Mike McQueary has been vehemently criticized for his response to witnessing Jerry Sandusky’s rape of a ten year-old boy on a Friday night in March 2002. People universally agree that McQueary should have put a stop to the rape rather than leave “distraught.” As it turns out, an anonymous friend recently leaked an email from McQueary in which he claims to have “made sure it stopped” before leaving the locker room, though “not physically.” But he should have done even more; he should have slugged Sandusky across the face as hard as he possibly could.
My regular readers are no doubt puzzled. In a previous post, I discussed when men should not unleash their aggression. I argued that petty disagreements should not lead to yelling, screaming, cursing, or physically fighting. Rather, real men handle disagreements, the disgruntled, and even injustices with dignity and poise. I suggested that protecting other people, especially loved ones, from aggression was virtually the only time a man should engage in a physical altercation. So if the rape stopped, then McQueary should not have attacked to protect the victim, right?
Yet protection sometimes requires punishment of the criminal. McQueary, an adult man, had a responsibility to protect the young victim from further harm – physical, mental, and emotional. Therefore, his responsibility included both stopping and punishing Sandusky.
Imagine the situation from the ten year-old boy’s perspective. Most likely, he mentally and instinctually knew that being sodomized by an adult man was wrong. If he didn’t, he certainly could not have enjoyed the experience, and that alone would have taught him the horror of Sandusky’s actions.
Then a younger man appears. He makes eye-contact. His expression is horrified. The rape stops. The man leaves. “Is that it?” the boy thinks. “I guess this must be okay.”
Until McQueary, Sandusky, or the victim gives a fuller account of the events, I am forced to merely speculate about the boy’s reaction to them. But I can’t imagine the boy not feeling completely abandoned and utterly worthless except to service the sexual needs of older men. I also can’t imagine the mental and emotional toll exacted by the experience of this realization.
But if McQueary had come to the boy’s defense, if he had denounced his rapist with screamed curses, if he had beaten him with his fists, risking his own safety in the ensuing combat, then what would the boy have thought and felt? What difference could these actions have made in his heart, in his life?
Of course, it is easy for me to sit at my computer and write about what McQueary should have done. I wasn’t in his shoes, witnessing one of my idols commit a horrendous act. And that’s exactly why I am writing this essay. I want to prepare myself and my readers so we fulfill our moral responsibility to protect victims physically, mentally, and emotionally when it comes within our power to do so. We must vigilantly prevent such abuse (why the hell did Paterno and company let a grown man shower with boys in the first place?), and we must viscerally punish it upon discovery.
From the grand jury presentment and the leaked email, we know that McQueary witnessed Sandusky sodomizing a young boy and put a stop to it without physically intervening. We do not know exactly what anyone said or did – perhaps McQueary berated Sandusky, maybe he charged at him until he backed away. Whatever happened, I know it wasn’t enough if McQueary’s email is true and he did not physically intervene. In a situation like this, men should unleash every ounce of aggression.
Eric Sentell lives in the DC-metro area with his emotionally brilliant wife. He teaches college composition and directs a writing center at Northern Virginia Community College. His short fiction has been published or is forthcoming in The Rivendell Gazette, Long Story Short, Red Ink Journal, Moon City Review, Unlikely Stories 2.0, Blink Ink Online, Short, Fast, and Deadly, and Six Minute Magazine. In September 2010, Long Story Short selected “Stolen Thunder” as its Story of the Month.
Photo credit pennstatelive/Flickr