Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Re-Telling the Story: Grieving the PSU Sex Abuse Scandal

I've opened this window to write a post many times in the last week.

I've left it blank every time. Because I know that the only thing I'm going to be able to write about is the sex abuse scandal.

Writers often talk about how writing is a way to process. To heal. To understand. To move forward. To make something out of chaos.

I don't know if others do this too, but sometimes when I am most intensely gripped by emotion, I stop writing. I can predict how difficult a time in my life was by the month long gaps in the dates that appear in my journal. And if I do write, its about what I ate or an assignment or something not related to how my insides are coming apart.

An hour ago, I came home to Whim Cotty after my first visit to New Leaf Initiative on Fraser Street. Steve Lutz had called a Meeting of the Minds to start thinking of ways to make something in response to the scandal [I'm looking for a new name to call it but don't have anything else quite yet]. Two students, two campus ministers, myself (psu alum, writer, campus ministry apprentice), and a young adults minister with the input of one of the New Leaf members: sitting around a table trying to make something.

It was one of the most hopeful things I've experienced in the past week. I have no idea what this conversation is going to turn into, but we're starting to collect local resources, doing some research, and thinking about these words:

shame, silence, story

We're asking what it means to be part of re-telling the story of this past week, of these past few decades. We can't undo what has been done. But perhaps we be part of finding out how the meaning of those events can change. The story isn't over yet.


What you just read above isn't the post I've had in me to write, the one I've kept myself from writing for a week. Being at New Leaf tonight was the kick in the pants I needed.

Because my response to the past week was not hopeful. My response was...

anger, fatigue, dismissal, denial, distancing, horror, sadness, numbness, interest, boredom, pissed off, stunned, unaware, over aware, defensive, humbled, betrayed etc.

I was grieving. Am grieving.

And I wanted to tell you about it. But I wasn't sure what I was grieving. I wanted to give some commentary on the whole thing, but there were so many voices yelling that I didn't know what to say. If you could only have seen the facebook status updates that I have seen this week (I have 478 psu students and alums in my fb feed, not to mention the others who are connected to the school in some way), or read the tweets flying from both media sources and student sources. 

Part of what I want to do is explain. I feel a desperate need to defend Penn State from the outside voices. We call the school we graduate from as "Alma Mater" for a reason. You can complain about your mother all you want, but when someone unrelated comes along and starts bashing her to your face... well, that doesn't sit so well. I've wanted to do some bashing in of a few people at various points.

Perhaps this explaining can come later. I think there is a place for me to tell you the story of my week in detail, to let you in on the sociological processes that happened in the nation, the community, and the campus. To explain about riot culture in the Valley. To explain and defend the trauma of being here when Joe Pa was fired. To explain and let you see what it was here. To show you how attacked many students felt.

But not this post.

I just need to tell you that its been a long week and a half for me, ranging from the moment I first heard the news from an NPR tweet Sunday morning before my dance competition, to today as I cried in an Elements leadership meeting, to the surreal moment of sitting with a friend who had been abused as a child after the candlelight vigil on Friday.

I'm struggling in three ways: I'm grieving for a place that I love very much, one that I have known both as a student and now as a Townie. And secondly, I'm grieving for the crimes against children and for the unjust world that let those acts be unpunished. And thirdly, I'm grieving the ways I am part of all of this. This is my home, my family name, if you will. I have to own it and I don't like it.


Strange as it may sound, my hope is that I don't move on from this soon. I want this to change everything. It will have to change slowly, "like yeast working through the whole loaf of dough." There is a chance for light here. I'm grateful to be in this place now, in the position of a campus minister, at the table with others longing for the Kingdom to come, "on earth as it is in heaven."

And I know this too: it is wrong that it had to come to this for everything to change.

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

Love this, Dana!