By this time, it should not be necessary to title this post “What About the Alleged Child Sexual Assaults Perpetrated by a Staff Member of the Penn State Athletic Department?” Being a survivor of childhood sexual molestation, it is difficult for me to keep a cool head when a story of this nature breaks. The media is all over it, like feathers on a chicken, like white on rice, as they should be. There is an excellent editorial I recommend you read. I could not have said it better than Martin Fennelly.
Some would warn, “Let’s not rush to judgment,” and I agree firmly with that statement. I would also remind the public of the old adage, “Where there’s smoke, there’s bound to be fire.” Just hours after Joe Paterno announced he would be retiring at the end of this season, he was fired. It is an extremely sad commentary for one of the greatest coaches in college football history to leave under such circumstances as these.
But more importantly, where’s the accountability? Who will be held accountable? Who SHOULD be held accountable? So far the news has reported that an eyewitness walked into a room where the accused was in the act of sexually assaulting a 10-year-old boy. The young man who saw the incident reported it, apparently to his father, who encouraged him to go to Coach Paterno about it. So, he reported it. Is that as far as he took it? Why did he not SAY (or throw) something when he walked in on the assault, or at least try to take the child away to a safe place and call 911? I wonder if his conscience is clear that he did all he could to protect a little 10-year-old boy. I can assure you, he will never lose the haunting recollection of what he saw that day, making him collateral damage of the sordid actions that purportedly took place on the part of one man, whether or not he is fired along with the others. You see, any event of rape always carries with it collateral victims, whether it is the spouse of the victim, their family, their children, any possible witness, and yes, our society.
Perhaps one of the most appalling parts of all this is the fact Sandusky formed a non-profit organization, “Second Mile,” a group foster home for troubled boys that evolved into helping children with absent or dysfunctional parents, and Penn State evidently opened its doors wide to him for use of their facilities, even after he retired─after purported sexual abuse on children had already been bantered about. The perfect setting for a pedophile to prey on their marks.
According to a report released by the Associated Press, in 1998 the mother of one of the victims reported to campus police that Sandusky was showering nude with young boys, and more specifically, her boy. They investigate. Other investigations by a State College Police Department Detective and Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare investigator take place, and Sandusky admits what he has done, “was wrong. . . I wish I were dead.” But, the case was closed after then-Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar decided there would be no criminal charge. I find it extremely interesting to learn that DA Gricar came up as a missing person in 2005, and was just declared dead earlier this year.
In addition, the AP reports that in the Fall of 2000 a janitor observed Sandusky in the showers with a young boy, performing a sex act on the child. He was advised by his immediate supervisor to whom he should report the incident. He was a temporary worker, not a staff member of Penn, and never made the report.
Now, can we take an entirely different look at this news? Let’s face it. College football is a big deal. It is also a huge source of income for most of the large (and not so large) universities. Having a defensive coordinator (on staff or being allowed use of campus facilities after retiring) who has a (purported/suspected) penchant for sexual pleasure with little boys could not be good publicity for any school, and most assuredly would affect income derived from the football program. Nothing within me wants to believe there was a cover-up. . . nothing! I like to believe that there is good in every man and woman. I even have a thread (as frayed as it might be) of belief that even Osama Bin Laden loved his children, that he had at least one redeeming quality. So, it is not in my character to rush to judgment. I believe the legal system will handle this, and hopefully, quite appropriately.
The Board met. The Board fired. A large portion of the student body revolted, overturning vehicles, all in the name of adoration for Joe Pa. Yo, kids, this is not about football or a coach, it is about sexual molestation and yes, RAPE of small children. Let’s put the focus where it belongs and keep it there. Newscasters reported they interviewed several students who endorse the actions of the Board of Trustees, but were afraid of being harmed if they appeared on camera or divulged their name. Is this really the spirit of Penn State? Is this the level of humanity or humaneness present on the campus? Students fear for their lives because they believe in protecting the victims? Many new monikers are being bantered about for the college. I’ve heard Pedophile State University suggested, and that maybe Sandusky will go from Penn State to the State Pen? I’m just wondering, I’m just saying…
This does give a huge black eye to Penn State and the beloved Joe Paterno. But, as a former victim of molestation, here’s my stand: This should cause us to take a look at each and every athletic department in each and every college, university, high school, middle school and, yes, even elementary schools and children’s summer camps in the country. We can’t be too careful. (Something tells me it may have already begun in many places of learning). If only ONE 10-year-old child is saved from a brutal rape that will quite possibly do irreparable emotional, mental, and potentially physical damage to them for the rest of their life, then it will have been worth all the “trouble” we go to in protecting our children.
* Over 80% of child sex assaults occur in situations where the abuser has one-on-one access to the child. For some valuable information on how to keep our children safe, I suggest you visit this blog post, written by a survivor of stranger abduction and sexual assault, Keith Smith.
Carolyn is an advocate for sexual/domestic violence and assault awareness, also focusing on child sexual abuse. She is a Life Direction & Empowerment Coach, working with victims and survivors of molestation, sexual assault, domestic violence or spousal abuse, and bringing training to organizations seeking to help victims. Hennecy spent much time during October 2011, which is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, with media doing radio and television interviews. See Carolyn’s interview with Gayle Guyardo of NBC Channel 8 News Today Early Morning Show and her featured segment on the ABC Action News Emmy Award winning “Taking Action Against Domestic Violence” at orangeblossomwishes.com.
- Survivors of sexual abuse appalled by Penn State unrest (cnn.com)
- Penn State Scandal: Victims Could Become Scapegoats (huffingtonpost.com)
- To Coach Paterno: We Are All Personally Responsible to Protect the Innocent! (erasetheneed.wordpress.com)
- Last Man Standing (slate.com)