Wounded Village: In the Wake Of the Penn State Sex Scandal, A Mom Prays Her Son Is Safe With Others


This is the first year my 1-year-old has been in school.  I miss him.  I miss his babiness that is fading/transforming into little boy. I miss morning 1-year-old rambling/ middle of the day pitter patter of little feet/ sleepy afternoon cries. Letting him go was a trailmix of emotions–happy, sad, resolved, assured. Surely, I was doing the right thing by sending him there. This is his first step into the world, outside the care of kin. He will now be judged and disliked and not always loved—maybe for the parts of him that are most like me. He also will be nurtured and defined and shaped by someone who can give him things I cannot. His world is expanding beyond my wings. And that was the hard part of letting him go—realizing that I can’t give him everything he needs/I will not be the only one who shapes him/our world will not be the only thing that defines him. I admit: sometimes being a parent is more about me than my children. I walked out of his school on the first day in tears and at peace knowing that it indeed takes a village. I knew my baby would be held until his tears stopped.  Then he would be introduced to friends and an environment that would stimulate learning.

As I drove away, I thought of other boys. Boys whose parents needed a village—a place where someone would give their boys what they knew they couldn’t. I thought of mothers who, after praying no one would prey on their children, now stand at the center of a lawsuit. As my son took his first steps into the world, how could I not think of Eddie Long, his alleged victim Jamaal Parish, and others accused of taking advantage of their young charges’ trust? I’m not naive enough to believe people like Jerry Sandusky, the center of the Penn State child sex assault scandal, can’t happen to my son—not naïve enough to think that my trust in people won’t stop them from hurting me or my children. I don’t know if Bishop Long or Sandusky molested those boys. But I do know even if it didn’t happen to them, it’s happening somewhere, in a shroud of silence. I recognize the shame that cracks victim’s voices.  I recognize eyelids heavy with the weight of not knowing what judgment tomorrow brings—people picking apart their past to see if they are worthy of being called “victim.” My heart breaks for them. It breaks for their parents who are blaming themselves because they thought they did all the right things. They do not understand that they, too, were groomed.  My heart breaks because when children are betrayed, the village is wounded.  Future nurturing husbands/wives/fathers/mothers are aborted, torn into silent pieces of what could have been.

Realizing that we parents cannot alone give our children everything they need is humbling. My husband and I were diligent in our search for a preschool.  We prayed for guidance and I never second-guessed my gut when it came to choosing a place for our son. But that’s what most parents do for their children’s protection. We know the people we leave our children with. We love them. We trust them and so do our children, which makes them vulnerable. Which opens them up to be preyed upon.

I ask God every day to teach me how to build a house on faith and fill/feel it with love so my children will not have to go elsewhere seeking it. I pray that my children are not easy pickings to be preyed upon. But who am I? I am no different from any other mother with a mother’s prayer of protection for her children in her heart. My prayers and children are no more worthy than anyone else’s.

The hard reality is, we do not choose our children’s storms.  I have no power over what my children will go through, only their recovery.  My mother prayed for my protection but she also built me. Built me brave. Built me brave enough to come back from whatever would break me.  And that is my prayer—that I build my children brave enough to tell and brave enough to come back from whatever breaks them. I pray, too, that my heart is courageous enough to listen and believe and help them, hold them, hold them some more, and send them back into the village.

Crystal Irby is a sarcastic, artistic, word-savvy political junkie who loves her man, kids, food, and shoes—not always in that order. A writer and poet, she’s written for Front & Center and LOUDmouth, and her poetry has been published in the anthology His Rib: Stories, Poems, and Essays by Her (Penmanship, Mahogany L. Browne, Editor) and Right Side of the Wrong Bed by Frederick Smith (Kensington). To learn more about Crystal, visit her personal blog, Always In Progress.

PHOTO: CG2_SoulArtist for Flckr Creative Commons.


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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.


  1. This right here: “And that is my prayer—that I build my children brave enough to tell and brave enough to come back from whatever breaks them.” – is it! We can’t necessarily trust others but we can pray and hope that we empower our children. Great article


    I too am very afraid, of all that our children can be exposed tooo, even when we are directing the exposure….
    You send them to ballet, music and the such to give them opportunities for their minds to grow, and the uncertainty of the world around makes you want to keep them in a box…..

    I glad I got to read this article, it was on point…..your feelings, Ive felt and couldnt relate as u have done….Thank you….

    Cus all we have are our prayers, and the faith in that alone has to carry it all through

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