A recent article asked a good question: Where was the fury over the rape of a boy? As Ronnie Polaneczky puts it:
Imagine you are a 10-year-old child. It is nighttime. You are in an otherwise empty gym shower with a man whom your family trusted. You are both naked, and he is sodomizing you.
You are bewildered, terrified and in physical agony. And then another grown-up enters the shower area. He sees you being anally raped against the wall. All three of you lock eyes.
Help is here, you think.
Help is here. But your would-be savior runs away. And you’re alone once more with the monster you’d thought was your friend.
By now, we all know that the man in the shower was Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State football defensive coordinator now accused of sexually assaulting kids. And the witness who fled was Mike McQueary, then a 28-year-old graduate assistant.
And I keep asking myself, “How could McQueary have left that little boy to fend for himself?”
Polaneczky has a point. McQueary was not a child. He was completely able to step in and stop the rape then and there. Sandusky was hardly a physical threat to him. At the very least he could have said something. He did not, and here we are today.
Polaneczky thinks that most people in McQueary’s position would have stepped in to help. I doubt that.
Growing up, my family’s basement was relatively sound proof, but the rest of the house was not. If someone shouted or screamed, the neighbors could hear. So, my siblings and I were made to keep quiet. No crying, no screaming, no whimpering. Sometimes it worked. Other times, not so much.
At those times, besides fearing what would happen next, I would wonder who heard the noise. I would wonder what they thought happened. Obviously a home full of children would have some screaming and shouting, but of the kind that we did?
Not once do I recall the police showing up or the adults talking about any noise complaints. This means at least 20 people living near us at some point heard screaming, crying or shouting and did nothing.
We have no idea what McQueary thought at that time. He could have simply froze, panicked or have been too afraid to doing anything to Sandusky. McQueary’s flight is not unusual. Many people who witness such an act simply have no idea what to do. Quite often, instead of doing the right thing or even the wrong thing, they do nothing.
What is truly terrible about that is that victims know this. They witness and internalize it. When I was little, I assumed that people never reported anything because we were so good at hiding it. As I got older, I assumed that they either did not care, did not see anything wrong with it or they were in on it.
I can imagine the boy Sandusky raped that night may have thought the same thing, especially with the new rumor that Sandusky and The Second Mile “pimped” out boys to rich donors. He may not have thought, “Here’s someone to help me” but “What’s he going to do?” And perhaps not even in a sexual sense, but in a general sense. What indeed would McQueary do? Would he help? Could he help? This was Jerry Sandusky. Who would believe McQueary if he stepped in?
I would like to agree with Polaneczky that most people would step up and do something. But experience tells me that most often people are too afraid or too indifferent to do anything. Like McQueary’s father and Paterno, people often think someone else will deal with it. The problem is that quite often the people with the power to do something think the same thing. Everybody thinks someone else will deal with it, and so responsibility keeps getting pushed down the line.
Unfortunately, that person often ends up dealing with it is the victim.
McQueary’s shock and flight is not unusual. Many people who witness such an act simply have no idea what to do.