An Open Letter From My Wife to the Penn State Fraternity

Note: This guest post is an open letter from my wife to the members of the Penn State fraternity in our hometown, who photographed nude pictures of unconscious women and posted them online.

Dear Young Men of Kappa Delta Rho,

Take a moment and dream with me:

It’s graduation. You worked this season the hardest you knew how. So you graduate, celebrate, say goodbye to the chapters of your life you will never redo again. Excited because you got a job in your field. Not a dream job, but one that will surely open doors. You move and settle in, and soon you meet the woman you wished you met in college. She’s amazing. You marry and while you realize it’s not perfect, every day you become more fond of the special woman you call wife.

Two years in and you find out that you’re expecting. Wow, you’re having a baby! This is scary, crazy. But you were just a kid, you tell yourself. The baby arrives—she’s a sweet baby girl who has your cleft chin. Wow again. The three of you head home for territory you’ve never walked.

One day as you look at your baby girl, you get choked up by her beauty and innocence. You sing to her, speak life to her, kiss her cheek the softest kiss you have ever planted. You hold her like she’s the most expensive thing in the room. Protecting her just seems natural. You didn’t even know you had this ability, but fatherhood rose from within you like some formidable force. Not too long ago, life was just about you, but not anymore. You were a son, brother, friend, husband, and now you’re a father.

You know her youth won’t last forever. She’ll grow more quickly than you know. You’ll celebrate the milestones of her life, from graduating kindergarten all the way to high school. Then the day will come when she’s ready for college. How can this be? You were just a lad finding your way and all of a sudden, here’s your girl embarking in a world you fear—college.

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You fear it because you remember your own regrets—the people you used to get ahead, the girls you played for a good time. But now you look at your experiences from a different angle. Being a father has changed you. You think of Jess and Catherine and Amanda and on and on, and for the first time you realize they were someone’s daughter.

You shudder at what you’ve done to other peoples’ daughters.

To the young men involved in uncovering someone else’s daughters, who thought it was a joke, try looking at your actions from a different point of view. Would you treat your mother or sister with such dishonor? Why treat women this way? They’re someone’s daughter.

What if it was your daughter in those pictures?

Sincerely,

Colette Heinz, mom of a daughter

Chris believes you can love your work. He's the Vice President of Human Resources for EnergyCAP, Inc., where he helps employees to succeed. He's also a Certified Professional Life Coach and a Certified Gallup Strengths Coach. He loves to coach people, write, and speak around the topics of engagement, coaching, strengths, and growth. He blogs often at ChrisHeinz.com.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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20 thoughts on “An Open Letter From My Wife to the Penn State Fraternity

  1. Dear Chris,
    Thanks for posting your wife’s letter! She did a great job!
    Dear Colette,
    Thanks for “speaking softly anew carrying a big stick”. 🙂 well done, good and faithful servant!

  2. Wow, Collette really hit a home run with this letter. Very powerful and well worded. It’s so true, our oldest (20) left for college in Indianapolis, IN, last summer, which is about 250 miles from her home town. . We can only hope and pray that no-one treats her the way these young men did, it’s rather scary, we have to trust God that all is well and that He will protect.

  3. Chris,
    Thank you for posting Colette’s letter. It needed to be said to the young men responsible for this tragic event and heard by many. It was powerful truth spoken in love. I pray that Colette’s voice will become part of a chorus of thousands and that their voices will bring new sensitivity to this issue of degradation of women, repentance from those involved, a resolve by university officials to confront and stop this deplorable behavior and an opportunity for the victims to grow into grace and forgiveness.
    Thank you for your servant leader hearts. May God’s abundant blessings and favor rain down on you and your family.

  4. I appreciate the sentiment and the emotional appeal of this letter. But allow me to sat that someone does not have to be another person’s daughter to have value. We derive value from our lives. We don’t need to be “someone’s” anything to be an important and irreplaceable member of society. In different words, saying “That’s someone’s daughter,” is just another form of objectification, albeit not a malicious one. The people harmed by these disgusting acts are just that–people. And that simple fact is what KDR forgot or perhaps chose to ignore.

  5. i appreciate the message but women shouldn’t have to be “someone’s” to be treated correctly. The boys in KDR should “shudder at what they’ve done to other PEOPLE”

  6. These women may be “someone’s daughter,” but the fact that they’re SOMEONE should be enough for people to know that this was wrong.

