BY AIMEE BEDOY
The cult of celebrity reaches far and wide and covers a multitude of sins, it seems. At least in the United States, fans seem willing to forgive their favorite celebrities their wrongs and will often continue in reverence towards individuals who have been responsible for the harm of others. This has been evinced by Chris Brown's relationship with Rihanna, Ben Roethlisberger's continued fame after sexual assault, and most recently, the defense of Joe Paterno on the Penn State campus, where many students outragedly rioted and proclaimed that it "wasn't fair" that JoePa was being fired for his involvement in the Sandusky scandal.
After many allegations and at least 10 men have come forward to accuse Jerry Sandusky of molestation, sexual assault, and rape in prior years through his job as assistant football coach at Penn State, he has been arrested and the campus went into an uproar. It became clear after investigations that Joe Paterno was fired for his lack of responsible action upon discovery of Sandusky's actions -- both child rape and other instances of sexual assault against children had been reported within the Penn State football program, and yet it had yet to reach the police until very recently. Some assistant coaches and other members of the Penn State program claim to have witnessed these brutal actions and reported them to those above them in the hierarchy of the organization, and yet in the end it resulted in no major repercussions or formal reports to the responsible authorities.
Joe Paterno's attitude toward the rape and assault of young, impressionable and innocent boys is indicative of a larger issue at hand in our world: sexual assault is not seen as a serious offense, when in fact it can be one of the most damaging and defining events of a person's life. It is both shameful to the perpetrator and painful for the victim, and so often our culture is willing to turn a blind eye to assault and resume the adoration of our favorite celebrities. When in fact, I would argue, not a single person who condones or does not act to stop or prevent sexual assault and abuse is not deserving of an ounce of reverence or celebrity that we give them. We must demand that our entire culture hold these people responsible. Whether that means a boycott or a protest or any number of other things, we have a responsibility to our fellow human beings to change the culture we live in that says you can get away with rape or assault if you make a certain amount of money or hold the public eye due to celebrity.
The events at Penn State have shown me that our world cares more about football titles and Hall of Fame status than the lives, bodily integrity, and psychological well-being of victims of abuse. I daresay that we have the responsibility to change this mindset or we will too be culpable for the injustice.
Photo by Tom Nguyen; some rights reserved.