And that brings us to the patriarchal aspect of the Penn State scandal. I know it’s predictable and boring, but come on, people! There really is a message here about masculine privilege: the deification of a powerful old man who can do no wrong, an all-male hierarchy protecting itself (hello, pedophile priests), a culture of entitlement and a truly astonishing lack of concern about sexual violence. This last is old news, unfortunately: sexual assaults by athletes are regularly covered up or lightly punished by administrations, even in high school, and society really doesn’t care all that much. A federal appeals court declared that a Texas cheerleader could be kicked off the squad (and made to contribute to the school’s legal costs) for refusing to cheer her rapist when he took the field—and he’d pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault too, so why was he even still playing? According to USA Today, an athlete accused of a sex crime has a very good chance of getting away with it. If Sandusky had abused little girls, let alone teenage or adult women, would he be in trouble today? Or would we say, like the neighbors of an 11-year-old gang-raped in Cleveland, Texas, that she was asking for it?And she is quite right. The eleven-year-old in Cleveland, Texas, had her case initially written up in the New York Times as victim-blaming. She wore make-up, she dressed like an adult woman, she went out with the rapists. And where was her mother in all this? That the Times later wrote about the case from a different angle was because of all the criticism the initial write-up provoked.
Even more generally, victim-blaming has been almost totally absent in the Catholic Church cases. This is as it should be, of course. But the same should be applied to female children who have been raped or sexually abused and to their parents.