Monday, July 23, 2012

Penn State and the NCAA

This morning the NCAA announced the penalties that will be imposed on Penn State. This is following the release of the findings of an independent investigation by Louis Freeh. If you haven't read the report, you really should. It can be found here: The findings were disturbing to say the least, and documented a systematic cover up of known abuse by Jerry Sandusky.

There has been much speculation over the last week about the penalties the NCAA would hand down. Late yesterday, with the announcement that the press conference would be held this morning, that speculation became a little more specific. Many sources reported that the death penalty (the removal of Penn State's football program) was off the table, but that the punishment that would be announced would be quite severe.

Because of my own personal experiences I didn't expect the penalties handed down to be what I felt was adequate. However, I was completely blown away when I watched the press conference this morning.

Penn State will be banned from post season play for four years. In addition, they are immediately losing 10 scholarships, with an additional 70 scholarships being forfeited over the next 4 years. Joe Paterno's wins from 1998-2011 are also being vacated. On it's face, and especially if you aren't a sports fan, this doesn't seem like that much of a punishment. However, what this means is that Joe Paterno is no longer the lifetime NCAA College Football wins record holder. That distinction now belongs to Bobby Bowden. And finally, for me the most important penalty imposed on Penn State, is a $60 million fine that will be paid to the NCAA. The money paid from that fine will be held in endowment for the creation of a national organization dedicated to the prevention of child sex abuse.

I almost couldn't believe it when I heard it. I can imagine the feelings that created in the Penn State survivors. Not only has Sandusky been convicted, there will now be a new national organization dedicated to the awareness and prevention of child sex abuse. I've said from the beginning that my only motivation has been to do whatever I can to prevent this from happening again. Even if it's just one child. The survivors of Penn State, while they have a horrible, heinous wound to live with for the rest of their lives, now also have the thought that the actions they took afterwards will help create an organization that will hopefully prevent the same kind of acts from happening to another child.

It's difficult to feel hopeful in these situations. However, the NCAA just sent a message to not just Jerry Sandusky's survivors, but to survivor's of sexual abuse everywhere. And it's a message we've needed to hear for quite some time.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

A Crown of Beauty

It's very easy for me to focus on "who I have become" as a father, husband, and friend. What I have been failing to see is that it is not just those specific roles that are affected, but me as a whole. Not me as a father, simply me. I can't change parts of my life or specific areas of my life without looking at the big picture. If I focus on my shortcomings as a husband, but ignore my shortcomings as a boss or employee, I will never become what I was intended to be. However, if I focus on the whole while ignoring the parts, where does that leave me? Overwhelmed and facing an impossible task.

I'm merely human. How could I possibly see the big picture and the dozens of little pictures at the same time? I can't. God alone can. My job is to rely on His guidance to show me which little pictures to focus on to begin rebuilding the entire me. There are so many cheesy analogies or metaphors I could use right now to describe it. Jigsaw puzzles, building a house, painting a picture...but they all cheapen what will serve to be a life changing process.

I've waited for years for God to "fix" me, never realizing in my anger and pridefulness, that God was waiting on me the entire time. For the first time in a long time, I feel like I'm on the cusp of something big. Not just for me. Deep down, I always knew that God would pull something positive out of all this. I could never admit it to myself, but I knew it. I still don't know what it is, and I know I'm not ready yet either. But I know it's there, and I know God is waiting for the right moment to say "See? I provide for my children. I made you a promise, and I have not forgotten you." Until that time comes, I will continue to relearn how to trust Him again and rejoice that I didn't wait too long to rediscover His love.

"The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He was sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor and the day of vengeance for our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion --

To bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor. They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations."
Isaiah 61:1-4

I first discovered that passage a couple of years ago when I went about halfway through a Beth Moore Bible study called "Breaking Free". I thought I understood what it meant then for me. I selfishly assumed that the passage perfectly encapsulated what I had already done. Reading it now, that couldn't be further from the truth.

What I have chosen to become is not what Isaiah was to the people of Israel. As I read over it again, the burning question of the last couple of weeks, "what am I intended to be", is answered. Well, maybe more "what am I intended to do", not be. This is an exciting time for me. It seems like every day God is showing me something amazing, or giving me an answer I've been pridefully searching for within myself the last few years. I'm still not exactly sure how to change from the person I am to the person God wants me to be, but I know it's becoming clearer every day as God reveals more of His purpose and plan for my life. My prayer now is that I will find that constant reminder throughout the day to help me remember that I am not "David's victim". I am a child of the loving, righteous God.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Parole Granted

"Mr. Pierce was granted parole." The five words that I knew I would hear this morning when I called the parole board, but the words that I have prayed for weeks that I wouldn't hear. I thought I knew how I would handle it when he was released. I'd told myself, others, reporters, that it didn't make any difference to me. That I would have to fight my demons regardless of whether David was in prison or not. I was wrong. I had no idea what this would be like. I'm disgusted. I'm heartbroken. I'm terrified knowing he will do it again when he gets out. This is hard to stomach not just as a victim, but as a father. I can't imagine a monster like David being free in our community again.

