An Open Letter to the Students of Penn State

Dear Students of Penn State,

More specifically, those of you who are steadfast in your support of those involved in covering up the sexual abuse and victimization of Jerry Sandusky on several children.We do not know each other.  My name is Tashmica and I am a victim of early sexual abuse.

My father was a youth pastor.  He was known to his family as a good father.  He was a dedicated soldier in the ARMY.  He was funny and charming.  People who knew him, liked him.  They respected him.  He was no Joe Paterno and staff but he was loved in our circle.
I agreed.  I have often said that my father was a great father with the exception of being a perpetrator.  He taught me to sing and I have a beautiful voice.  He taught me to walk with my head held high and to speak with intelligence.  He taught me to use a telescope and to find the constellations.  He taught me to work hard and value a good education.
Unfortunately, all of my first sexual experiences were with him.  ALL of them.
When I made the decision at 9 years old to tell my mother what he had been doing to me a year after he died, his reputation was like a wave ready to crush me.  I had no idea if anyone would believe me.  I was a little bit of a girl.  I wasn’t a liar or a trouble maker but I was terrified.
First, Mrs. Pease, my third grade teacher believed me.
She called a meeting with my mother.  She held my hand and then she gently asked, “Do you want to tell your mom or would you like me to?”
*head in hands*
And I told her.
And she believed me.
Let the healing begin.
It has been 21 years since I sat in that child sized chair as a little bit of a girl.  I have spent years in and out of counseling trying to make sense of how those terrible acts changed me.  I have wrestled with the question, “Why?” and I have released myself from finding the elusive answer.  I have dealt with fear, anxiety, insomnia and simple developmental behavioral issues that I didn’t get to master because I was too busy surviving.
I have no idea if or when this healing will ever be complete.  The wound is deep and splintered into so many areas.
My father was a good man.  A man like Joe Paterno, Jerry Sandusky and many others involved in the destruction of several child victims.
As a victim myself, I sat in heartbreaking rapt attention while watching this.

Video: Paterno Thanks Students At Rally:

My skin began to itch and my eyes begin to close.  The sorrow is just now catching up to me.  I felt like hundreds of people all gathered in my front yard to cheer what a good man my father was.  I felt again the weight of worthlessness.  I am certain that I am not alone.
That will always be part of the injustice for children who are sexually abused.  It is impossible to reconcile the love and respect you have for the person who manipulated and violated you.
Tashmica, age 7

Unfortunately, your signs, your cheering and your adulation have only made it more confusing.

You have made very clear the worth of the children who were so much braver than those good men. They were not silent.  They were disregarded.
I hope this helps.  I hope that after this explanation you are now the wiser.  I hope you find your feet in another yard next time.
I would have appreciated it when I was ten years old and I had to be braver than a good man.

19 thoughts on “An Open Letter to the Students of Penn State

  1. very moving, tashmica. thank you for sharing. the support for paterno and company sickens and saddens me…and many others.

  2. thank you for your letter. i know where you're coming from, because i've been there too. we look back at the children we were and wish we could stop the pain, but we can't. it's not enough to stop the abuser, you have to stop those who know about it but do nothing, or not enough to stop it, for they are no better than the abuser. i wish that none of that had happened to that little girl i remember, i cry for her loss of innocence which follows me even now tho i know the fault was not hers. it shaped every day of my life and i wish i could have made it stop. perhaps with more open letters such as yours, tashmica, these acts will no longer be ignored. i applaud you.

  3. THANK YOU for this. The fact that people are actually supporting those who failed these kids is extremely disheartening. I'm not sure how they could not understand the destruction caused by this kind of situation – both with the original act, and now with their attitude. It is a tragedy when an adult commits an act of betrayal this large. But when people prioritize personal or professional relationships or the success of athletics programs – or whatever other thing they value – over the welfare of children, we are lost. I hope this helps at least some of them realize what they are really doing. You are an amazing person for your attitude – you are a peaceful warrior and should be commended for your courage, both as a child and now.

  4. I love you Tasha. I've said this before, and i'll say it again. THANK YOU for speaking for those who can't and who wont. You are brave and I admire you so much for that….

