As the news and Web chatter about the child-abuse case at Penn State grows and mutates, people all over the Web are understandably talking about it. This is a good thing: the more attention we bring to child abuse, the better. It is something we should stop.
Unfortunately, of course, some of the comments are offensively stupid. I've seen a few and had friends point me to others. Here are a few of the worst.
What did the child do to encourage the abuse?
Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Nothing a child can do, no matter how outrageous the behavior, is reason enough for abuse.
In the main case here, we're talking an eleven-year-old boy being raped repeatedly by a grown man. Get this straight:
It is not the boy's fault. Rape is never the victim's fault.
It is the man's fault.
Come on, he was 11. That's hardly a child.
I'm so glad I only read this comment and didn't have someone say it to my face. I really don't want to get in more fights. I don't want to punch out a stranger.
This comment, though, deserves it. Yes, 11 is still a child. In case you haven't noticed, we have laws that specify when adulthood occurs, and 11 is years before that age. More to the point, though, just go see a few eleven-year-olds, or remember what you were like then. They are children. Period.
Why didn't the boy tell anybody?
Odds are, he tried. If he didn't, it was probably because the abuser told him not to, and because he was terrified. We're talking a child being raped by an adult in a position of trust. This child had no clue what to do, was terrified, violated, and in mental and physical anguish.
Why didn't the boy stop it?
First, see the punching comment above. Exactly how should the boy have stopped the abuse? Fought off the man? Over-powered him? Run away from home--a path as likely as any, by the way, to lead to more abuse? At age 11?
The boy was powerless.
I could go on, but you get the idea: When anyone tries to make this the victim's fault, that person is wrong. Period.
If you are an abuse victim yourself, and I am, you have heard all of these before. You have tried to tell people, and they have told you that what happened to you was your fault, or it was disgusting, or you should just get over it. You have learned to hide the abuse because surely, surely there was something you did to deserve it, something wrong with you that made this horrible thing happen to you, and you should have found a way to stop it.
No. No. No.
That is all bullshit. It is the set of lies others tell themselves to rationalize their acceptance of fundamentally unacceptable behavior or to avoid the ugly reality--an avoidance that encourages the continuation of these horrors.
Here is the simple, single most important truth:
It is not your fault.You did nothing to deserve it.
You could not have stopped it.
It is not your fault.
In the Penn State case, it is not the fault of any of the boys. Saying otherwise is not only stupid but damaging, because each time someone says it, they condone abuse, and they are wrong.