I hadn’t planned on responding to the Penn State sex abuse scandal until I read Eve Ensler’s brilliantly angry piece about rape in the Huffington Post – and then I got mad.
The response to the Penn State sex abuse scandal has been one of the most disappointing things I’ve ever witnessed. From the muted response from the school itself to the outcry of support for the school’s beloved football coach, Joe Paterno, to the lack of focus placed on the victims themselves, I have never been more disgusted by another sex abuse scandal in my life. (Another sex abuse scandal? What kind of world do we live in that we have so many sex abuse scandals that I can rank them?)
Why am I so enraged about this subject specifically? Because it’s personal.
Many of you may be aware that I’m a survivor of sexual abuse – having been through one of the most horrific experiences as a child that you could ever imagine. As someone who prefers talking about other people’s problems as opposed to his own, understand that it’s difficult for me to talk about this. Extremely. But it’s more important to get the word out that surviving sexual abuse is a lifelong battle and one that’s taken me 30 years to overcome. 30 years – and it’s still a daily struggle.
For years I didn’t think I’d make it, and in fact was certain that I wouldn’t even make it to my 30th birthday. While most 4 year olds were learning how to tie their shoes, I was learning how to perform oral sex. And while everyone else was losing their teeth, I was losing my virginity. Think about that for a minute – then imagine what it must feel like to have a body conditioned to do one thing and a mind conditioned to do another. It’s torture, plain and simple.
I had problems focusing in school and was made to feel like an idiot when my report card would be littered with C’s, D’s and F’s. But no one had any idea what I was going through on a daily basis. I was more concerned with filling my body’s craving for danger than I was with filling everyone else’s need for me to be a good student. I tried so hard to focus and keep my demons at bay, but I was never able to. They always found a way of infiltrating my mind just as they’d physically infiltrated my body, at the hand of someone else, as a four year-old.
I’ve struggled for decades to accept myself and my body’s sexual desires. I’ve fought and fought and fought myself and I’ve only just begun to understand that it’s possible to keep your body’s craving for danger at bay and invite love inside instead. If that sounds crazy, it’s because it is! Because of what I went through as a four year-old, I’ve been forced to talk to my body and tell it that everything’s going to be ok. I’ve had to keep the craving for fear out, in order to try and lead some semblance of normal life – all while growing up as a homosexual male.
I’ve always struggled with using the word ‘survivor’ to describe myself after what I’ve been through. Why? Because like most victims, I’ve been shamed into a life of never wanting to play the victim. The way our fucked up society works, talking about sex is a no-no, and in the past few weeks we’ve seen victims of sexual harassment mocked instead of cared for; we’ve seen victims of sexual abuse ignored while people worry about a football coach and his legacy. Well I’m here to tell you right now that, while he may think of himself as part of the solution, Joe Paterno is part of the problem. A big part. He watched idly as boys were raped and now, at the age of 84, he finds himself old and having lived a great life – while victims of the rapes that he witnessed have had to struggle to survive.
I’m someone that doesn’t believe in holding grudges, but I also don’t always believe in forgiveness. I will never forgive the man who raped me as a young boy, stole my virginity and nearly confused me into committing suicide on many occasions. But I also don’t forgive Joe Paterno or any of the students that are supporting him right now. They have no idea what it’s like to live the life of somebody that’s been raped as a child – because, if they did, they wouldn’t forgive either.
Like Eve Ensler, I’m over it – and I don’t know what the solution is. Because if it were up to me, all abusers would be castrated and imprisoned for life. Whether it’s Chris Brown, Michael Vick or Jerry Sandusky, why should these men be allowed to go on and live normally after destroying the lives of others?
Answer? They shouldn’t.