Trust and Betrayal In High Places

Jan 25, 2018

Credit Larry Nassar / Michigan Attorney General

Commentary: Trust is a precious and sacred thing. Trust requires faith and a sense of surrender of one’s vulnerability to another human being, entity, or institution. Well-placed trust requires integrity and competence in the person or entity that someone has placed their trust in. If any element of this process is missing, trust is violated and a humanly sacred relationship is shattered.

None of us can function without trust. In fact, we need so much trust in so many things it is staggering. We trust we will wake up in the morning. We trust that the food we eat won’t kill us. We trust that when we go through the next green light at the intersection that no one will be coming the other way to wipe us out. We trust that we will be paid for our work, and the money we receive will buy something. On and on it goes. We swim in a sea of trust. We want to have trust in persons around us who hold an aspect of control in our lives. And, society itself cannot function without having a reasonable level of trust in the social and governmental institutions that surround us. When trust is violated, this results in a deep level of betrayal.

Disturbing stories have emerged in recent years about terrible abuses of trust on a national scale. We just witnessed another in the disturbing case of a doctor (Larry Nassar) who was sentenced to life in prison for his many years of crimes of abuse against scores of young women. To the very end, the doctor refuses to accept that he did anything wrong. He has outed and tarnished a large Great Lakes-area university as well as national United States Olympic organizations as having epically failed.

Before this, there were disturbing events that went on for decades at a large university in Pennsylvania which resulted in an assistant football coach being was found guilty of child abuse who was effectively sentenced to life in prison. This scandal forever tainted the name and reputation of a famous college football coach who was often held up by many as a paragon of virtue. Fair-minded people find it impossible to believe that this coach was unaware of the terrible deeds going on under his leadership by this long-time member of his coaching staff. To this day, many people surrounding this event as well as as many in the university community there do not accept that these events even happened. The abuses occurred over at least a forty year period.

And there has been another recent case where attacks on women by university athletes likely occurred over a period of years at a major Texas university. One athlete has been sentenced to a long prison term as a part of this scandal. Until these events broke wide open, what was the university’s response? Denial, lack of action, and alleged attempts at a coverup. Prominent institutional figures around these events have resigned or been fired. And another institutional reputation ruined.

Do you see a pattern here? Acts of abuse occur. A victim musters the courage to speak out. The institution ignores the pleas. They may try a cover-up. Their legal team lays down a defensive strategy and carefully worded denials. The victim must decide to either give up or keep trying. Sometimes, their pleas become strong or loud enough to be heard over the noise of denial. Then, and only then, are facts seriously examined and consequences become possible.

There are people in disgraced institutions that heard cries for help and did nothing. Or, they failed to hear those cries at all. When that happens, they themselves become part of the violation and must share in the disgrace. Shame. Shame on them.

Yes, these are disturbing events. We would like not to think about them if we could. But that is not an option. There are innocent people being abused every day and taken advantage of that cry out for us to hear them. There is a sense of justice and restitution that begs to be satisfied in a civilized society. No one truly human can hear the cries and turn away.

Institutions may work to protect their reputations and fund-raising capability. Those who

continue to commit terrible acts may continue to try to hide in the shadows. Until someone creates a new kind of human being, abuse in various forms is going to happen. But, may all those who suffer abuse find the courage and persistence to shine a bright beacon of light deep into that darkness so justice, restitution, and peace for the victims can prevail.