And now the Light shines on Ohio State Wrestling.

Former Ohio State wrestlers claim Congressman Jim Jordan, (R- Ohio), was complicit in knowing team doctor Richard Strauss sexually abused and assaulted wrestlers. Jordan told Fox News these discussions, where Strauss was called: “Locker-room voyeur,” “Serial groper,” or "Dr. Jelly Paws," were “locker room banter” and " are a lot different than allegations of abuse or – or reported abuse to us." He was a full time assistant coach with years of experience. Not acting against, or reporting, vile behavior because of how it is perceived is a copout. Any reference to sexual abuse must be taken seriously to reveal and terminate it.

A snickering Penn State assistant football coach used the term “Jerry’s kids”, lifting Jerry Lewis’ endearing fund raising title, to label Sandusky’s 2nd Mile participants to make other Penn State staffers chuckle when I coached there in the late 1980’s. In retrospect, his banter likely acknowledged Sandusky’s sexual predation. They all laughed.

Although not aware of Sandusky's sexually abuse during my time there as a grad assistant, the bizarre power dynamics I experienced with Paterno and the staff motivated me to dedicate my career to building thriving organizations with healthy leadership and team practices. My greatest regret was not knowing and stopping Sandusky from tormenting more boys. I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and I know the toll.

With light shining on another complicit university condoning a physician’s vile conduct, it is a good time to review how all forms of abuse can stop and be transcended. Here’s how.

Organizations allowing abuse share three factors.

Factor 1) They encourage and enable abuse by condoning it. People in charge are aware.

Factor 2) They attract and hire employees predisposed and willing to abuse.

Factor 3) There are no clear rules defining and enforcing appropriate behavior and conduct

Here are some additional factors, also found at Ohio State and Michigan State:

•Domineering behavior: accepted power and control permits perps to break boundaries

•Extreme performance expectations encourage power / control, criticism / fear dynamics

•Excessive competition (in function, tasks, status, or advancement fosters compliance)

•Fear and Trepidation.

•Poor communications – no dialogue or transparency

•Physical versus verbal expression

•Sadistic enjoyment in humiliating talented people

•Perps demonstrate a sociopathic ability to control their own image—the selective ability to appear like a different person to different audiences at different power levels. For example, assaulting kids while being celebrated by officials; kissing up and kicking down!

•Deficiencies in leadership and management behavior


•Lack of clear policies about workplace dignity

At Ohio State with Strauss and with Larry Nassar at Michigan State, officials did not verify with students whether they understood behaviors constituting sexual assault and abuse. These officials ignored and essentially condoned sexual assault and abuse. To clarify,

Sexual Assault, according to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN), is any sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent of the survivor. If all parties involved do not provide an enthusiastic “yes,” there is no consent. If it’s not clear, it’s not consent.

Sexual abuse, adapted from the Encyclopedia of Psychology, is unwanted sexual activity, with perpetrators using force, making threats or taking advantage of victims not able to give consent.

The first step in tackling organizational abuse, including sexual abuse, is to identify, acknowledge, and admit it exists. The following steps help organizations transcend destructive behaviors. These steps also help victims recover from trauma.

1. Leaders report abuse to credible authorities to stop and address it and then acknowledge how inappropriate behaviors were practiced to learn, change, and enlighten. They separate facts from opinions to debunk false beliefs and appearances while exposing cultural blind spots with transparency and disclosure.

2. Leaders list deceptive beliefs, lies, destructive alliances, hidden and secret problems, narcissism, and cognitive distortions formerly embraced by bad and abusive people as “their way” to maintain power or to satisfy selfish and deviant needs.

3. Leaders list dysfunctional behaviors associated with these distorted beliefs; abusive behaviors accepted as “the way we’ve always done it” or “that’s just the way he/she is” but sick—and, in these cases, illegal
4. Leaders encourage, and make simple a cultural norm to identify, report, address, and stop all abusive practices and related banter / references. They create reputable, trustworthy reporting processes, including easy access to state and federal authorities, where internal reporting may be squashed.

Organized employee boycotts, walkouts, and third-party organizing send shockwaves up abusive management chains. There’s strength in numbers. If leaders don’t act, demand, with one collective voice, abusive people and practices be abolished and replaced with healthy and uplifting leadership.

5. Develop leaders with transparent communication and evaluation processes assuring you will be surrounded, for the most part, by healthy people and leaders who afford you the dignity, respect, efficacy, and rights to life, liberty, and happiness you deserve.

Matt Paknis is a senior management consultant with six years of college football coaching and eight years of playing experience through 5 championship seasons whose focus is on lessening bullying in the workplace. He was a former assistant coach at Penn State under Joe Paterno and has spoken publicly about being abused as a child. Matt transcended childhood bullying and the death of his mother with teamwork and leadership. He has dedicated over twenty-five years of consulting to helping global clients embrace healthy management practices to thrive. His latest book, "Successful Leaders Aren't Bullies: How to Stop Abuse at Work and Build Exceptional Organizations," releases this September.


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