Sunday, June 24, 2012

Blind Side

My most recent article (published 6/21-one day before the verdict) for The Well Written Woman (thewellwrittenwoman.com) about the Sandusky case.



In the moments immediately following my live broadcast late last November I made a silent promise to myself that I would not make any further public comment about that...that...mess (for lack of a better word that fully encompassed the news that was coming out of State College, PA the previous week).  No blogging, tweeting, Facebooking, and certainly no further radio broadcasts. Not because I didn’t have very strong opinions.  Quite the contrary. However, I knew from years of personal experience and years of education in psychology and counseling, that my “strong opinions” forged out of my own childhood sexual abuse were the very thing that caused all hopes of any objectivity toward the Sandusky situation to go flying out the closest window. I don’t live far from Pittsburgh, PA and the local news as well as the national news was thick with the daily developments. I actually did an admirable job at keeping my promise to myself, only slipping up once last week when, in my frustration over the judge allowing the defense to introduce testimony that Sandusky has the psychological disorder Histrionic Personality Disorder, I posted this on Facebook:

“What Bugs Bunny would look like if he were human....and a pedophile.”

The overwhelming response was from friends who were ticked that I had insulted Bugs Bunny. My point being was that, in my opinion, this man indeed has a psychological disorder. It’s called Pedophilia.

After my Facebook outburst I once again recommitted to sit and watch the proceedings in silence. That lasted about a day when I came to the realization that it is people who sat in silence-people who saw but turned a blind eye-that allowed this alleged abuse to continue for years and claim undoubtedly more victims than the “Sandusky 8” who are putting themselves and those who love them through a living Hell by reliving a pain so deep and multifaceted. A pain that has shaped and will continue to shape every one of their days for the rest of their lives.

For me, it was the summer of 1976. I was getting ready to turn 10 years old that September. My family and I lived in a townhouse/apartment complex in the small town in rural West Virginia where I was born. I was a tomboy-all pigtails and dirt-and loved spending dawn to dusk playing outside everyday and trying to master the skateboard I got the previous Christmas.There was a nice, friendly, elderly man who lived in one of the bottom apartments next to our town home who would always wave and say "Hello" as he carried his groceries in from his car. I can still see that car. It was a 4 door olive green sedan. One day after he had been to the grocery store he was sitting on his front porch and called me over and presented a big bag of Brachs Candy which was sold in bulk at our local grocery. He asked me if I would like some, and I of course eagerly said "Yes!"   As I was exploring all the goodies in the white bag with it's trademark pink and purple stripes around the center something so strange happened. This man reached down the front of my tank top and began rubbing my chest.  Now I was brought up to not question my elders and I just remember feeling afraid so I grabbed a few pieces of candy, and said "thank you" over my shoulder as I ran back toward my house. As time went by he became more and more insistent that I "come visit him" on his porch or as he sat in his car and he would always give me candy and rub my private parts and attempted to expose himself to me. At 9 1/2  I didn't know I was being molested.  I didn't even know what that meant, but even at that young age I instinctively knew that something was very, very wrong and found it upsetting on the deepest of levels. I can't remember if he told me not to tell anyone, but I was too ashamed to. I wish I could tell you why I went back each time he called me over, but I don't really know for sure. I think I was afraid not to go because he might tell my parents something bad about me and I would get into trouble. He began to pressure me and he was old enough to be my grandfather and I tried to respect his wishes for "a visit" and hope and pray the next time would be different and he wouldn't touch me. My prayers went unanswered.

Later that summer, he died. I remember seeing the ambulance in the parking lot and watching them wheel his body out covered with a white sheet. Everyone in the neighborhood was gathered around talking about what a tragedy it was that he died alone.  I had such mixed emotions. Part of me was thankful he was gone and I wouldn't have to endure the shame and anxiety of what I was feeling or any more "visits". I was happy, angry, confused, and relieved all at the same time. I thought you were supposed to just feel really sad when someone died, weren't you?

I told my mother what had happened.  She got very angry with me and told me I shouldn’t have gone over to visit him in the first place and it wasn’t spoken of again. This kind of reaction is, unfortunately, so common in abuse cases. I call it “the second assault”.  The victim suffers the initial physical/verbal/emotional/sexual assault and then (usually after much worry, sleepless nights, and paralyzing fear) finally reaches out for help only to be called a “liar”. I’ve found it is usually less a case of disbelief and more a case of not wanting, for whatever reason, to believe. I saw this very thing happen yesterday in the Sandusky case when Dottie Sandusky, wife of the Defendant, took the stand.  

Showing up looking her most matronly in a light green sweater set, bespeckled with a fluffy white do (a la Mrs. Clause), the 69 year old looked like she would be much better suited to baking homemade cookies for children than testifying in a court proceeding about the severe sexual abuse of children. However, she had a job to do. She was there to hopefully help her husband of 45 years not spend the rest of his life in prison.  Unfortunately, she went  on the attack when asked about the alleged victims. She described Victim 1 as ''clingy,'' Victim 9 as ''a charmer'' and Victim 4 as ''very conniving, and he wanted his way and he didn't listen a whole lot.'' Please keep in mind that these children, like all of the other children involved in Sandusky’s “Second Mile” program, were underprivileged and often fatherless. How can an 8 year old underprivileged boy be described as “clingy” or “conniving”? When 10 years later he is accusing your husband of unthinkable acts that took place in your own home...while you were there.

