Football, Sexual Assault, and the Web
The End of the Institutional Cover-ups of Sexual Abuse and Assault
This is the era in which institutions are learning that they simply cannot keep their secrets about sexual abuse and assault to themselves, no matter how hard they try. The reasons for this profound change will be the stuff of sociology and history dissertations, to be sure, but we can also see, right in front of us, a primary mechanism that is spurring this revolution against the conspiracies of silence that aided perpetrators and endangered the vulnerable for so long. As this means of effecting justice has prospered, the public’s outrage has increased, survivors have been empowered, and the pace of revelations has sped up significantly.
We are witnessing the end of the old boys’ network that treats women and children as expendable. You know it’s over when even the world of football can’t keep its ugly secrets anymore: Penn State, Poly Prep, and now Steubenville, Ohio have faced, or will face, justice. Men in power, including the mighty football heroes, no longer can feel confident that the victims can be intimidated or made to be silent.
In football, when the sport has gone wrong, the players and coaches have been treated not just as heroes, but as beings tantamount to gods. In their twisted universe, they deserve what they take, because they have sacrificed so much, and the system around them covers up any transgressions for the greater good of the team and the community. Until now, women and even children were expendable, merely the spoils of war for them. (Current headlines have focused on football, but a recent alleged assault in the Philadelphia Four Seasons Hotel by a professional basketball player is confirmation that this is a sports-wide issue.)
For example, at Penn State, hallowed coach Joe Paterno not only failed to take action to protect children from the predatory Jerry Sandusky, but also allegedly gave players accused of sexual misconduct a pass.
Similarly, Notre Dame had not one, but two, players credibly accused of sexual assault on its national championship bowl team. Neither is being brought to justice, because one of the victims committed suicide and the other was so intimidated by teammates that she was too afraid to press charges. Why would two alleged criminals be on a Notre Dame football team? There is no requirement that the school permit them to stay on the team. One might have thought that the Catholic Church had enough problems with credibility on the sexual assault and abuse of children that it would not want its signature university and its revered football team to reinforce its current image of callous disregard for sexual assault and abuse victims.
Suffice it to say that the bishops and university administrators continue to struggle with the concept that their sexual abuse and assault secrets are everyone’s business in this era. Why are they everyone’s business? Because the Internet has given victims a voice, provided critics with a platform, and created a means of collecting disparate data that, when brought together, paints the pictures of cover-up.
When the Internet was in its infancy, utopians hailed it as the next great means for ensuring true democracy and happiness. I never bought it, because I knew that human beings would be involved, and, wouldn’t you know it, the Internet turned out to be the greatest invention for perverts known to humankind. But, thankfully, it has also become a remarkable tool for ending the cover-up of sexual assault and abuse in every institution, organization, and community.
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