It’s about the Children
Where is the public concern about the small children raped, fondled, abandoned, thrown under the bus at Pennsylvania State University? Of what significance is the reputation of the Pennsylvania State University or that of football coach Joe Paterno, or the fall of his colleague and accused, Jerry Sandusky, against the enormity of the crime committed against small children?
The story being told is about sports obsessed coaches and fund raising and student recruiting for a state supported University. However, the real story is about children who may never recover, mentally nor physically, from the abuse they suffered. The real story is about how little anyone cared about the children.
It is not a sex scandal. It is about violence, helplessness, despair, confusion, anger, done to and felt by small children, memories and feelings that may never disappear.
It is about the perversion of one large, domineering man, and heartlessness and selfishness and moral vacuity of a handful of men, some of them wealthy, powerful, and influential.
Think about it: You are a small, 70 pound child being sexually fondled and penetrated in a gym locker room, by a 230 pound, old, powerful and prominent, former defensive coordinator of one of the nation’s premier college football programs, a father figure, revered by officials at the University where the assault is taking place, and to whose care you have been entrusted by your parent or parents.
Into this nightmare, which will never end, comes a strapping 28-year-old. He looks, he sees. He does nothing to stop the assault. He leaves. Help never comes. No one in authority, no potential rescuer comes to you, questions you. No one but the man raping you.
This is not an isolated incident. But you don’t know that. You don’t know that another child a couple of years ago experienced a similar assault, witnessed by a janitor. Help never came then, either.
You don’t know either that one child did complain to his mother and police did come, but nothing was done, nor publicly reported, or even privately reported. You don’t know that the University investigated your case, but didn’t bother to contact you even though your assaulter was banned from using the facilities (never enforced) though he continued to bring young children to football games and related sporting events.
You don’t know either that the same man you so looked up to, the man helping you to go “The Second Mile” (the name of the Jerry Sandusky founded foundation), was “helping” young students at a local high school. You don’t know that he was caught “wrestling” with a young boy late at night in a gym. You don’t know that type of conduct was stopped, but never reported.
You and others never knew that others saw, suspected, knew what was happening, but like Pontius Pilate, passed on the responsibility to someone else. You didn’t know there was a code of silence that protected individuals in the nearly religious program called football in “Happy Valley”, the nick name for the university in the scenic mountain community of State College, Pennsylvania.
You would have known about the prestige of the University and its program. You would have known that Jerry Sandusky, your tormentor, was a renowned coach, favored at one time as the successor to Joe Paterno who some referred to, sometimes sarcastically, as St. Joe.
You may even have known that Sandusky came from Washington, Pa., my home town, where it was thought that Paterno wouldn’t have been THE Paterno without Sandusky. When Sandusky suddenly retired at age 55 it was believed it was because he was frustrated and angry that Paterno would not retire. The town remembered Sandusky’s father, Art, who was revered for his work with young people in that community. No one there speculated that there might be other reasons for Sandusky’s early retirement.
You probably would have been told of the largess of your mentor who started “Second Mile” in the 1970s to help single or split parent kids. You might have heard how good the program was which it seemed to be and probably was most of the times. You certainly would have been impressed with its affiliation with Penn State, now a university of 96,000 students and a football stadium, built by Joe Paterno’s football program that seats 106,000 people. You might also have heard that Paterno gave $2 million (or was it $4 million) back to the University he loves.
This was a program you and your parents could trust. A program of substance, of prestige, of good people. What you wouldn’t know is that the program and its affiliations were worth more than you as an individual; that the program and the University’s goodness and reputation had greater weight than simple right and wrong.; that unusual or infrequent “incidents” such as yours should not besmirch the reputation of greater men and institutions.
What you knew provided trust. What you didn’t know and what you came to know may have destroyed the concept of trust forever and placed a burden on your life that will be with you forever.