Your silence is screaming
Moments when an entire workplace stops, silently absorbing a public message, are rare. One such moment crept up on us today at the NSVRC as we tuned into the broadcast of Judge Louis Freeh making a statement on the findings of his investigative report into Penn State and Jerry Sandusky’s ongoing sexual abuse of children at campus facilities.
Watching, listening, gulping, and grimacing, we watched the whole of the broadcast on our local news station. At the end, we had to postpone phone training to take some time to process. Several people stayed together, using the space to air reactions, feelings, and responses. Our social networker for the day expressed that she was at a loss for how to address this in a positive and prevention-focused way. Facial expressions ranged from stoic to shocked to anger to disappointment to sadness. The conversation reflected the same.
We bounced around in our conversation. Some addressed the failure of university systems to respond to reports of sexual violence. Others discussed fear and frustration of parenting in an environment where it seems impossible to entrust your children to caretakers or educators. Many lamented the lack of compassion for the people who are most affected by violence and pain over the missed opportunities for intervention.
What I’ve come to is that we have a pervasive cultural and institutional problem that’s racking us. It should not take tragedy, crisis, or gross negligence to draw attention to harmful issues within our institutions, organizations, or communities. What do choices like the ones made at Penn State and countless other organizations say about the way we value children? Consistently, our culture blames, bashes, criticizes, and silences people exposed to violence and abuse.
No person should fear losing their job as a result of doing the right thing to protect a child from rape. The “consequences of bad publicity” hold no candle to the impact of child sexual abuse. Any institution that chooses silence is shouting that sexual violence will be tolerated here.