Yesterday I looked up one name from my past — Howard Moos, who taught 6th grade at my old school, and who later pled guilty to molesting one of my friends. Let’s back up a little: in reading up on the way things happened at Penn State, there were some similarities (someone in power abusing their authority and protections) but whereas Jerry Sandusky was sentenced after being tried and found guilty to 30-60 years in jail, Mr Moos was given one year in jail and five years probation after pleading guilty. The terms were interesting, as Mr Moos had agreed to name other kids he had abused in return for immunity from prosecution for those crimes.
That’s the way it happened twenty-five years ago (Mr Moos was sentenced in 1989); according to his obituary he moved to Arizona in 1999, ten years after the sentencing; he did not get divorced and he lived in Arizona until 2011, when he passed away. No mention of any jail time was made, and the obituary is worded carefully enough that you can’t tell what happened between his ‘retirement’ and move to Arizona (or when the ‘retirement’ occurred, in fact; I can’t imagine the school district would have anything to do with him, which is a pretty consistent approach for jobs in the US). I realize it’s not my place to cast shade on the dead (can we just leave him alone?) but at the same time had he not, you know, molested children he was in charge of (the guilty plea and its terms tell me two things: that he did it, and that he had done it before) there would be no need to besmirch the names of the dead.
It tells me how far we’ve come in twenty-five years as a society, that this sort of thing can’t be accepted or tolerated any more or that such a relatively light sentence, which may have been the norm in the past, would now be regarded as a miscarriage of justice. I don’t know if I ever told my friend how brave he was — in the follow-up to the Sandusky case, we’ve learned how the abuse has disproportionately affected the lives of the victims; as if the abuse wasn’t bad enough, upon the identification of the abuse, they were bullied and harassed for something they couldn’t control. This gets me thinking of victim shaming in general and how much further we still have to travel. More as it comes to me.