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Rape is Not a Popularity Contest

Crowd outside the courtroom after Scott Peterson's guilty verdict.

Crowd outside the courtroom after Scott Peterson’s guilty verdict on 11/12/2004.

As the verdict of Jerry Sandusky came down I could feel the swell of enthusiasm from the mobs outside of the courtroom and all over the nation. With vocal and visible gestures of glee the commentary was almost immediate. Since Jerry Sandusky raped boys who were under his care, justice means that he will be in prison and should be raped as well. The punishment should fit the crime as many will say to justify the reasoning.

A culture clamoring for a new object to direct its resentment it was as if the prosecution scored a touchdown to win the game. The media spin around this already is a swarm of mosquitoes looking for blood in the name of a scoop, getting a prize-winning story, creating controversy so that people will talk about you. You may be thinking, Isn’t what I’m reading just contributing to the very swarm he is talking about? That might be a fair criticism, but stay with me a little longer.

To what honor is given the victims of rape when they were but children if we demand further violence on the perpetrators? This is a culture of violence. We love our violence on TV, in movies, in music, in religion, and yes even in sex. On the day Jerry Sandusky was convicted of 45 out of 48 counts of child abuse, several hours earlier a Philadelphia jury convicted the Rev. Msgr. William Lynn “for allowing a known pedophile priest to have continued access to youngsters while he was secretary for clergy.” No doubt the lust for violence boiled over there as it has for other cases involving clerical sexual abuse.

I understand anger. We should feel angry about sexual abuse in all shapes and especially to powerless children. We should feel ill that this sort of thing happens often without anyone knowing about it. But at what point does the bursting forth of our incensive power become more fuel for the storm of violence that seems to bleed our society at any chance it can get? Does the wish of rape for a rape get us anywhere? Does that help the victims and their families heal?

Cheering for yet another rape is exactly what the demons of the media spinners want. Violence and sex sell. These things only sell because media producers know that we have this insatiable desire for them. The cycle of violence seems self-perpetuating and continually dangerous leaving victims mutilated in its wake. We are often nothing more than a society eager to hop on the next mob scene to feel more popular, important, and useful in the world.

That sense of entitlement to being important exists in other ways too. Only Jerry Sandusky and a select group of people knew what was going on. They chose to bury the violence as if it was dead. They enacted force on the powerless by choice. Those who were abused by them were left bruised and battered in more ways than one unable to fend off the horror. One cluster of sickness created another cluster of sickness by force. The instant reaction is to push that force back on those who chose to inflict it on others. Maybe we are under the delusion that spreading such a force of sickness around will solve the problem of sickness itself.

We are pushing our insane appetites for blood like so many mindless flesh-eating zombies who seem to have no will of their own to stop. I don’t think we live in a society that wants to stop. We can’t cure a disease by capitalizing on it. We can’t expect anything to change if one’s misfortune is another’s profit.

We need a cure.

Maybe the first step towards that cure is to mourn those who have suffered violence as collateral damage of those who wage war over them. The first step is to stop feeding the noisy demons of a popularity contest. This contest feeds on violence and noise. Sharing a deep moment of silence seems to be the only proper response if we want to halt our craving for violence.

About Andrew Tatusko

Secularization, critical pedagogy, sometimes agnostic, politics, and a ton of running. Penn State is definitely not responsible for what I say.


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