Saturday, January 27, 2018

The Week in Review: Good Times with Friends and the Gymnast as Cautionary Tale

In many ways, the past week has been a good one:

--we've gotten underway with doctor's appointments.  I'm always happy when we're doing some basic adult tasks of self-care.

--we're making very slow, but steady, progress with home and cottage repairs.   This statement means we've gotten estimates and we're about to sign paperwork, and I've been making steady work with sorting and getting rid of stuff.  As with body self-care, I'm happy when we make progress on care for our house.

--We've had time with friends.  I'm particularly happy about our happy hour last night at Tropical Acres, one of Broward county's oldest steakhouses.  After a dreadful drive through heavy traffic, it was wonderful to relax and catch up with friends while having reduced-price appetizers and drinks.  Ahhhhh.

--I had a great writing week.  I had a lot of ideas, did some submitting, did some writing, did some revising--did a bit each day, which adds up.

--it's been a good work week too.

But it's also been an unsettling week.  I've been having dreams about gymnasts, which tells me that I'm not being successful in trying to avoid the news.

I did not read the individual testimony of each gymnast.  But the large outlines still shock me.

I've spent a lot of time thinking about how to keep people safe.  One of the hardest writing projects I ever undertook was writing the safe space policy that our insurance requires of my church.  It was hard because I had to consider all the ways that churches of the past have not protected children.  We could avoid many horrible situations if we just followed this one piece of advice:  no non-parental adult should ever be alone with a child.  There should always be another adult present.

Like I said, I haven't read deeply about the horrible doctor and the gymnasts.  I'm assuming that there wasn't a nurse in the room when he did his deeds.  But I have read several articles that remind us that even if there were adults in the room, that he could have still manipulated the situation.  The girls have been trained, after all--non-parental adults have been touching them in intimate ways all their lives.  The hunger for Olympic gold is fierce.  They're taught to ignore their pain.

I don't want to unpack all the implications of that above paragraph. I do want this moment in time to serve as a reminder to those of us who are charged with the safety of others.  Do we have plans in place to avoid abuse as much as is possible?  What would we do if anyone came to us with a difficult story?

That's the part of the story that just bewilders me:  the people who have been sounding the alarm about this doctor for years, and not only the Olympic/gymnastic higher-ups ignored them, but officials at Michigan State.

So yes, as I've gone about the good parts of my week, I've had this news story always in the background, always serving as a cautionary tale.  I did a quick inventory:  we have windows on all of our doors.  No one has come to me with any story of anyone still employed with us who might be behaving unethically or abusively.  Most of us have been trained so that we stay compliant with what Title IX requires, and those expectations permeate our Hollywood campus.  We have a security guard for the late evening hours when we don't have as many people on campus.

I do know the world we live in.  I do know that we can take every precaution, and it might not be enough.  But I don't understand why people wouldn't take every precaution--no gold medal is worth protecting an abuser.

For those of us in institutions that aren't taking some basic precautions, let's use this opportunity to move our institutions forward to a safer space.  Let us put policies in place so that we don't need to have these cautionary tales. 

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