  5. Tasha, There is no explaining it. It is wrong, but you did NOTHING to deserve being abused. You are a beautiful creation, and you are dearly loved. This world is upside down. Right is wrong, and wrong is right. Have no fear; one day all will be restored. I pray that you have peace. You will never forget what happened, but you can live with it. You can have peace. Never give up. Thank you for your courage to speak out. As far as the Penn State situation, it is unfathomable that any respectable man would cover this up or let it go. If my own family member, my best friend or somebody on my team did this, they would be brought to justice one way or another. God will have justice in the end, but this world is screwed up. Tashmica, I am praying for you, and I am sure many, many people who read this will be praying for you too. You were a beautiful child, and you are a beautiful woman. You're dad was sick, and he was a fool. He kept the circle of abuse going, but by your courage you stopped the cycle! You can be proud of that; you are worth more than you will ever know! Keep strong and seek God. You can't change what happened, but you can have peace! You are loved, Tasha.

  6. My heart aches, reading your story. I hope that little girl inside finally gets the healing that she needs.

    You are braver and stronger than what happened to you!

  7. Thank you for reaching out and sharing this. I have so much admiration for you.

    As an educator, I hope that if/when the day comes that someone confides something like this to me, I handle it with half the grace and strength that Mrs. Pease showed you.

  8. I am so sorry for your pain. I too was sexually abused. However, at this moment, I stand by our great coach. Hope my explanation will come across right. I'm not as good at writing as you are. The monster is Sandusky first off. As of right now, there is much that we have not heard, nor will we until December when it goes to court. Maybe when that happens, my view will change. But, you see, my mother remained silent about what happened to me. (It was a 'family friend' and not a family member.) She remained silent. Does that make me hate her? Does that make me think that she was a bad mother? Not at all. Her love and commitment was great. In my mind, the only thing she ever did was remain silent. I will never know why as she isn't around to ask. At some point, maybe we will hear as to why Joe and others were silent. To some, that doesn't matter. At PSU, we lost our hero. We need to be able to mourn this loss. We stand in support of the victims as this is more about them. But at the same time, we do mourn this loss. Our emotions are great.

    We also despise Sandusky. Many of us have helped raised money for the very foundation that he used to prey upon his victims. He used the money we raised to lure and keep the victims afraid. He is the one that is the monster. It is him that deserves the hatred that is felt by many.

    Many people remain silent about sexual abuse or physical abuse, especially in regards to our children. We must use this as an opportunity to educate the victims and the witnesses. It is important that they know they have a voice.

    I don't know why my best friend in my life, my mom, remained silent. But I love her and miss her in my life dearly.

  9. I tried to post before but don't see it so will try again. Tashmica this is beautifully written. I cried reading it. I was a victim of sexual child abuse by my grandfather. It went on for several years. I also have family members who were sexually abused when they were children. In my humble opinion, adults that know and remain silent are almost as much to blame as the abusers. All of us have the obligation to protect the children around us from harm.

  10. Thank you for writing this. I am glad a friend showed me this post. I am also glad that not all PSU students support the man complicit in the cover-up. Many more students have shown their support for the victims.

  11. YOu are very brave for sharing. I am so sorry that you had to experience this. I can imagine how hard and confusing it would be to have the man you loved and trusted the most,abuse you. MY thoughts and prayers are with you and my heart breaks for the little Tashmica who had to endure the abuse all those years ago. You are amazing; you are strong; YOU ARE A SURVIVOR!! HUGS

  12. I'm so sorry, Tashmica, and so glad that you're writing this so others can hear the words they need to—whichever side of things they're on. Abuse like this should never be covered up or disbelieved. I wish you much continued healing.

  13. Tashmica,
    Thank you for sharing. This is a beautiful way of speaking about your hurt. And I appreciate and value your honesty.

    As another anonymous person said, JoePa didn't rape any children. He is not like your father. And there is not a soul cheering for Sandusky.

    I hate that this makes you feel those awful things again.

    Please try to understand that these cheering kids are trying to show a man grace after he is being looked at as nationwide scum. What is most appalling about this video is that Joe is treated like a god. He is nowhere near it. He is a man; one who wishes he had done more in hindsight.. much like your mom probably feels. And I'm guessing at the end of her life, you would love to have people look past what she didn't do for you and encourage her for the good she did.

