, nor do I feel complicit in it.
I am well.
But I weep for the little girl who knew what a French Kiss was by the second grade. I weep for the teenager who, when other girls were all giggling about their first kisses and first touches, knew my first kiss was not one to be celebrated. Knew that it was dark and secretive and there was nothing innocent or sweet about it.
The last thing those young boys from the Penn State sexual abuse scandal need are more moments of silence. They’ve endured enough silence to last a lifetime.
If anything good comes out of the wreckage that, one week ago, appeared to be one of the finest institutions in America, let it be the determination of the countless who may one day have the chance to really make some noise. To stop bowing their heads in silence and, instead, to raise up and scream their bloody heads off in order to stop child sexual abuse.
Make the waves. Suffer the awkwardness. Stand up to the pressure. Be strong in the face of what is simply right. Be determined and resolute in the mission to save our kids. To keep them precious and innocent for as long as THEY choose.
Save the sounds of silence for the dead. Leave the bowed heads and the closed eyes for those whose futures are already lost.
Let’s do something while we’re living that actually saves the living. Celebrates, protects and cherishes the living. Let’s give them the futures they deserve. Let’s preserve them the innocence they were gifted.
Make some noise. They’re counting on us.