Something I want my son to learn: Do the right thing. You will know what this is. Do what’s right even when it’s awkward, hard, lonely, frightening, or dangerous.
You’ve probably heard all you need to hear and more about what’s going on at Penn State. I thought I’d heard all I needed to hear and more but sat glued to the tv yesterday, unable to look away except to turn to Google now and then to get more details. If you want to get more details, I recommend reading the Grand Jury Report (this is very detailed and exceptionally disturbing) (I always recommend reading the original documents related to something like this when possible). There’s also a really good post about the situation here.
As a former criminal defense attorney, I take the whole “innocent until proven guilty” thing very seriously. I’m not going to play judge and jury. I’m not going to sit here and condemn anyone involved, as much as doing so might give me (as a mother of a young son and a sports fan) some level of emotional satisfaction.
What I will do is talk about what we can learn from Penn State.
There is nowhere in the world where these kinds of horrible things don’t happen. There is no person or type of person who is always good all the time.
If you walk in on an adult engaged in any sort of sexual activity with a child, the right thing to do is: (1) remove the child from the situation if it is physically possible to do so; and (2) immediately go to the police. If somebody reports to you that he or she witnessed an adult engaged in any sort of sexual activity with a child and you believe he or she is telling the truth, the right thing to do is: (1) immediately go to the police.
The reason I say “immediately” is that something so simple can become so complicated as soon as you let it sit for any period of time. And the right people to go to are the police — not your father and not your boss (although feel free to tell them, too). The police.
Do the right thing even if it requires speaking out against your co-worker, boss, coach, significant other, spouse, parent, child, sibling, friend, idol, or favorite blogger. Nobody is above or exempt from the right thing. Do the right thing even if people call you a snitch, tattletale, bully, hater, or troll. Don’t ever be afraid to question anyone and call out bad behavior when you see it.
I’m worried about the state of the right thing today. Right now, the world is a place where too often, people are more concerned about covering their own asses or the figurative asses of their institutions or being 100% positive and supportive of their loved ones all the time no matter what than they’re concerned with doing the right thing. Don’t be part of that.
Don’t you know, in your heart and in your mind, what you’d do if you walked in on some dude raping a child? Isn’t preventing further tragedy for that child and for other children more important than whatever is going to happen to you as a result of doing the right thing? Quoting myself is gross, but I said this on Twitter yesterday: “I love my job but dudes, if I had to get fired for calling the police after seeing/knowing about child sex abuse, I’d do it. I mean, duh?”
If your moral compass is telling you “duh,” listen to it. Do the right thing. Always.