I have been saddened and sickened this last week by all the happenings at Penn State University and the football program. If you don’t know what is going on, basically several people in the football organization knew about multiple child molestations and didn’t stop it. My understanding is that one guy even walked in on an act of child rape happening and just ran away.
Now I cannot understand this reaction. I cannot comprehend seeing a child being hurt in any way and just walking away.
I remember laying on the beach in Hawaii minding my own business when a man started to verbally and emotionally abuse his son in front of everyone. They were playing catch with a football out in the ocean and the dad was berating and belittling his son very loudly. The beach got quiet as we all watched this abuse happening for a few minutes. It got worse and worse. I looked around to see if anyone was going to do anything, but they were all just watching the spectacle. This is when I realized it was going to be me. But I was in a swimsuit, which I wouldn’t exactly call a power suit that brings confidence.
So I borrowed my cousins wrap, stood up, and then marched out into the ocean and confronted the stranger. He was a man in his 40s maybe and I was a hot, young blonde (this was 14 years ago) that took him on. I didn’t yell at him in front of the whole beach. I just calmly said in a very firm voice, “Sir, it looks like you need to take a little break. Why don’t you walk away for a moment and I’ll play catch with your son.” I knew embarrassing a man in front of a group of onlookers wasn’t going to accomplish anything. He backed off and walked away. I ended up playing catch in the ocean with a boy I never met. It just happens that I can throw a pretty dang good spiral. The man came back much calmer.
I wasn’t surprised by my reaction to intervene. I had watched my parents stand up for victims before.
I remember sitting in the Lander Valley high school gymnasium watching the varsity basketball team play. I was in the 6th grade and I was sitting by my dad. A player did something wrong and the coach yanked him off the court. Then the coach continue to yell, poke, shove, and degrade the player as a silent gymnasium looked on. Apparently, this coach did this often. In the middle of this coach’s tirade, my dad stood up and yelled, “Sit on it, Baker!” The coach stopped and went and sat down. The kid went to the bench. We laugh now at his choice of words, but the whole crowd heard my dad put an abusive coach in his place. I slouched down in my seat with embarrassment while at the same time my heart was bursting with pride for what my dad just did.
My mom spoke up too. A year or two later, we were driving one day and we came upon a man beating his girlfriend outside their truck. My mom pulled over as fast as she could. She rolled down my window (I was in the driver’s side) and laid into the guy. I had never seen my mom light on fire like this. She yelled at him to get his hands off her and she was calling the cops. My mom was leaning over me and the guy was leaning in my window and I was stuck in the middle of a yelling match. Again, my jr high self was mortified and in awe all at the same time.
I stood up that day on the beach because I had seen my parents stand up to bullies or predators or even just jerks. And I think it is important that our kids see us stand up for others that are being treated unfairly or unkindly. Then they will be more likely to do the same.
I was so happy when Elle came home the other day and told me she stuck up to her friend that was mistreating a boy in their class. Her friend would pull the chair out from underneath the boy, poke his arm continually, and tease him. This happened often. Elle finally told her friend to knock it off or she would tell the teacher. Her friend didn’t talk to her for a couple of days, but I assured Elle she did the right thing.
They say that the answer to bullying isn’t really about the bully or the victim. Rather it is about influencing the group in the middle to do something. If they can convince the neutral group to stand up to the bullies, bullying could stop. And I think that might go for all kinds of abuse. If we could get the stand-bys to stand UP there would be less pain in this world.
I’ve rambled, I’ve hopped topics, I’ve told too many stories. But my point is stand up for those that can’t stand up for themselves.