The Penn State sex scandal or a better way to state it, a long running multiple person conspiracy to aid and abet a pedophile in his crimes, has brought to light a growing blight in American culture. It is the idea of sliding away from duty and obligation and rather standing in the swamp of risk/labiality/benefit analysis.
It can be seen in the multiple civil lawsuit settlements where money was paid out but no fault was claimed. I have personally heard the justification of “we have done nothing wrong but it will be more expensive successfully defending ourselves than just paying off and getting rid of the problem.” What is missed is the value of justice, the reward of perseverance and a declaration of an intention to fight rather than capitulate. The message it really sends is there is no value in right and wrong but rather life is a benefit analysis. If there is a victim let him/her be properly compensated if it is a false accusation let them be punished. But there is no change if there is no fault assigned and the actions are not made public. The organization, whether public or private, learns there is no value in values and justice. Rather, there is a calculation about the ability to control people and information. If the information and personnel can be controlled the event or action is buried, if it cannot be controlled a settlement is then rendered, no fault is declared, a gag order is made and everyone moves on. There is no correction, there is no blame assigned, there is no shame, there is no reward for good and punishment for evil, it is just another entry on the balance sheet.
Now layer this event over and over through the years. The system rewards tight information control and inaction. If I don’t know about it then I cannot get pulled into it, happens again and again, till the first response is personal risk exposure minimization becomes the first priority. It is the first priority because that is what is rewarded. Identification and notification only increase exposure and ensure punishment. This is how you get an assistant coach’s first response on a child rape is to call his Dad and have a meeting about what to do, rather than take action, call the police and make notification.
This can best be illustrated by a call that I have responded to hundreds of times. It’s a theft call at a local business. I get ushered into the senior manager’s office and told about an employee that they suspect is taking money out of the petty cash fund. They are concerned and want to know what to do. I end up interviewing the employee and usually after about ten minutes they confess to most (never all) that they have done and there is a sad story to accompany the story to show that they are really not a bad person, just a person in a bad situation. I then go back to the senior manager and ask what he would like to do. I always suggest prosecution, to recoup the money, to create a record of their conduct to make illicit action more difficult in the future and steer the offender in a more positive direction. The manager listens to me patiently but always asks if that has to be done and I say no. But I interject is you let them resign they will just go to another employer and do the same thing much like what has already happened to you. I then am told that firing an employee is a tedious process and expensive. Further, they do not want to take all the time off work to go to court. So out the door goes the now ex-employee having resigned and tearful. Fast forward about six months and I am called to a different business about the same offender and they too opt for resignation rather than prosecution and more victims are created. The crime is not large and the loss is not great in each incidence but over time added together it ends up with a multitude of victims and a large amount of theft that one person doing the right thing could stop. But no one does. This is the society we are living in, here in America. Where justice is inconvenient, expense is more important than protecting the innocent and silence is awarded.
But that does not have to be that way. If each of us sides with the truth, protects the victims over expense and inconvenience, refuses to stay silent in the little things, then when the big things come the course of action is clear and people are saved.