People talk. Doors close. Children are being abused. Word travels. But no one calls the cops. WTHeckkkk?!
Recent news of the allegations against Penn State University’s coaching staff and administration has swept media outlets and social networks. If it is true that Jerry Sandusky, former Penn State Defensive Coordinator, was abusing and raping children, some mentally and physically disabled, for more than a decade—and if it is true that an entire line-up of administrators turned a deaf ear and a blind eye to it—it is obvious we as an organization and movement have a lot more work ahead of us.
Based on what I know so far of the allegations against those at PSU, I must say it sounds all too familiar to the Catholic Church sexual abuse scandal—simply redrafted and placed within a high profile university campus.
These situations must evoke outrage, must sicken us and must provoke us to pull our heads out of the sand and realize we all hold the power to protect kids and bring perps to justice. To KNOW of abuse, to SUSPECT it, or (as stated in some of the allegations) to even have been a direct WITNESS of the raping of a little boy and not SAY SOMETHING, not FILE A REPORT, that, in my mind, is criminal behavior in itself.
When protecting an establishment, institution, program, money or fame becomes more important than stopping a rapist and protecting children from further molestation, we should sound the alarms and call it a national emergency.
What kind of world have we created that has leaders going great lengths to protect pedophiles at the expense of protecting our children? It seems a little messed up that we expect kids to find the courage to report bullying in school, when some of our most respected adults won’t make a report!
Passing the buck will never protect children. Simply “following the handbook” is not good enough. Sometimes our handbooks are out of date or flat out incorrect… so I plead to all who read, for the sake of humanity, see your report all the way through! We each have a moral responsibility to protect our little ones.
Joe Harting is a good friend of mine and my husband’s. Joe played football under Coach Joe Paterno during the time when Coach Jerry Sandusky was the defensive coordinator. I asked our friend to share his initial thoughts, having been closely familiar with the people and place facing these allegations:
My reaction is absolute shock. It is very difficult to reconcile the Jerry I knew with the Jerry described in the affidavit. I hear people calling him a “monster” and a “predator,” and I know where they are coming from with that. But he is a real person who I saw do so many good things. I just can’t believe he had this whole other persona. It is incredible to me that he could maintain the appearance of what I saw when he is alleged to have also been doing the things he’s charged with. I guess it reminds me that the child molester nevers looks like a monster but is more apt to look like your next-door neighbor. Even knowing that though, it is very difficult to see a picture of Coach Sandusky now and think that he was capable of doing what he’s being charged with.
What’s as disappointing is that Mike and Joe, nor President Spanier, nor Tim Curley went to the authorities with what Mike saw in 2002. It is surreal for me to read that part of the affidavit describing the rape taking place in the shower room. I can see that shower room in my mind’s eye. I can see the sauna. I can see the locker room. I can’t explain why no one would have have alerted the authorities. Joe is the real deal, the genuine article. He is not a phony. He is everything he holds himself out to be. I have to believe that he didn’t know all the details. But I guess we’ll find out.
The whole thing has really shaken me, more than I would have thought it would have. The massive evil that we can inflict upon each other is mind-boggling. Equally amazing apparently is our ability to not be our brother’s keeper, to not be involved when another human being is in danger. I don’t know any of the victims. It feels empty to say that “my heart goes out to them” or that “they are in my prayers.” I just hope justice is done for them.
I appreciate Joe’s words and willingness to share them. I think it’s important for us all to remember that this isn’t about the legacy of a coach…this is about doing the right thing, protecting children and bringing justice to those who commit such evil and atrocious acts…along with those who choose to sweep it under the rug.
A found the recent reaction of two male survivors of child sexual abuse committed by priests to be interesting, as well: “Paterno and Spanier might have gone through proper channels, but they failed to do all they could to ensure children were protected.” The men went on to refer to PSU as “the Archdiocese of Penn State” and said, “everyone has a chance in life to do the right thing. When they have information and don’t do the right thing, they need to be held accountable.”
Mike Wise from The Washington Post said, ”You want to grab hold of and shake those who reported the crime only to their superiors, washed their hands of responsibility and then let it go, treating a kid’s life as if it were a football that slipped through their hands.”
And, Jennifer Storm of the Dauphin County Victim/Witness Assistance Program made this statement regarding the first child who was found being sexually abused: “No one stepped up to protect this kid. They were more interested in protecting Penn State football. As a result, there are so many more victims.”
The PA State Police Commissioner maintained that the alleged sexual abuse of children continued for at least a decade because of “a culture that did nothing to stop it.”
We must be a part of culture change! That is our mission at OneVOICE. And we are doing it…but we cannot lose footing when these stories hit the airwaves. This isn’t the only story like this out there. A child abuse report is made every 10 seconds. We must let ourselves be reminded that there is always more work to do, more education needed, more voices necessary. We must listen to our instincts, always err on the side of protecting kids, reporting suspicions and letting children know they have the right to be safe and they have a VOICE. As we continue on, we will make a difference.
We do not grieve as those who have no hope. 1 Thessalonians 4:13