by Nkeshi Free
For the past year, like most Americans, I kept up with the Jerry Sandusky/Penn State situation. As one who works in sports, I was aware of every breaking development. The irony is that for someone as opinionated and talkative as me, this is the one time I have kept quiet. The quiet allowed me time to think and gather my thoughts which have been all over the place since the scandal first broke in the fall of the 2011.
I’ve heard many words and terms used to express the myriad emotions that people felt about the scandal. I’ve heard anger, disgust, rage, sadness, shock, horror etc…, but the word I’ve heard the least is fear.
I want to talk about that fear from the perspective of a single mom. I feel fear that what happened to those babies could happen to my son or my daughters. From now on, how am I supposed to trust his future athletic coach(s) or scout leader or even a male mentor? How do I know that when he’s old enough to go away for that weekend scout camping trip that someone won’t sneak into his tent, shower etc.?
Single moms know that it takes a village to raise a child. Therefore, many of us do our best to create a nurturing environment, built of a collective of positive adult role models. Day after day, we turn our babies over to these adults hoping they reinforce the values and beliefs we teach at home. Now, because of the fear, I’m uncertain if coaches, teachers, mentors tutors can be trusted.
Unfortunately, that parental fear is not limited to the individual, but now the systems which govern these predators. Checks and balances were not in place in at Penn State to protect these children. Paterno, the school administration, and even down to the janitor failed these children and their parents.
They irony is that the people who failed them, also did so out of fear. Fear of losing a job sweeping trash, fear of losing major donors and corporate sponsorships, and fear of a tarnished legacy, kept everyone silent.
In closing, I know realistically that everyone who enters into my children’s lives is not a threat. I also realize that this tragedy could happen to anyone, of any ethnic, socio-economic, religious or cultural background. I know that my children and I can’t live in fear, nor will we, because life is too short. The problem for most parents is that trust has been broken. More importantly, the trust has been broken in a time-honored American activity and educational institution. We put our kids in these organized activities and programs which are designed to nurture them as they grow into adulthood. It’s unfair that we have to scrutinize or look twice at innocent, good hearted adults, the ones who have nothing but the best of intentions which are to make a difference in the lives of others. Unfortunately, trust once broken is difficult to repair.