By now all of have heard about Penn State football coach Joe Paterno and his non- action in response to the Sandusky incident (an assistant coach caught in a sexual act with a young boy). I would describe Paterno as playing the role of a “bystander”. According to Merriam-Webster a bystander can be described as one present but not taking part in a situation or event ; a chance spectator.
I got to thinking about this bystander behavior as I read about the Mission Viejo Nadadores swim club officials who were purported to have been aware of a coach-athlete sexual relationship with a sixteen year old girl as far back as 2006, but who did nothing. At first glance one could argue that we should address the policy issue that no coach should be in a relationship with an athlete regardless of consent or age, which we should be the case, no question there. However , the deeper issue here is the question of knowledge of the situation and why neither club officials, coaches nor parents responded to it responsibly?
The Orange County Register brought light to the Mission Viejo Nadadores swim team up and coming young coach Daniel Ad’m Dunesbury and his alleged relationship with a sixteen-year-old swimmer that occurred back in 2006. Click here to read the entire article.
Sexual abuse in sports of a young athlete is often not immediately recognized or understood, however over time everyone around the situation is affected in some way shape or form.
This situation is a perfect example why it is difficult for a young girl to speak up about the abuse. This response focuses on even the alleged victim unwillingness to come forward (Risk reward for the girl, there isn't any for saying something happened) and the timeline as to how they reacted.
The Olympics are fast approaching. Who doesn't love watching these glorious athletes defy the laws of gravity, overcome adversity, and battle staunch competition to soar beyond our imaginations? Who isn't swept up watching Shawn Johnson win the gold medal on balance beam, or Usain Bolt dash across the finish line, or Michael Phelps cut through the water to break every record many times over? We love our athletes. They inspire us, they make us believe the impossible is possible, and, truthfully, they ignite our belief in our own humanity. That's a tall order, but these athletes, many of them children, do this for us time and time again.
Why, one might ask, would someone willingly ignore reports of heinous, despicable sexual abuse of a child?Why did it happen at Penn State? At Syracuse University? And why does it continue to happen in gymnastics, swimming and other organized sports? Wouldn't a reasonable person assume that the moral imperative would be to act to protect the child? We've seen time and time again that this is not what happens.