Was Penn State a Matter of “Betrayal Blindness?”

Psychology professor and published author, Jennifer Freyd, has applied her well-known “betrayal trauma” theory, to a possible “betrayal blindness” explanation for the 15 men who  abandoned and neglected the alleged victims at Penn State.

First off, let me say that I respect Jennifer Freyd very much. When I first remembered that I was sexually abused and raped by my father when I was a child, I wrote her a long letter and Jennifer had the decency and kindness to reply to me.

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Professor Freyd thinks that the Penn State men, who witnessed the alleged rapes and did not help the children, might have forgotten that the oral rapes and sodomy occurred at all.

Jennifer made it clear that she cannot get into the mind of the men who witnessed the alleged abuse. She is only offering one possible reason for their lack of action.

Jennifer rightly notes that, in order to preserve and protect relationships that we depend upon, or are highly dependent on, we simply cannot see what is happening, right before our very eyes.

As I always say, “we see with the mind, not the eye.”

Professor Freyd feels that, because any action towards helping the rape victim will push away the very people or institution that is depended upon, the person can literally become unaware of  having witnessed the rape.

However, Jennifer implies that it is those who have been abused themselves as a children, who will develop this lack of comprehension and block out the incident of betrayal.

What is the mechanism that enabled those men to walk away? Were all 15 of those men also sexually abused as children? That seems highly unlikely.

Child abuse, verbal Was graduate assistant, Mike McQueary, who allegedly witnessed Sandusky sodomizing a ten year-old boy, sexually abused himself as a child, and he completely blocked out the incident at Penn State? Is that why he did not intervene and only called his father at first? Is that why he never called police and why, when nothing happened to Sandusky, he did not follow up on it?

I don’t buy it. If either of the two men who witnessed the alleged acts, completely blocked it all out, then it was done out of self-convenience, not because they were traumatized, or felt deeply, personally betrayed.

And this theory does not excuse the 13 men who did not witness the acts, and still chose to do nothing. There is no betrayal-blindness for them.

In the wake of this Penn State evil mess, are people around the country deliberately looking for excuses in a desperate attempt to understand why some people who know about child sexual abuse, do nothing to stop it? Are people trying to find a reason for this, just like some people try to explain away, minimize, and defend the act of child sexual abuse itself? Are they looking for a reason that fits into their comfort zone? Do people need to hear that these men all had some kind of amnesia or temporary insanity? Will that help people to explain away what was, most likely, pure selfishness and lack of conscience?

Why can’t we just get angry and say, “Hey! You are a selfish son-of-a-bitch and you abandoned those kids to a child rapist. The rape of a child is a very serious crime. How dare you ignore it?! Now take responsibility and work on changing your consciousness. Be a better human being!”

Why do we feel we have to coddle everyone? Why can’t we sometimes be more like Judge Judy and give the straight dope to people who do stupid, irresponsible, and outright harmful things to children?

I have heard several media commentators call these men “good people” and express their shock over why these “good” men screwed up. Please stop calling the men who did nothing, “good” people! We are neither good, nor bad. We humans all have good and evil inside of us. “Evil” is ‘the self’…. our selfish nature.  The word “good” derives from the term, “God-like.” There are very few God-like humans on this earth.

Sometimes, people need angry voices to put them in their place, and wake them up. Sugar-coating and labeling people with disorders for every harmful, dangerous, act is never going to make people change. It instead provides them with an excuse for what is inexcusable behavior.


Interesting Footnote: Jennifer Freyd’s parents began the “False Memory Syndrome Foundation” after Jennifer privately disclosed that she had remembered being sexually abused by her father as a child. It was Jennifer’s parents, who brought the accusations public, and who have spent years, and millions of dollars (some of that donated by perpetrators) trying to refute that people can repress, dissociate, and have total amnesia for having been the victim of child sexual abuse.

Jennifer’s parents and the FMSF have successfully influenced the media, courts, the general public, and many mental health professionals into the belief that false memories of abuse are common, and that most, if not all, cases of repressed memories of child sexual abuse are false. They have used questionable tactics to do this, and denied and ignored virtually every piece of evidence and research that supports the fact that repression, dissociation, and sometimes total amnesia, exists for incest, trauma, and child sexual abuse.

Jennifer has been ostracized and vilified by her parents, and other supporters of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation. Jennifer is a Proffessor of Psychology at the University of Oregon. She is a highly respected psychologist, who has at least two published  books and she has had countless articles published in peer-reviewed professional journals.

Her publications include extensive research on child sexual abuse, memory, mental health, trauma research and conceptualizations.

If you listen to her on the radio show interview about Penn State, you can hear that she is a very balanced, articulate, intelligent person.  She is certainly not the kind of person that has been described by “false memory” advocates, who say that those who claim to have repressed memories of incest and sexual abuse, are a bunch of ‘psychologically screwed up, immature people, influenced by their nutty therapists.’

You can listen to the program by clicking here: www.whyy.org

Jennifer J. Freyd, University of Oregon

This entry was posted in Child Abuse, child molestation, child sexual abuse, Crime, rape and abuse and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Was Penn State a Matter of “Betrayal Blindness?”

  1. little nel says:

    I agree with this article.

    McQueary has stated, in an email, that he did stop the abuse when he caught Sandusky in the shower with the boy. He is angry that people think that he “did nothing” when the boy was being sodomized.

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