It does take a village and there was no village in the Happy Valley

Hillary Rodham Clinton took the African proverb “It takes a child to raise a village” and turned it into both a book and a household phrase. For years many parents liked to refer to this phrase in their own child rearing, it was a feel good phrase but the sad reality is that to often while we like to use such snappy and seemingly deep phrases they really mean nothing for most of us.

Back when I re-entered the parenting world in 2005, I was desperate to find my village especially as I was living 1100 miles from my closest family members and the matriarchs of my family had passed on. What I found in my journey with meeting other parents of small kids and babies was that they too wanted a village but a village on their own terms. They needed the village to reflect their values and pretty much shunned anyone who wanted to enter the village that was not just like them. I never did quite find my village though in the past three years of working with families in need, I know that many consider me to be a part of their village. Moms who know that at the end of the day I see no difference between their child and my own children, legally I am required to keep kids safe but that does not drive my work, it’s the fact that if we want to make our time on this rock a little better, we all need to give a damn.

Sadly the village overall is lacking, to many times we say one thing but our actions say something else. Many of us are self-absorbed, over worked and for whatever reason our village has no room for those unlike us. I can only imagine that to be the case in the current horrific tale coming out of the ironically named Happy Valley home of Penn State.

Unless you have been under a rock for the past several days or on a media diet, you surely have heard the horrific tale of Jerry Sandusky who was the defensive coordinator of Penn State’s football team. Turns out Sandusky was not a good guy, instead there are multiple allegations of child molestation. What’s worse it seems many knew that Sandusky was a pedophile; talk is that perhaps there was a large scale cover-up. As of this writing both the president of Penn State and the fabled legendary coach Joe Paterno known as JoPa have both been sacked. I admit I wasn’t trying to pay attention to this story since the truth is the older I get these types of stories hurt my soul. In light of my day job, there is only so much misery I can take in before it affects me but in trying to avoid this story there was one tidbit that has haunted me since this story broke. It seems several years ago a then 22 year old graduate assistant by the name of Mike McQueary walked in on Sandusky sexually assaulting a 10 year old boy in the shower. Mike saw this assault in action and rather than going BGIM style Rambo and ripping that sick bastard off the kid, he left and called JoPa who in turn called school’s athletic director and a vice president. Apparently no one saw fit to call the damn police, in the end though that graduate assistant went onto a position on the team and Sandusky eventually retired.

Rumor circulating on the twitters is that many of the young boys that Sandusky assaulted were Black, frankly race is irrelevant, a child is a child and as adults our job is to keep kids safe, any child, not just our own. Yet I can’t help wondering if these boys are Black is that the reason the village failed? I know college athletics is big money and no one wants to stop the cash flow but it’s a lot easier considering that for most of us we only want to accept the village if it’s just like us. For starters if the rumors are correct chances are decent that these boys come from families of limited means where just the dream of going to college is a big deal. For all involved in the possible cover-up the reality is they simply did not see these children as part of their village for if they had, someone would have called the cops a long time ago. For if someone was hurting a member of our family or our personal village most of us would stop at nothing to end that hurt

It does take a village to raise a child, hell it takes a village just to live these days but in order for that village to truly be functional we need to expand our meaning of the village. If the village includes those from different races, ethnicity and social classes we will be less likely to turn our backs when a member of the village is hurting or needs help.

4 thoughts on “It does take a village and there was no village in the Happy Valley”

  1. Excellent post…

    I do believe it takes a village to raise a child, especially these days. You are correct that most of us are self absorbed and that there is only so much time we have to help others. We don’t even have enough time for ourselves.

    But, I hope we as a country never lose sight of how important it is to protect our most innocent, defenseless citizens. Whether they be the elderly, handicapped, mentally ill, or children. No matter their skin color or religion, they need to be protected. At the very least if we see or have a strong suspicion of abuse, the authorities (police) have to be contacted.

    It saddens me to read about college cover-ups of rape because the accused is a football player, basketball player, coach, etc.. We need to realize that rape allegations must be prioritized over a college’s image. Who cares if a football team is great, if it is part of a rape cover-up. Like Notre Dame’s Elizabeth Seeberg, who committed suicide after an allege rape by a Notre Dame football player. This is not the first time Notre Dame has neglected to deal with rape allegations of their sports players. Penn State also puts their image of football above the safety & protection of children and/or women. To the point where a violent rape of a 10 year old is not considered serious enough to contact the police.

    We, as the village, have to step up to the next level of integrity and protect those poor innocents who have no one looking over them. True, it won’t always be easy or convenient, but doing the right thing rarely is.

  2. Reading this ongoing story and watching it unfold, I am amazed that those who knew about it just kept quiet. I also wish I could say this was a situation where any boy could have been affected, but this person chose to victimize children who were already vulnerable and who were probably hungry for attention.(I know of course, not all those who work with children do this).
    My ex-husband is Hispanic and when our son wanted to join the scouts, he (my ex) was so reluctant to let him join. It turns out that a local very prominant business man (who made it his business to be a scoutmaster in the projects and poor areas to give these kids “a special chance”) had sexually molested him for 5 years starting when he was 10. My ex said he was so hungry for a loving father figure and flattered at first to be given special attention and gifts, but later didn’t know how to stop it and besides, who was going to listen to a poor “Mexican” kid. (he also said that when he heard that the man had died, he was so relieved).
    I want to think that we would listen to all children and that race or socioeconomic status wouldn’t matter but I guess there are still people who think that only children from “good families” are worthy of concern.

  3. We are a sports-centric household so this news has been bubbling under my radar for several months, but the scope of it is horrifying beyond anything that I had initially heard from the rumor mill.

    And you hit the nail on the head in terms of the race/class component. Last spring a small but vocal number of posters on the sports boards I frequent were quick to point out that Sandusky “mentored disadvantaged youth” which of course meant that any allegations were fraudulent.

    The grad student/assistant coach apparently called his father first, and than he spoke to someone (not the police as you pointed out) the next day. Within two years he had a six figure salary & Daddy-o had a new house on camous. This morally bankrupt individual continues to be employed by Penn State causing me to wonder what else he saw and knows…

  4. I’ve been avoiding news about it because it just tears me up as well. To the extent that the news has found me, I’ve also been wondering about the likely race of the boys and how much the white authority-black kid dynamic might have driven the willingness to sweep this under the rug.

    How, how devastating to learn about all of the high-level complicity in the victimization of a group of vulnerable kids. And the fact that it happened in the context of an organization set up to “help” them…do you worry at all about the impact this might have on non-profits working to help economically disadvantaged kids?

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