Dear little boys who were hurt at Penn State,
This is not your fault.
I see the shadow of you, hiding behind the crowds as they surge in the Student Union. I see you watching the group of college men as they start shaking the news truck in anger. I see you hiding behind the bleachers as the rest of your friends cheer their football team each weekend. I see you stone-faced, watching the evening news with your family, feeling like you no longer have any air to breathe.
This is not about football. This is about you.
This is about children, who were let down. This is about the little boy in the shower, who saw an adult come around the corner and thought that adult would save him. And he didn’t. This is about being 10 years old and having your whole life ahead of you, and losing your dreams, your hope, your spirit, in one afternoon.
So instead of everyone talking about football, instead of wasting our collective Internet breath by discussing “winning streaks” and “coaching legacies”, let’s instead say to you “I’M SORRY”.
This is not about football, this is about YOU.
I spent the early part of my career working with children who had been sexually abused. 6 year olds. Toddlers. Bright-faced little kids who had been raped. What people often don’t realize, is that when a child is assaulted, it CHANGES THE TRAJECTORY OF THEIR LIFE.
It changes everything.
Children who have been hurt suddenly hurtle towards a category that no parent wants their child to fall into. We call them “high-risk”. They are at high risk for suicide. They are at high-risk for self-mutilating behaviors. They are high risk for teenage pregnancies, and drug use, and domestic violence. They suffer from PTSD, and Depression, and a general mis-trust of the grown-ups who CHOSE TO WALK OUT OF THAT LOCKER ROOM. The coaches who knew about this, and never went to the police. If these heroes failed them, then who else will? These kids have learned that no one will save them.
I would bet, that many of you whose lives were severely altered by this coach, have started the process of putting your spirits back together again. Perhaps you have had counseling. Perhaps you have found the love of a supportive partner. Perhaps you have gone on into careers that help other children like you. So I want to be one voice, in what will hopefully become a chorus of voices, that say to you “Way to go”.
This is not your fault. You came forward. You spoke up. You told someone the truth when you were so afraid. Your courage flies in the face of the cowardice of every single grown-up who heard about your pain and did nothing. You are bigger than a football legacy. You are bigger than a fight song. You are stronger and braver than any player on that team.
This is not about football. This is about your courage, and your pain, and your right to hear all of our voices tell you, finally, out-loud “I’m sorry”.
With Best Wishes For Your Ongoing Recovery,