That knowledge would be a lot for anyone to process. If these allegations are true, then it basically means that the bulk of Dottie Sandusky’s life has been a lie. The man she thought she was married to for the last 45 years, their 6 children (all adopted), the “Second Mile” Foundation (based on the scripture Matthew 5:41: "And whosoever shall compel thee to go one mile, go with him two.") she started with her husband in 1977....it all would be forever tainted. Her reality would no longer be reality. Dottie Sandusky is not only fighting to save her husband’s future, but she is fighting to save her and her family’s entire past.

This is why people time and time again take victims, even children, of salacious crimes and put them on trial. This is why we ask the rape victim what she was wearing at the time of attack as we somehow try to formulate a reason for the attack.  After all, bad things only happen to bad people.  Right?  I mean, if it’s true that a man who was inducted into the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame in 1999 and received the 1993 NAACP Human Rights Award, the 1995 YMCA Service-To-Youth Award and the 1996 SGMA Heroes Award is discovered to have used the very organization for wayward boys based on Christian principles he and his wife founded as a picking field for his victims for decades, then what does that say about us?  What does that say about the “safety” of our own children, or grandchildren?  

There are a couple important questions to ask of ourselves as we watch the Sandusky proceedings.  Was this just another person who was very skilled at staying in our collective blind side?  Or did we, and do we in many cases, choose to look away to somehow protect ourselves?






Monday, June 18, 2012

The (Eye) Candyman Can

My first article for The Well Written Woman (thewellwrittenwoman.com).  Enjoy!!




Well, it’s official. All of my future Halloweens have been forever tainted...ruined really. This morning I was passing by the television just as Matt Lauer was discussing the new print ad for Snickers. If you haven’t had the pleasure, here it is:




This ad is so disturbing on so many levels I scarcely know where to begin...oh wait...yes I do.  Let’s begin with the woman pictured in only her underwear with someone wearing boxing gloves approaching her from behind. I don’t know about you, but that image causes every stranger-danger-domestic-violence-abuse alert nerve in my body fire simultaneously and every hair on the back of my neck stand at attention. Then there is the fact that an image of a nearly naked woman is the focal point in a print ad for a candy bar. Ew. I mean...seriously??  Who was the marketing genius who said “Hey, I’ve got an idea!  Let’s use sex to sell the candy!! It seems to work well for the beer and liquor people.”  

Just when you think the Snickers marketing department has lost its collective mind and this ad could not possibly be more uncomfortable to look at, you then have to ponder the tag line: “You’re not you when you’re hungry”. Just let that sink in for a moment. It obviously infers that since you have not consumed a Snickers prior to having a sexual encounter that your sure fire one handed bra removal technique that you have been perfecting since your sophomore year in high school will suddenly be rendered ineffective. I mean is Snickers now branching into Viagra’s territory?  “Take Viagra with Snickers 30 minutes to 1 hour before sexual activity.  Contact your doctor or seek emergency medical attention if your erection is painful or lasts longer than 4 hours...or if your blood sugar spikes”  

How am I ever going to be able to give Snicker to kids after all of this? I normally treat with “Fun Size” Snickers for Halloween, but now that has a whole new...downright “icky” connotation. Damn you Snickers. Why couldn’t  you just stay on the really clever path you were on with the “You’re not you when you’re hungry” campaign.  Stars like Betty White, Abe Vigoda portrayed football players who hadn’t had there Snickers fix and were subsequently, not themselves. Joan Collins and Stephanie Beacham played these roles in the in the UK version and both versions were very witty, humorous, and had people talking. Other stars such as Richard Lewis and Roseanne Barr, Liza Minnelli and Aretha Franklin, as well as Joe Pesci and Don Rickles did the “You’re not you when you’re hungry” commercials and they were very humorous and attention grabbing. You actually got the clear point across that if you didn’t eat a Snickers you wouldn’t be yourself. Ok, I’m willing to overlook the glaring false advertising and the truth that had been stretched so far it was on the verge of snapping back and hitting you upside your creepy “do you want some candy little girl” bean, but somehow, you made it work and it was fun and it turned into a successful, award winning advertising campaign for you.  My question is, why, why, WHY did you have to bring sex into it? After all guys, we ARE talking about candy...candy!  Kids are still considered to be the largest consumers of candy. Kids and candy go together like...well...kids and candy!! If you are trying to target the dads of the kids with the flash of flesh and sexual innuendo, here’s a word of advice from the modern day prophet Ice Cube:: “Check yo’ self before yo’ wreck yo’ self”.  American adults are overweight and are riddled with diabetes and other disease related to obesity. Don’t add to the problem by using the fear of sub par sexual performance if your candy bar isn’t at the ready. Geeze Snickers...you use to be my favorite.  Now when I look at you I just feel dirty and objectified. You don’t understand me anymore Snickers. Snickers...I never thought I would say this but, it’s over. Tap dance your tacky nutty goodness elsewhere and don’t let the door hit you in your chocolatey shell on the way out.  I will remember the good times but I don’t know you anymore. Goodbye Snick...we will always have those afternoon rendezvous at  the vending machine in the break room where you indeed lived up to your promise, “satisfies”.