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Preparing Teens for Fatherhood with Boyz2Dads

The following is a guest post by Shawn O'Keefe, Youth Programs Specialist for Newport News Department of Human Services. If you would like to guest blog for us, email here.

Most Popular Post of 2012 — The Difference Between a Man and a Boy

The Father Factor Blog closes the year by reposting our most popular blog post of 2012! Thank you for reading and connecting with us this year. We've enjoyed talking parenting tips and tools. Today, without further delay, we give you our most popular blog post of 2012!

When the Principal's Name is Dad

As a graduate of home education, I often get two common reactions when people learn that I was homeschooled through 12th grade.  "Wow, I would have never guessed - you don't act like a homeschooler!"  I believe this is meant to be a compliment on my social skills and fun, outgoing personality... I think.  Or, "How you did learn advanced math and science at home?!" 

What Was Missing in Sandusky Case? Fathers

Jerry Sandusky was found guilty of 45 counts of sexual abuse a week ago. Despite the verdict, important questions should continue to be asked. Why didn’t the assistant football coaches do something? Why didn’t the school administration do something? But the biggest, most pointed question is, “How in the world was Sandusky able to prey on so many young boys for so long?”

From our perspective, Sandusky would not have been able to do what he did had he not had access to so many boys growing up in father-absent homes.

The Difference Between a Man and a Boy

You know the guy. He’s a friend of yours. Everyone knows the guy who’d rather play video games 24/7 and live in his parents’ basement.

Penn State Taking Positive Action on Child Sexual Abuse

On Tuesday, Roland wrote this post on the Penn State sex abuse scandal. In it, he asked what Penn State will do to address the sexual abuse of boys on their campus and elsewhere.

We are glad to report that Penn State is taking some early action. Tonight, they are hosting a live, call-in radio program to address child sexual abuse.

We applaud Penn State for taking this action. As they say in the announcement, the sexual abuse of children is underreported and more needs to be done about it.

However, a word of caution about the approach that Penn State appears to be taking. Let's be clear that these were boys who were being abused, not "children" generically. And, as Roland mentioned in his blog post, there are several special circumstances surrounding the abuse of boys (it is even more underreported and understudied than the abuse of girls, and there appear to be more complex and damaging consequences for abused boys than for abused girls).

When conversations about sexual abuse start to drift into the territory of "children," they inevitably refocus on girls and women. Indeed, notice that the experts who will be on hand to field calls from parents are from the Centre County Women’s Resource Center (not children's, let alone boys, resource center).

Again, we are not trying to minimize the severity of the abuse of anyone: woman, man, boy, or girl. But we are trying to keep this conversation focused on boys, the future fathers of our children, who often have no voice.

So, while Penn State is off to a good start with this radio program, we hope that future efforts will be more focused on what actually happened on their campus - the systematic rape and abuse of boys, an underserved group that needs more help than they are currently getting.

What the Penn State Scandal Tells Us: We Don't Care About the Sexual Abuse of Boys

Most of the commentary about the sex abuse scandal at Penn State University is what one would expect. Penn State football fans debate the fairness of the abrupt firing of their beloved coach; the Penn State board of directors talks about its need to hastily handle this public relations nightmare and restore the university’s storied reputation. The pundits on TV and radio pontificate while pointing their fingers and shaking their fists, questioning how Jerry Sandusky could get away with so much abuse of so many boys for so long.

Certainly, this makes good fodder for the 24-hour news cycle. And it may even assuage our collective need to understand what happened. However, this sexual abuse scandal confirms a much broader problem that has become increasingly evident to me. One that says less about Penn State than it does about our culture.

We don’t care about the sexual abuse of boys.

Consider just a few of the allegations in the Sandusky situation:

  • A janitor observed Sandusky the showers at the Penn State football building with a young boy pinned up against the wall, preforming oral sex on the boy. The janitor immediately tells others on the janitorial staff, including his supervisor. In fact, another janitor also sees Sandusky with the boy. Despite all of this, no one makes a report of the incident.
  • A 28-year-old Penn State graduate assistant enters the locker room at the football building. In the shower, he sees a naked boy, who he estimates to be about 10 years old, being sodomized by a naked Sandusky. Although he tells Paterno the next day, at the time, he does nothing to stop Sandusky.
Now, replace the word “boy” in the above instances with “girl.” Do you think that two janitors would fail to stop Sandusky from sexually assaulting a little girl? I think not. What about the graduate assistant? He was a former Penn State football player. No doubt, he would have used his best form tackling technique on Sandusky to stop him from raping a little girl.

And, consider how differently the Penn State administrators, who were told by Paterno about Sandusky’s behavior, would have responded if the victims were girls. Would they have stood idly by for years? No. They would have taken immediate action rather than risk being on the receiving end of the wrath of celebrity attorney Gloria Allred, NOW, and numerous women’s groups on campus. They would have reasoned that Penn State getting a reputation as a university that did not protect girls and women would have deeply negative consequences for years to come.

Not only that, they would probably take proactive steps to show the public that Penn State is dedicated to becoming a place that is safe for girls and women. They would start a new research center, and host forums, events, and marches to show their solidarity with the community of women. What will Penn State do to show it is a safe place for boys?

Boys have no advocacy groups to fight for them. Baby seals, pit bulls, and trees do, it seems. No matter how young and vulnerable, boys are expected to fend for themselves.

According to Prevent Child Abuse America, the sexual abuse of boys is under-reported and under-treated. Although the sexual abuse of girls has been widely studied, little research has been done on the abuse of boys. Accordingly, we don’t know nearly as much about it as we should. But, what we do know is quite troubling.

First, boys at the highest risk are younger than thirteen years of age, nonwhite, of lower socioeconomic status, and live in father-absent homes. (Alas, it is no surprise that Sandusky founded an agency that would provide him easy access to troubled boys from broken homes.) Second, sexually abused boys seem to experience more severe and complex consequences than girls in respect to emotional and behavioral problems. Yet, as a culture, much like the Penn State janitors and the graduate assistant, we see what is happening, have the ability to help, but we do nothing.

As is typical with all sex scandals, in time they move from the front page to the back page; from being the lead story to a minor mention; we move on and we forget. But our boys need our help to protect them from the Jerry Sandusky’s of the world and, when they become prey, to help them heal.

But first of all, they need us to care.

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