I guess it's just par for the course for my life lately. Good things happen, then I get shit on. I know, I can't let it control me, I shouldn't let it get me down, blah blah. I'm tired of it. All of it. Ever feel like your life deserves a redo? I'm sure everyone does at some point.

This will likely be my last post here. The blog has served its purpose. I told my story. It's out there for anyone to read. Not that it matters, or has mattered. Thanks for all the support while I've been writing this. I know there are those of you reading this that are happy to see David being released. That are happy to see me hurting. And I know who you are. Enjoy your lives away from the pain caused by David Pierce. His survivors will be dealing with it for the rest of their lives. Enjoy your families free of the issues caused by a monster like David. Enjoy your job. Enjoy doing something you are passionate about. Enjoy the sense of accomplishment and personal satisfaction you get from what you do. It hasn't been ripped from you by someone hellbent on destruction. Enjoy being able to play the victim when you don't have the first clue what it's like to try and heal from something like this. You get the luxury of turning it off and on. Of being normal when you want to. Some of us carry it with us constantly.

Maybe someday you'll be able to put yourself in my place. Or my parents', or my wife's place, and think about something like this happening to you. Or someone you love. Think about what it would be like having nothing left but those you love and those that love you back.

My only hope is that someone has learned something from my story. How it could have been handled differently. How it could have been prevented. God knows, I learned from my mistakes, as well as the mistakes of others.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Report on the Parole Hearing

I've given myself some time to process the whole experience of speaking at the parole hearing. Overall, it was a positive, healing experience for me. In the last 4 years there have been several instances that I feel like I passed up critical, crucial opportunities where I could have spoken up and affected an outcome in one way or another. I couldn't allow another one of those opportunities to pass by.

As I was trying to decide whether I wanted to go speak in front of the board or not, there was one specific even that I kept coming back to, and something that haunted me until I stood in front of the Parole Board. I couldn't get out of my head the meeting with Rick, Dennis and David. I couldn't get past the feelings I felt every time I thought of that one moment when I could've spoken up and prevented another six months of abuse from occurring at FBC. When I stood in front of the Parole Board, the first thing I said was that I honestly had no idea what I was going to say to them. I walked into the room not knowing what I was going to say. I walked up to the podium not knowing what I was going to say. The one thing I did know was that I was not going to pass up another opportunity to try and prevent more abuse from happening.

I explained to the Parole Board my specific reason (beyond healing for me) that I was speaking to them. It had nothing to do with justice, revenge, or vindication. There is nothing that can make me feel like justice has been served for what David did. The things I struggle with every day are there whether David is in jail or not. David staying in jail or being released is not going to make anything easier or more difficult for me to deal with. While the act of speaking in front of the Parole Board may have been a healing experience for me, there is no healing for me if David remains incarcerated. The sole reason David needs to remain in prison is to prevent him from abusing someone else. Given David's lack of remorse, his lengthy pattern of offending, and his ability to keep his actions hidden for long periods of time, I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that when he is released, he will abuse again.

I failed myself and many other boys both by waiting to come forward, and by not pushing the issue with FBC. That's something I've dealt with and come to grips with. I know, as I've said before, that I did what I did when I could do it. My only hope is that by being able to be honest both with myself and the Parole Board, that something can take place to keep David incarcerated for as long as possible. If not, I can deal with that because I know that I did everything in my power to keep him where he belongs.

Thank you for the prayers and thoughts on the 24th. They were felt. I wouldn't have been able to say the things I said without them. God was definitely with me. The Parole Board will announce its decision on January 31st.

The Beginning of Change

Sometimes all it takes is one phone call to restore your trust in our legislative system. Several weeks ago, upon learning that the charge of sexual indecency with a child was classified as "not deniable" for parole, I made several phone calls to state legislators. I was unable to talk to anyone, but left messages with every person I called. I assumed that I would get no response, and would need to continue to call until I got my point across that I wanted to talk to them.

Last night on my way home from work I received a phone call from Senator Percy Malone. While I am not one of his constituents, he was the first legislator I called. For those of you who are not familiar with the work of Senator Malone, during his lengthy terms as a state representative and state senator, he has been a champion for the protection of abuse survivors and the punishment of sexual offenders. He was instrumental in changing the statute of limitations for sexual abuse and operates a task force on childhood abuse and neglect.

When I explained to Senator Malone why I called, he was very suprised. Like I was upon learning the classification of the charge, he was completely taken aback that the Parole Board had no option to deny parole for David. After explaining the particulars of my (and so many other survivors of David's) abuse, he was as disturbed as I am (as I know many of you are).

For those of you reading this that are survivors, family members of survivors, friends of survivors, or just concerned about the possibility of an imminent release for David, know that there are wheels in motion to try to keep David in prison.

