A few days before my twenty-second birthday, I found myself in a date rape situation. A bad combination of a recently prescribed antidepressant and a few shots of vodka with a girlfriend and two guys that I trusted resulted in a night that to this very day I can only remember in very short flashes.
I'm not going to share the details of the night, because they're not important anymore. But I did want to tell you what happened in the following days. The next morning, I woke up in my own bed in my dad's apartment undressed from the waist down. I walked over to my girlfriend's apartment to check on her because I genuinely believed at that point I'd been drugged. We had coffee and I eventually went home to shower and go to work. I ran into him in the cafeteria at lunchtime and when I asked him what happened he lied to me. When I called him out on his lie, he back-tracked and lied again in a different direction. I stopped listening. After work, I called my ex - the one person around me I thought could point me in the right direction - and we went out to dinner. He expected to hear a story about some silly boy troubles. When I told him what happened, he turned six shades of white and was the first one to say the "R"-word.
The next morning, after the girlfriend and I went to the apartment gym to jog on the treadmill and talk things through, I called my mom and told her. Then I went home and told my dad. The rest of the day was sort of a blur of witness statements, interviews, a pelvic exam, and uncomfortable drives.
I didn't want to press charges. The guy had a young kid and I couldn't bear the idea of the kid losing his dad, or the dad losing his job, because of me. I only wanted to tell my story in case it happened to someone else; maybe that person would have a stronger case.
They said it didn't work like that.
While trying to verify the name I had given them, they found a mug shot and showed it to me. It was the same guy, a few years earlier, charged with domestic battery. There's nothing quite so jarring as seeing the mug shot of someone you once viewed as a potential boyfriend and finding out the guy has a history of (at the very least) disrespecting women.
So I pressed charges.
As it so often happens, it turns out I went through all of that only to be on the wrong side of a very weak he-said-she-said situation. After the detective spoke with both of us, he was never even charged. I wasn't surprised. To this day, I sometimes question whether I was more responsible for his actions than I believed at the time. Obviously the guy was a scumbag, and in retrospect I missed some pretty obvious tells. Plus, I'm the one who didn't bother reading the alcohol warning on my prescription pills.
Anyway, why bring all this up now? Well, the same quote keeps coming up in the comments on stories about the Penn State incidents: "all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." Today I came across stories of multiple survivors of childhood sexual abuse who say that the acts against them were witnessed, and that the other adult did not intervene.
And while it's easy to point the finger at everyone who looked the other way and say "I would have intervened/called 911/beat the shit out of the guy," I wonder how many people really would have done any of those things. Doing the right thing is hard. Had it not been for one strong voice of reason in my life, I doubt I would have even reported an attack against me.
I lack courage. There are a lot of points in my life I could point to and say not just "I should have handled that differently," but simply "I should have handled that." (If that movie "Defending Your Life" is real, I am definitely coming back to Earth the next time around!) I have seen so many wrongs in my life and I don't think I've ever really stood up to any of them. The job Scott has? I never even pursued that career path because I didn't think I could handle people being fired or arrested because I caught them doing something wrong. I knew I'd blame myself.
But in place of courage, I've got an amazing ability to see the good where others don't. I think that people deserve a second chance. And I'd like to believe that Joe, misguided though he was, thought his friend of half a lifetime deserved a second chance. And until I hear something that changes my mind, I'm going to continue to believe that his legacy, while obviously tarnished, still shows a man deserving of the respect of the Penn State community. Let's not forget that that quote involves "good men." I'm not ready to give up on the idea that Joe is, for the most part, a good man.
Of course, the story seems to keep getting worse. If he was part of a cover-up that spanned three decades in order to save the University (or himself) from embarrassment... if he really did know about the allegations and continued to let Sandusky bring children to University-sponsored events... then maybe he wasn't a good man after all. But right now, as someone who knows how hard it is to report a crime - to stand up and say to a friend "what you did is NOT okay" - I'm going to continue to believe the best of him a little while longer.