Thursday, November 10, 2011

Scandal at Penn State--Who Will Help Those Children?

Everyone has an opinion about Joe Paterno's firing. Some fully agree that it's appropriate. Others think it's ridiculous, the University after-the-fact making heads roll just to save its reputation. It's no small matter when you fire a legendary football coach, held up for decades as THE example of a no dirty playing, morality-driven football program. Paterno "made a bad decision," goes the rationale. We all make bad decisions. Give the man a break.

It's no small matter when you fire a University President, either, and the Paterno supporters don't seem to be refuting that decision. That's odd to me, because the President knew less than Joe Paterno did, if you read the full indictment.

We all make bad decisions. I can't count how many bad decisions I have made in my life, many of them occurring when I was a full-blown using alcoholic.

But I can say with 100% certainty that, even when I was a drunk asshole, had I ever witnessed somebody raping a child in a shower, even though I may be female and not the greatest physical speciman, I would have done everything within my power to insert my body between the rapist and the child. I would've utilized every evil girl tactic known to man: spitting, biting, hair pulling, nard kicking. My own ass might've gotten beaten up in the process, but I wouldn't have cared. I would've done my best to break it up, and then I would've informed the cops the second I had the chance.

This isn't what happened. A 28 year-old graduate student witnessed the rape and, apparently frozen in shock to see Jerry Sandusky, the retired defensive coordinator, raping a child, went home and told his daddy about it. (What the heck is wrong with this picture? "Dad, I saw coach raping a child. What should I do?" Think about that. What does this tell you about the sheer pressure within Penn State football to protect its own program?)

The grad student (who is now a coach, by the way. Was he rewarded with that job for his silence? Just wondering.) drove the next day over to Paterno's home to tell him what he'd witnessed. According to the indictment, this man told Paterno exactly what he'd seen. Paterno denies this and says the grad student was upset and vague, just that "something inappropriate" had happened in the shower with Sandusky and a boy. The next day (now three days have passed and the cops have still not been called, and nobody has apparently even asked who the boy is or where he is or whether he's okay), Paterno goes to the Athletic Director and tells him. By the time, weeks later, the AD and VP for Business and Finance get the story to the University President, the story has been morphed into "Sandusky was horsing around with a kid in the showers."

Excuse me? Stop right there. In 1998, Sandusky had been caught with a kid in the showers. The kid's mom reported it to the police, and in any police investigation, they are going to interview people close to Sandusky. In short, Joe Paterno at the very least KNEW this crap had happened before. Anybody who thinks it's normal behavior for a grown man to be showering with a young boy needs to have his head examined. Then, for no apparent reason in 1999, Sandusy, who had been next in line to replace Joe Paterno as head coach, is informed by Paterno that he will not be head coach and that it's time for him to retire. Don't be stupid--why on earth do you think that happened? Because Penn State did not want to have as its head coach an odd duck who had been caught taking showers with little boys. Duh.

No legal action was taken against Sandusky at the time because there is no law that says an adult may not shower with a child, even if the kid isn't his. The cops tried to catch the man, listening in on a phone conversation Sandusky had with the child's mother, a conversation in which she tried to pry more information or some kind of admission out of him, but he didn't spill. He'd only admit he was sorry and wouldn't shower with kids again.

So, Coach Paterno knew about this, no doubt the AD did as well, and if you've ever been active in any team sport, you know perfectly well that gossip was flying. Still, as these things do when there is no proof of a crime, it apparently all blew over. Penn State probably thought it was safe by making the man retire.

But, foolishly, the university allowed Sandusky to continue bringing boys from his charity, The Second Mile, onto campus. He'd groom them, work out with them, then insist they shower with them (again, read the indictment. The man is a classic, textbook pedophile), and who knows how many kids he had sex with before 2002. Some janitors witnessed him raping a child. But they were too afraid to report it. (Again, what does this tell you about a football program that is so powerful that peole are afraid to speak up about something as horrid as a child rape?)

Despite there being an EYE WITNESS to the rape, and despite Joe Paterno knowing full well Sandusky had been known to shower with little boys so there was no reason to doubt the grad student in what he had seen, Joe Paterno did not call the police. The AD did not call the police. No, they just slapped Sandusky on the wrist, took his locker room keys and said, "Don't bring little boys into our showers anymore."

What the heck is wrong with this picture? They may as well have said, "We don't care that you're raping kids, but don't do it on our campus."

Damn right Paterno should have been fired. The man deliberately chose to ignore evidence that was strongly damning and yet uttered not a word to the police. Had it been YOUR child, would you accept that?

Let's talk about what's at stake here. The good reputation of a college football program versus the sexual abuse of young boys (to date the count is 20, since more boys have come forward), and bear in mind that some of these could have been prevented had the University only done the right thing back in 2002.

Damn right Penn State University is going to fire anybody who should have known to speak up: the AD, the VP, the President, and Paterno. All of them were in a position of responsibility, and all of them chose to look the other way and took as little action as possible in order to just make the Sanduksy problem go away. Hide it. It's damaging information. Sweep it under the rug.

If this is okay behavior with you, then let me tell you what happens to children who are molested. It can destroy a life. The people who are supposed to be protecting you violate your person and your body (heck, Sandusky took some of these kids to church on Sundays. How is a child to mentally deal with the hypocrisy of that?) You wonder what it is about you that made this person do this to you. There are years of guilt and thinking back and wondering why you didn't fight back harder, or why you submitted, or why you didn't tell your mother or why you didn't call the police yourself. You grow up knowing you're supposed to be able to trust people, but how can you after such a thing? No one would believe you if you did tell on Sandusky: look how he is admired and held up as the great Penn State coach who cares so much about kids and their well-being? You know that's a lie. How can everybody be so fooled? You also get a jacked vision of what sexuality is all about. Sexual arousal is not to be trusted. You can't trust your own body. Whenever someone hugs you, your body tenses up and you wonder what's really on their mind.

Later on, you turn to drugs or alcohol or some other addiction to ease your pain and your buried rage and your grief over the theft of your childhood.

If you're lucky, you somehow climb out of the dark hell you are in, at least enough to function well, give up your addictions, reprocess everything with the help of several therapists over the years and maybe some help from your sponsor if you're in a Step 12 program. You have to find it in you to somehow forgive--not just your abuser, but yourself. Or at least come to peace with it all somehow. Some never do.

Some never can.

2 comments:

Becky said...

I am outraged at the lack of sensitivity by generally "good people" in disregarding these kids whose lives will forever be tainted with having their trust, identification with healthy sexuality, and esteem destroyed by a "grown up". More appalling is the forgiveness cast on those who were "in the know about this". It's the Catholic Church scandel all over again... sacrificing our precious children at the altar, protecting the institution. No institution is more valuable than another human beings most basic right to their own body. Jerry Sandusky was interviewed by Bob Kosta and it was broadcast on the Today Show yesterday. He is a raging narcissist to boot. He has no empathy and claims he did nothing wrong. The evil in his belief in his innocence gave me chills. Yet, somehow I was struck by how all those others who lived in the awareness of what he did are even more insidiously frightening. Old people... children are not valued and protected in our society. Some of us do heal from our childhoods, but all it takes is an incident like this one to pick a scab open. Great post. Thanks for being a voice of reason.

Joyce said...

Pedophiles have this crazy idea that the children they abuse like it, and they are under the delusion they love these kids and are showing them love. Sandusky is a very sick man.

I will never understand how anyone could look the other way and let this kind of thing go on. It's an outrage.