A few weeks ago on my Facebook page I posted a pretty disturbing video. The video showed the staged attempted abduction of a young girl on a busy New York street. The disturbing part was how many people did nothing to help her When asked about it afterwards many of them said that they thought someone else would take care of it. Someone else would step up. It was shocking and heartbreaking as a parent to watch. And it made you question yourself just a little bit, what would you do if you saw or knew of a child that was in danger? Would you step up and do something or would you assume someone else would take care of it? And what exactly is the right thing to do? In the abduction case in the video stopping the abduction is of course the first step, but then what? Do you let the guy go? Or do you sit on him until the cops get there? Seems like it's a pretty clear answer.
That is unless you happen to be the Catholic Church or Penn State. Then your response to what needs done to protect a child in danger seems to come second to what needs done to protect the institution. We are all familiar with the Priest Shuffle the Church practiced for years to get pedophile priests not in jail where they belonged but out of a parish if they touched a boy who talked. Protecting the reputation of the church was the priority. And when the lawsuits came and the scandal was revealed there were those who were upset at the victims for speaking out. For tarnishing the name of the church. And those that didn't put blame on the Bishops and Cardinals and the Pope for allowing the abuse to continue, for allowing a priest to confess his sins and then move on to a new batch of boys.
Which leads me to Penn State. As the story broke this week my feed on Facebook was split between people outraged at Sandusky for being the criminal he is and people outraged that anyone would dare question Joe Paterno's role in all of this. Wait, what? Sandusky raped little boys. For years. Penn State covered this up. Your outrage should be at Sandusky and at the institution that allowed him to continue his behavior. Not at people who were justifiably furious at the length of time this abuse, this systematic raping of young boys was allowed to continue. Just how heinous was Penn State's reaction in all of this? Let's take a quick look at the timeline and imagine the conversations that must have taken place between Sandusky and the leadership at Penn State.
In 1998 the first accusations and charges were brought against Sandusky. The officials at Penn State did not report this to the police, they handled the investigation themselves. I imagine the conversation must have gone something like this, "Jerry, you cannot rape young boys while coaching at Penn State University!" So he retired in 1999 and received the title and position of coach emeritus so he retained access to the all of the facilities on campus and and an office as well. Now imagine PSU's chagrin when in 2002 he was found raping a 10year old boy in their shower by a graduate assistant. Of course the assistant went home and told his father first who had the very logical response of calling the police...oh wait, no he didn't he told his son to tell Coach Paterno. Coach Paterno had the logical response of calling the police. Oh wait, no, that would be ridiculous. Everyone knows the person you should report child rape to is the athletic director. Which he did. And then seemed to have promptly forgot all about it. We will come back to this later.
Now can you just imagine how uncomfortable that conversation was? "Now, Jerry, we told you couldn't rape boys while coaching at PSU apparently you did not understand our position on this. Unequivocally it is wrong WRONG to rape little boys while on the main campus of PSU. From here on out you may not bring young boys on campus. You still can hold your summer camps at our satellite campus, we aren't going to be draconian here, but remember you MUST NOT EVER RAPE YOUNG BOYS on the main campus of PSU."
Jerry Sandusky was allowed to continue to use the satellite campus of PSU to hold summer camps. Jerry Sandusky continued to run his "outreach" program for at risk youth. Jerry Sandusky continued to have a relationship with Coach Paterno and the rest of the PSU faculty. These people had all been informed, told about, talked to, reported to how ever you want to look at it about Sandusky raping a young boy in the shower. They knew. They knew and they didn't call the police. They saw that he was continuing his ways, his contact with young boys, his continuance working as a "mentor" for at risk young men. They saw this. They knew what he was. And they let it go on. Did they think someone else would take care of it? Did they think the possible damage to the institution was too great to risk sending a pedophile to jail? What were they thinking?
Do you know when Jerry Sandusky was banned from campus at PSU? Sunday. Of this week. A long long time away from 1998. And why did they ban him from campus? To try and protect themselves from the fall out that was coming their way as the grand jury indicted Sandusky. The indictment was for 40 counts of sex crimes against 8 boys from 1994-2009. How many of those charges happened after 1998? After 2002?
And finally, Finally! The students at PSU heard the news and they rioted in the streets last night. They realized that the institution that was supposed to usher them from childhood to adulthood, the school whose athletic department's motto is "Success with Honor" had let them down. Had endangered helpless young boys. Had decided that protecting themselves and that evil sick bastard Sandusky was more important than doing what needed to be done. That as winning as Joe Paterno has been, as great of a leader he has been to a multitude of athletes that have come through his program, as clean of a program he has run, that this, this stain, was too much. That the statement that he issued when announced he would retire at the end of this season, "It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more." That this wasn't enough. That understanding that there is no need for hindsight to know what is right and what is wrong when you are told a child, a CHILD is being raped. Yes, the students had enough, and they took to the streets in the campus! And...no, again, this isn't what happened. See, Paterno was fired. Along with the President, the Athletic Director and the Senior Vice President. Fired for the cover-up. Fired for allowing it to continuing. Fired so PSU could start to try TRY and repair their damaged image. And so the students took to the street to protest the firing of their beloved coach.
I have heard many people say that he did what he was required to do. He reported what he was told to his superior. I have an issue with doing what you have to do in this case. How about doing what you should do? What you should do is protect those that cannot protect themselves. Not protect your own asses. Which is what PSU did. Make no mistake here. They were not acting in the interest of those boys. They were acting in their own self-interest. I have also heard people say that because he was only told of the rape and didn't witness it himself that lets him off the hook. Oh, okay, so if you are only told of a child being hurt it's okay to ignore it. To allow it to continue. To let it happen to others. Success with honor.
Jerry Sandusky is the big bad guy in this story. He is a pedophile. A predator. He set up an organization for disadvantaged youth so he could have boys brought to him that he could prey on. He should be punished in a way that is fitting a crime that you and I cannot even let our brains imagine. But PSU and all that knew about it are not innocents in this. They knew. They knew like the Catholic Church knew about their pedophile priests.There should be punishment for that. Being fired is pretty small punishment for allowing young boys to be raped don't you think? And it seems as though it might not be. All who knew about the cover up are now being investigate under the Mandated Reporter laws (Thanks, Corrie, for the link). They could end up serving time themselves. The person you are mandated to report to if you know of or SUSPECT abuse isn't your coach, athletic director, senior vice president, president, board of trustees...it's the police. Rapist are reported to the police. Simple.
Now let's take a little trip back in time and use that hindsight that Coach Paterno wishes he had had. Can you imagine how differently this would have all turned out if in 1998 when the accusations first hit the good folks at Penn State had called Jerry Sandusky in to their office and said, "Jerry, this is Officer Takeyoursorryasstojail. What you have been accused of is so outside of anything acceptable we must at this point in time wash our hands of you. Completely. We will be co-operating with the police in this investigation and working with the victim's families to ensure that those boys are taken care of and are safe. We are Penn State. This does not happen here." Now that's some hindsight for you....