    All this to say there is a lot of healing in giving people grace. And I'm sure you know that to be true. I hope that you will give Paterno grace for his shortsightedness and know that even those of us speaking in sorrow for him also speak in sorrow for you and abused children everywhere.

    Remain firm. You are more than your past.


  14. Dear Kasey,

    I am aware that Joe Paterno and staff were not directly involved with the sexual abuse. Unfortunately, standing around with your hands in your pockets while children are being sexually assaulted in the shower next door, does not make you an innocent bystander.

    I understand that the 15 men who knew about the abuse are not pedophiles. The comparison I am making is that they were seen as good men, just like my father and they were concealing something heinous, just like my father. I am sorry if that was not clear in my letter.

    The difference between my mother and Jerry, Joe & Co. is that she didn't know, so she couldn't have done more. My mother came as soon as she heard, unlike 15 men who walked away. My mother is every bit the hero they are not. You won't find her name in the news. Their are no statues in her honor. The person I am now is the only testimony to the world of her steadfast love and faith in me.

    If you knew me, you would know that the very first item on my counseling check list was forgiveness. I continue to forgive my father every time some unexpected side affect of his abuse pops up. He was a broken, damaged man who was not strong enough to seek the help he needed. There is my grace.

    The 15 men will have to get their grace elsewhere. It is not for me to give.

    With all do respect, you cannot speak sorrow for the 15 men who did nothing and still support the children who were victimized in the same breath. The idea is repulsive.

    I am far more than my past and that is why I know bullshit when I see it.



    PS – Forgive me if this came off a bit strong but you just don't talk about someone's momma.

  15. I appreciate every word of encouragement from all of you. Even if we disagree, I am glad that you stopped by to share your opinion. Lord knows, I have never met a thought I didn't share. I will be writing a blog post in the next couple of days to clarify a few things and to express gratitude for all of you who read and shared my story. I do not intend to speak for the victims at Penn State. This is my story about my reaction to an injustice. Be well, Tashmica

  16. Tashmica, I’m so glad you wrote this. Stories matter. Your story, while devastating, adds depth and nuance to a difficult topic, and I hope it will help readers reconcile the fact that good men can do bad things. Or, in Paterno’s case, very bad things.

    Paterno supporters are calling his inaction a “mistake”, and are saying that his decades of good deeds and professional success should be his legacy. If the allegations made thus far are true, Joe Paterno is not a hero, or even a decent man. Dalliances with prostitutes, experimentation with illicit drugs, and tweeting naked photos of yourself are the kinds of mistakes that can eventually be forgiven. Ignoring the abuse of a child is in no way forgivable. This should absolutely be Paterno’s legacy. It makes me physically ill that people are defending him, saying that he reported the allegations to the proper authorities and did everything he was supposed to do. While this might excuse him legally, it makes him morally reprehensible. Someone with his power and authority could have ended the abuse years ago. A hero would have. Actually, you don’t even have to be a hero to report abuse – it’s something any decent person can and should do.

    Joe Paterno is not a victim, either. The victims are the young boys who were raped and abused by Sandusky. A grown man who ignored abuse allegations for years and then lost his job has experienced justice. This is fair. The students who rioted on his behalf fill me with shame, but I’ve decided to focus on the students who held the candlelight vigil for the victims. These students understood that Paterno is not the main character in this story, and that victims of abuse can never have enough support. While probably a little naïve, I’m choosing to believe that there are more candlelight vigil-holders than rioters in the world. Otherwise, what’s the point?

    Finally, Paterno should have made a public statement immediately after he was fired. He should have made it clear that he was fired for a legitimate reason, apologize for not doing his part to stop the abuse, and request that his supporters not add to the offences against the victims by making this about him. Paterno could have prevented much of the drama of the past week, but once again he chose to do nothing.

    So no, Paterno didn’t rape any children. But he is far from blameless.

  17. Damn Tasha I lived next door for 10 years n never knew… Tell em… I have no respect for anybody who covers up things like that… Over you Sister from another mother…

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