Dear college student: A letter from Mama

Sweet Penn State students, listen up: This is Mama talking.

I hope you realize that this is going to be the biggest lesson you take from school. It is partly about getting the whole story – and we don’t have the whole story yet – and partly about being decent human beings. It is about protecting the ones who need it, and it is about doing what’s right – no matter how hard or unpopular “right” might be. It is about emotions and life, choices and expectations.

It has taken me days to write this because I’ve been going from web site to TV station to iPad app to newspaper, just so I could be sure your sisters, who are news junkies and will not stay away from current events, had their questions answered about what’s going on up there and what they should expect from adults who are supposed to protect them (including their parents). And the news keeps coming.

Let’s pause for a moment and say this: nobody has been proven guilty. These are charges, which means people are accused. Incorrect accusations ruin lives. So can silence.

Have you read the accusations in the newspapers? Use that ABC news app on your iPad and call up some stories. Find out that a seemingly caring, committed coach allegedly stalked, primed, seduced – SEDUCED – children. Find out that he allegedly used his non-profit to find kids. Find out that the reports say he took them for rides and caressed their thighs while in the car. If this is true, he will go to jail.

I was worried about you Wednesday night. You were so upset, and I wanted to know what EXACTLY prodded you to push over a TV news van (worth about $300,000).

Was it the fact that children were reportedly stalked, lured, and raped?

Was it the fact that a grandfatherly man had the power to do more, but for some reason didn’t, according to reports? Was it the general “somebody else will take care of it” attitude that seemed to be pervasive before the meltdown?

Was it the fact that institutional avoidance and high-dollar entertainment, along with a state law that doesn’t require direct reporting of child abuse, seemed to take disgusting precedence over common sense, integrity and humanity?

Was it the fact that everybody who did any kind of reporting, telling, accusing thought they had done what they were “supposed” to do?

I guess you didn’t stop to think until Friday night, when you and your friends showed up at a candlelight vigil for abuse victims, right? And then you all decided to wear blue to the game to show solidarity with abuse victims?

When did it hit you that it’s not about anything that takes place in the Saturday sunshine? And have you figured out that it will take more than wearing blue for one day to move this mountain? Yes, it’s a start, and I’m so proud of you, but you can’t stop here. I’m not saying you have to change majors from environmental science to social work or give up your dream of hiking in Peru. But you do have to consider how, when you are a young person outside of a college setting, you will handle dirty situations. You will face them. What will you do?

By the way, have you read any part of the official paperwork? Do so. Call me when you finish throwing up.

And, dear offspring of mine, you don’t have to be parents to be angry at abusers. No, you don’t need to have children to be furious. You need only to have been a child at some point in your life. And because you still are children, the pure evil of these alleged acts doesn’t anger or frighten all of you the way it does people my age. But know this: plenty of non-parents  are in line with a baseball bat and a blanket, waiting for revenge on abusers.

So, this is why the board made the decision to fire the Penn State president and JoePa. When you are the boss, and you might be one day, YOU take the fall for the bad.

By the way, the words “slap, slap” have been mentioned as sounds that people heard during the alleged incidents. If you are in a sexual situation against your will and the words “slap, slap” can be applied, you, my sweets, are not having fun. If you can apply that last sentence to any part of your life, you have been raped and you need to tell somebody. Imagine being 10, 12, 16 and this happening to you. Imagine. If you see it happening, you need to tell. No, don’t put it out of your minds. THINK about it.

Lemme tell you something: You don’t get to be my age without dropping the ball. I’ve failed in many areas. Disappointed in many. I will fail again and disappoint again. But I TRY not to fail. Now it appears that many people dropped a ball that should have been simple to carry. Somebody should have kept talking and telling until somebody listened. And I’m betting that for years, tucked in the back of his brain, each one of those somebodies was thinking “I should’ve done more.”

You wonder why I don’t like scary movies? Because life has real monsters, and my worst fear is that one of them will get one of you.

Remember that. And remember these lessons. They are the most important ones you will have.


8 thoughts on “Dear college student: A letter from Mama

  1. Wow…very well said! Reading this gave me chill bumps.

    I too have disappointed and failed at different times throughout my life; I am a human being doing the best that I can. I will never ever forget a particular time in my own life that I was faced with a decision to act or turn a blinds eye…I tried to push it away, run from it, ignore it, make it different, wish it away and pray it different. I tried everything imaginable to forget but I simply could not….would not! And, in the end, I did the right thing.

    Every bit of said allegations, if true, are all horrific…so disturbing.

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