Information Literacy’s Role in the Penn State Story

Everyone has been talking about the Penn State pedophilia/rape story, and it is absolutely horrifying.  But there was something in this story that jumped out at me that I wanted to highlight.  It was a just an offhanded comment in the NY Daily News piece about “victim 1.”

The victim’s mother tells Stephanopolous how she gradually became aware of the abuse, saying he would act out violently to intentionally become grounded and avoid seeing Sandusky, at one point telling her he wanted to know how to look up information on sex offenders.

That’s right.  This victim was savvy enough to know that he could look up information about people who were sexual predators online, but he didn’t know how.

In a recent episode of the Sex Is Fun podcast the crew interviewed Amy Lang who runs the website Birds + Bees + Kids, which explores how parents can talk to their children about sex in a world that is overloaded with explicit sexual information online.  One of the shocking statistics that comes out in that two part interview is that children today have typically encountered a pornographic website by the age of 11. Now, there are dozens of ways that this information can be taken.  But let’s look at it in the context of the situation at hand.

Here, a victim of childhood sexual abuse, at the hands of a trusted adult, understood that something was horribly wrong.  He knew that there were adults who hurt children sexually, and that this was a crime.  He knew that there is a lot of information about sex on the internet.  He also knew that there were places online where someone could go and find out who these people are who sexually abuse children.  Perhaps he went online so that he could compare his experience against the experiences of other people who were hurt like he was, or look at pictures of other molesters and see if they looked like his molester.

One of the biggest mental hurdles that victims of childhood sexual abuse encounter is thinking that either this is only happening to them, or that what they’re going through is somehow supposed to be happening.  It has been a problem of isolation, where victims feel alone in their circumstances. Clearly that is changing.

With broader access to online information about the world, about life, sex, and traumatic experiences, children like this young boy can quickly find information about what is happening to him.  Clearly he knew it was wrong, and he turned to a place where he thought he could find an answer. The internet.

It wasn’t the law, or McQueary, or Paterno, or Penn State that brought down this wall of silence. It was a kid looking up sex offender information on the internet.

That is the world we live in.

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One comment on “Information Literacy’s Role in the Penn State Story

  1. […] Information Literacy’s Role in the Penn State Story Everyone has been talking about the Penn State pedophilia/rape story, and it is absolutely horrifying.  But there was something in this story that jumped out at me that I wanted to highlight.  It… […]

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