  7. This letter’s intentions were commendable, and it does a fairly good job of eliciting an emotional response. However, I have to agree with Ben Little’s comment above. It’s so sad — pathetic, even — that we have to identify a woman as someone’s something to elicit that emotional response in the intended audience. She may be someone’s daughter or sister, but she is also a person: simply existing makes her worthy of respect. Ben says it better than I do, but I feel that this unintended (and relatively misunderstood) form of objectification must be identified and brought to the public’s attention in order to be eradicated.

  8. Chris, writing this letter I think it sends a straight message to those guys. And to the people commenting saying that woman shouldn’t have to be someones daughter, you are correct but I don’t think that is what Chris was getting at. She was simply writing it in a way to make 23 year old men understand what they did is wrong. And honestly, if you have ever talked to young Men about their first child being a baby girl they’re frightened… They want to be the one to protect her forever and be the only guy she will ever love. I think the letter was a good way to open these young men’s eyes to reality.

  9. I would venture to say that women have value that has nothing to do with their connection with a man, but — whatever gets the job done to reinforce that we are all connected. What you do to one, you do to the whole.

    • Its really sad how inhumane and disrespectful our society is becoming and YES I agree…what was she doing there in the first place?! And what was their alcohol level that they were clueless someone took their clothes off for a photo shoot? Even better yet, what little were they wearing when they walked into to hungry man cave of drunkin frat “boys”? I come from a family of 6 girls and I have a 21 year old daughter who is a senior at PSU so being around sensative “women” who need protection isnt something Im not familar with. A HUGE part of that protection begins with teaching them SELF respect and values from the start. Its no mystery what happens in Greek life. There is a reason the soriety girls have a nick name “sorostitutes…sit on a street corner for an hour and see what they wear and how they behave when they are sober and even better yet scan any of thier facebook pages to see endless pornographic photos they post of themselves with practiced poises. Take it a step backward and scan high school girls facebooks and instagrams see what their “protective parents” allow them to wear to events and do so they “learn how to drink for when they go to college”, God forbid they miss out. My parents were quick to teach us “less is not more” when it came to dressing and you need to be responsible for your own actions….actions are character. Maybe its “show and tell” & Im a little old fashion and I agree, no one, not male or female has the right to disrespect anyone but remember people, respect is earned and it all starts with values. Its like the drunk cheerleader at PSU that fell 5 stories because she was dancing on a table and daddy sued everyone for his underage daughters performance of stupidity…its time for us all to accept responsibilty for our own actions and maybe this world would have better values and show a little more respect to everyone.

    • Drinking and sex are choices. The girls weren’t allowed a choice when they were uncovered and photographed. Lines were crossed just as if they had been raped while unconscious. No consent no mater where you are, still means no consent.

      • Exactly! Drinking and sex are choices. The details left out of the article is one of the girls was a stripper hired by the frat “boys”, one of the drunken girls flashed the photographer and another was found unconscious from excessive drinking in one of the frat “boys” bedroom with little to nothing on. This was not from just one banger of a party, it was from several parties over a period of eight months. My point is maybe if these college chidren were taught self respect and values early on and be more responsible for our own actions o we would not be hearing about so many of these events. You dont run into a house thyats on fire.

  10. While this is a good point, I dislike the idea that someone has to think of the female victims in terms of THEIR daughters or THEIR wives in order to respect them. You should respect them simply because they are people, not because they have a dad or brother or husband.

  11. Beautifully written letter that I feel is a perfect way to reach out to the members of that fraternity.
    To Ben Little and Anon, I agree that someone does not have to be someone’s daughter to have value but I believe the author of this letter already knows this and took it one step further.
    The boys of the fraternity responsible for degrading those women are not evolved enough to understand that those women are people just like them. If they did then they wouldn’t have committed that horrible act. This letter isn’t trying to say that women have to be “someone’s something”. The purpose of this letter was to try and get through to those fraternities boys to get them to listen and actually understand the terrible thing that they have done.
    I’m sure these boys have been reprimanded and told what they have done is wrong but they don’t care and I’m sure they’re not listening either. This letter was perfectly written to grab their attention, paint the picture of raising their own beautiful daughter that they love, and imagining what they did to those women happening to their daughter. For a group of boys who are not enlightened and cannot see other perspectives on their own, this letter was the best thing for them.

  12. Good point, Eileen. I recall a wise person teaching me that in order to have a productive discussion, the two parties need to start with a point on which they agree, and move forward from there. In my words, otherwise they’re just hacking away at each other.