Here we go…a person’s lifelong body of work and accomplishment is dismissed immediately following an allegation of impropriety over forty years ago. As if everything that he has ever been done before or after is now illegitimate. His own Alma Mater abandons him in the process.
Wheaton College didn’t even let the ink dry on the indictment before stripping Dennis Hastert of all and any connection with their community. Has any of the learning and new ideas since the 2007 founding of the Wheaton College Center for Economics, Government and Public Policy been beneficial for students and the college? Will erasing Mr. Hastert’s name from the walls of the Institution then forfeit the accomplishments that have been part of the curriculum and discourse of the College? Mr. Hastert’s immediate resignation provided a convenient opportunity for the Institution to distance itself from Mr Hastert and allegations of sexual abuse. Removing his presence from the premises the same day placed an exclamation point on the issue for the public arena.
Once again a College misses a golden opportunity. Once again, an institution of higher learning appears to react in order to maintain its image as opposed to using its storied resources to address the issue both short and long-term. That is disappointing. What if instead of rushing to judgment, schools begin working to develop responses that promote healing? What if Institutions intentionally reached out in Christian care and compassion to help restore both perpetrators and victims of sexual crimes?
If in time the allegations prove true Mr. Hastert may happily welcome friends, colleagues, and a community to come alongside him and share in the shame and healing. If the allegations prove true, the survivors would welcome healing they may have hoped for in silence for years. Running away from both perpetrators and survivors due to fear only perpetuates this issue. How about the “Wheaton College Center for Healing from Sexual Abuse.” How about the Penn State Foundation for research and development of Sexual Abuse Recovery?
When these incidents surface it is like turning the light on a bunch of cock-roaches; everyone runs for cover. The Institutions distance themselves as quickly and inexpensively as possible. The perpetrator is ostracized and left to struggle alone in his or her shame. The survivor receives little hope for healing, just additional shame from exposure. Then not long after, everyone returns to the cover of darkness.
If in time the allegations prove true, perpetrators deserve punishment. But their crimes are not against Institutions. They should and do receive the punishment they deserve. What do Institutions provide for either perpetrators or survivors? There is a whole lot of restoration that needs to go on in the years that follow disclosure. What a window of hope an Institution could be for both perpetrators and survivors in the darkest of all evils.
In this instance, Mr. Hastert is an alumnus of Wheaton College fifty years removed. His recent connection in 2007 was an honor bestowed on him for his years of service to the country as Representative and Speaker of the House. He was not a staff member or employee of Wheaton College. What if now moving forward revelations of current or past indiscretion surface; be it current or former staff members of Wheaton? It would be prudent to have in place a protocol for disclosure and a program for healing for both perpetrator and survivor. Instead of denying and ignoring, the people of the Institution could break down the cultural shame attached to the issue that is rampant in every institution, family, and community in this country. The Institution could be on the front line of a battle that continues to be cloaked in secrecy and be a champion for many.
What an opportunity to deal a blow to the enemy, instead of obsessing about image and acquiescing to evil. I hope one day, one Institution somewhere will rise up and lead.