The grand jury report indicting Jerry Sandusky on 40 counts of child sexual abuse of should be required reading for anyone commenting on the scandal at Penn State University. To date, it has brought down football coach Joe Paterno and school president Graham Spanier, and athletic director Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, senior vice president for business and finance, have been charged with perjury and failure to report suspected abuse. Curley has taken administrative leave and Schultz has decided to step down.
Penn State students rioted last night when the board of trustees fired Paterno instead of letting him retire at the end of the year, as he had announced he would do earlier Wednesday. Apparently they think the football team’s 8-1 record is more important than the welfare of children. I have to believe most of the rioters had no idea how serious the charges against Sandusky are, because if they did, they should turn in their humanity cards.
The report made me sick to my stomach. It detailed eight victims with whom Sandusky acted inappropriately, anywhere from unwanted touching on a thigh to the anal rape of a 10-year-old boy in a locker room shower. That most serious charge was witnessed by a graduate student in 2002. Instead of immediately intervening and calling 911, he walked away and called his father. He later reported what he saw to his supervisor, who reported it up the chain of command.
None of them called the police.
None of us knows how we will react in that situation, but I like to think I would not just go about my life as if nothing had happened. If I reported it to my supervisor, and no police investigation ever happened, I would start shouting it from the rooftops, telling anyone and everyone what I saw — especially if the man still had access to more young kids to abuse.
It’s a good bet that this story is only going to get worse. Eight victims have been identified, but given the easy access Sandusky had to young boys through his Second Mile Foundation, there are likely many more. There’s even a rumor he was offering boys to wealthy Penn State donors.
What has been almost lost in the media coverage and reaction is any thought to the victims and their families. The sister of one victim is a student at Penn State, and she can barely stand to go to class. Apparently there was a vigil last night on campus, but the media’s focus was on the riot. I hope the victims have gotten the help they need and are leading healthy, happy lives. They have finally gotten to hold their abuser accountable for his actions, and it’s my wish they will get justice for the innocence he stole from them.
Despite the title of this post, I do have sympathy for the Penn State students and alumni who have been disillusioned by Paterno. It can’t be easy to find out a man you admired and respected is capable of covering up something of this magnitude. I once worked for a man who was a public figure whom I liked a lot — until the day I found out he’d been forced from his position for sexually harassing an employee with whom he’d been having an affair. And that pales in comparison to the scandal at Penn State.
I should add that Sandusky is innocent until proven guilty and he has denied the charges. But again, the grand jury report is compelling. Read it with a trash can handy, and then see if you have any sympathy for the adults who lost their jobs this week for failing to protect vulnerable children.