A few days after the Penn State story broke, I was reminded of something in high school, something I have probably not thought about in over or at least close to 20 years. Something quite honestly I would rather forget. But even my sorry memory still works every now and again.
When I was a senior in high school, a friend of mine told me her stepfather was molesting her.
When this memory came back to me, I immediately felt guilty. I questioned why I did not tell a teacher or my parents. Was it fear? Was I thinking I was somehow protecting my friend by keeping quiet? I honestly don't recall if she asked me not to tell anyone, though I am guessing probably. This friend was close to a teacher, whom I seem to recall she told. It seems likely I thought that since he knew, I did not need to get anyone else involved. I also remember that my friend was seeing a therapist, so maybe at the time I figured what else could I do. But if I have learned anything from the sordid Penn State story, you should never assume someone else is taking care of something.
We (well, at least I) want to believe the best about people. When I am confronted with something contrary to that, I often have a hard time wrapping my head around it (see my posts regarding things others said my kid did, which she denied). Did I think my friend was making this up? Maybe. I do recall wondering why she was getting in the car with her stepfather when this was going on. But as a 16- or 17-year-old, I probably could not process what was going on as well as an adult could or should. I had a good family; didn't everyone? How can an adult do something like that? She said her mom know, so why would her mom let it keep happening?
I will be 40 in just over two weeks. I don't see the world today in the same way I did when I was in high school (or in college, or even in my 20s). And as a parent and a teacher, I have pretty strong views about children. I can assure you that if a child came to me today and said she was being abused in any way, I would take action. But I can also say what I would do would depend on who told me, where (school versus at a social outing) that person told me, and what exactly was said.
I hope that friend from high school is doing okay. In fact, I may reach out to her sibling on Facebook to ask. But I hope even more that people will get involved rather than shy away from what is uncomfortable. Sometimes doing nothing is even worse than doing something.