Looking past actually keeping David in prison, there is a larger issue here. My question to Senator Malone was what could be done to keep this from happening again. In the spring Senator Malone's task force on childhood abuse and neglect will convene in preparation for the 2012 legislative session. He assures me that one of the main items on the agenda will be changing the law regarding the classification of sexual indecency with a child. He invited me to come testify before the taskforce, which I would gladly do dozens of times if it prevents one person from dealing with this specific issue again.

This is all good news. Don't assume any of it is over though. Continue to apply pressure to those in power to do everything they can to keep David in prison. Continue to apply pressure to the lawmakers to do everything they can to get this law changed. Everything has been set in motion, but until the law is signed it's not safe to assume that it will just happen.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Perfect Timing

Earlier this week I was watching a fairly obscure movie that I really kind of picked on a whim. I wasn't really sure what it was about, or that I would like it. The movie had no overt religious or spiritual overtones, but that didn't stop a particular scene from having what has turned out to be a rather large effect on me. The movie is titled Ink. A portion of the movie takes place in a fantasy dreamworld populated by the forces of good (the Story Tellers) and the forces of evil (The Incubus). Towards the end of the movie, a character named Ink is having a conversation with a story teller:

Story Teller (ST): Ink...incredible Ink. You'll hide yourself ashamed but you can't see how beautiful you are.

Ink: I don't understand. Why are you here? What have you done?

ST: I'm here for you, Ink. I'm here for you.

Ink: Why? Why? What do you want from me? I'm ruined, can't you see that?

ST: Because I choose to see you for what you are intended to be, not what you have become.
. . . .
ST: You don't have to choose this.

After watching this scene maybe a dozen times, this is the immediate response I wrote to what I just saw and heard:
"What am I intended to be? Am I hiding myself? Of course. Is what I've become different from what I'm intended to be? Without a doubt. The movie quote above left me floored and hurting that in spite of my ugliness, God sees how beautiful I am. In spite of what I've become, God sees what He intends for me to be. My "inability" to look past what I've become has been nothing but a choice. I chose to hide, shrouding what I perceived as ugliness in a cloak of shame, hatred, and distrust. I chose to ignore God. He never abandoned me."

I've ran those movie lines through my head hundreds of times in the last 3 or 4 days. I've never felt so strongly that something better expressed my thoughts than the words spoken by Ink. I don't know how many times growing up and as an adult I heard things like "God's always with you", etc, but in the last three years none of it connected for me. Until I was able to hear God saying "I'm here for YOU. I'm here because I see the beauty of what I intend for you to become. Regardless of what you have chosen to become, I'm still here because you can make a different choice and begin working towards what I have intended for you all along."

As often as I have felt a flood of negative emotions in the last 3 or 4 years, I finally felt a flood of positive emotions. Joy in knowing that no matter how far I've fallen from God, he still pursues me with abandon. Relief in finally realizing that God did not forsake me. That no matter the imperfections in His children, his love and his plans are still perfect. All of this tempered with the sadness and regret that it took me this long to to trust God again. As I write this, I'm reminded of a poem by Enter the Worship Circle, entitled "The Passion of Your Heart".

The Passion Of Your Heart
Oh the passion of your heart - your abandoned pursuit of me.
Oh the risks that you took to love someone like me - that risk has set my soul free.
Your desire for me is overwhelming - it consumes your every thought.
Oh the joy that you feel when our hearts touch - the joy of when we touch.
You desire to draw me so close to you - you desire to have me all to yourself.
You tenderly call out my name - beckoning me to come nearer.
You romance me with purity and sweet wine - poured into a cup of communion.
We dance and spin all around the universe.
Your rage is aroused by my enemies - you defend me with arms full of strength.
Your gentleness toward me is ever-present - your care for me ever-living.
You are so eager to disclose all the secrets of your heart - to show yourself unrestrained,
fully given to me.
Your goodness is a placid stream - a blanket wrapped around me.
Your faithfulness is the sure song of sunrise.
Your promises are structures already formed.
Ever deepening is the vastness of your great love.
You allure me with soft array.
Ever-present is the pulse of your affections.
Your smile is gleaming with excitement - to show me even more.

God's timing once again proves to be perfect. Tomorrow is what could be the final parole hearing, and the first parole hearing that I will speak at. I have no idea what I'm going to say. There's a pretty good chance I won't know what I'm going to say until words start coming out of my mouth. But to finally feel like I can ask God for guidance again is more comforting that any words of encouragement could be.

Please, say a prayer tomorrow. Not just for me, but for anyone else speaking to the parole board. For the survivors, as we endure yet again the emotional roller coaster that these parole hearings are. For the families of the survivors, as they fumble and struggle to help their loved ones any way they can, never really knowing what to say or do to make it better. For the members of the Parole Board, that they will find a way to again defer parole and keep David in jail.