I am a Penn State graduate, and the current sex abuse scandal playing out in Happy Valley really hits home. I am not a huge football fan, but I have fond memories of going to the games at Beaver Stadium during my college years. There was the tailgating, the excitement of watching your team win one game after another, and behind it all was JoePa. We loved JoePa, in fact really the man could do no wrong. In a University where football is, well, everything, Paterno set a high standard for his players during his 46 years as coach. It wasn’t just that he won more games than in other coach in the history of college football. He also insisted that his players study and work hard academically, and football players at Penn State graduated at a rate that was well above the national average for football players. Not only did Paterno build a first rate college football program during his tenure at Penn State, he also donated over $4,000,000 to the University, much of it to programs that were not sports related.
Last week Jerry Sandusky, who at one time was Paterno’s assistant football coach and right hand man, was charged with 40 crimes related to child sexual abuse. He is accused of molesting 8 children over a total of 15 years. In 2002 a graduate assistant, Mike McQueary, reported to Paterno that he had seen Sandusky sexually assaulting a young boy in the shower of the football building at Penn State. Sandusky was no longer employed by the football team in 2002, so Paterno passed the information on to other University officials but did not report it himself. Those other University officials did not report it either. Nobody called the police to report this crime.
Two Penn State officials, Tim Curley who is the athletic director, and Gary Schultz, the senior vice president for finance and business, have been charged with perjury and failing to report to authorities what they knew of the allegations. The University President, Graham B. Spanier, and Joe Paterno were not charged with a crime, but were both fired last night by the Board of Trustees. They were informed of the abuse at the time it occurred and although it wasn’t technically their job to report it either one of them could have stepped forward, but neither one did.
Paterno say he is grieving today for those children and their families, but he must not have been grieving much for that victim back in 2002. As we have learned from many mission apologies, your statement doesn’t mean a whole lot if you only say it when you are forced out into the spotlight.
It seems to me to be a no-brainer. Large prestigious organization knows of sexual abuse going on and the people in charge weigh the consequences of bringing it to light. What kind of negative publicity will they get when the press finds out one of their employees is a child molester? Do they really want to allow that conversation to take place? Look at how well respected the abuser is in the community. What if supporters stop sending in their donations because of it and it affects them financially? Wouldn’t it be better to just keep it quiet and deal with it internally? Why is anyone surprised that this is the way Penn State handled the situation when they found out about this abuse? We have seen it over and over again with mission organizations, including SIM. The needs of the organization come before the needs of the victims.
Because no one at Penn State reported Sandusky to the police back in 2002, he was allowed to remain at large for another 9 years, and who knows how many more victims he had during that time? I keep hearing of how tragic the situation is for Penn State. It is even more tragic for the victims who will live with the effects of sexual abuse for the rest of their lives.
I am happy and proud that the Board of Trustees sent a message that no one at Penn State is too powerful to be held accountable for their actions, or in this case their inaction. I hope that message gets out to all the organizations, especially the missions, that are knowingly keeping child molesters on their staff, protecting them from publicity, shielding them from their victims. No matter how big and prestigious and righteous you think you are, you will also be held accountable one day.