I also read the grand jury report, which recounted a horrific incident in 2000, where a janitor witnessed Sandusky giving oral sex to Victim 8 in the Penn State locker room showers. The janitor was so upset by what he saw, his co-workers thought he might have a heart attack. Still, the police were not called in that incident either. Then I read about the 28-year-old who witnessed Sandusky raping a boy in 2002, and that he did nothing to stop it, but left, upset and confused by what he’d witnessed. I read about the wrestling coach at a local elementary school who stumbled into the gym to find Sandusky lying on top of a young boy, and again, he didn’t beat Sandusky within an inch of his life or call 911 right away. He left and contacted the principal later on. Of course, these men weren’t being called out in the press. That is because they were not gods – they were not in positions of power. Their failure to act was some how justified because they were not mythical creatures held to higher standards.

My first instinct was to consider what I would have done in these situations – if I had witnessed a grown man raping a small boy. I would have killed him! I would have pulled that young boy to me, wrapped him in a towel and called 911 from my car, where the boy would be sitting shotgun, me trying to tell him that it would all be OK. In my fantasy, I painted myself a hero. But I had to acknowledge that I wasn’t sure I would have behaved any differently in the face of such an atrocity. I’d likely have gone into shock too. I’d likely have gone to someone else – someone I found trustworthy to tell me what to do. And I’m sure that person would have been at a loss as well, because, how does your mind process something so horrible? I tried to actually understand what happened here, rather than cast stones, because I live in a giant glass house that I am constantly aware of.

What that grand jury report suggested to me was not a full-scale cover-up to protect the name of Penn State football, even if that might be the case or the most exciting of stories to consider. Only a proper investigation will prove that to be true or not. What I read and learned was how we all, as human beings, fail our greater ideals about how we should behave in the face of real atrocity. I thought that this situation might be an excellent time to consider how we think we’d behave, how we might not behave that way, and what we can do to stop the systemic denial of pedophilia that plagues various institutions in our world – the church, education, athletics, etc. Now was the time to figure out a real course of action – a methodology for dealing with atrocity, if we could do that, even. To consider what was at stake for the psychology of men faced with inhumane atrocity. Would it be possible to act accordingly? I hoped so, but I wasn’t sure.

But the press would not allow us this conversation. Instead, looking to increase unique hits or sell papers, it clung to the image of our school’s icon, our celebrity, and twisted this story – it never allowed our school to engage in a real conversation about what went wrong and how we could use this as a chance to learn, to be better individuals – to truly engage the reason why we are all at Penn State, really. It all spun out of control into a bad game of telephone, where events were being miscast and misrepresented. When I talked to my father on the phone, I asked him if he’d heard about our scandal and he said, “What? About the boy who was raped in the shower while twenty people watched?” He wasn’t joking and I was disgusted by how things had spun so badly out of control.

In such a short time, I watched the 24-hour news cycle, social media, and message boards light up with hatred and outrage, with accusations that Penn State was little more than collection of pedophile enablers, that we were all implicated in this crime, that we were a bunch of blind meatheads, members of some weird football cult. I read my own colleagues write as much even. Sandusky and the administration disappeared from our conversation – child abuse and its perpetuation disappeared from the conversation. Instead, Penn Staters felt like they were under attack and rightly so. In class, one of my students, in trying to engage the world in a conversation over what happened, was called a pedophile herself by friends of hers that are not at Penn State. The meaning of this moment got lost and the cause and rights of the real victims – those little boys – were occluded by the verbal victimization of our students and our school, placed in a position from which they decided to lash out. And though I am gravely disappointed and disheartened by the student riots, I know what it means to be defensive, to shoot from the hip. And again, I had to consider my own glass house before demonizing a very very small percent of our student body that headed into the streets.

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27 comments
Lee Milass
Lee Milass

the thing that got me when the story broke was the initial comment of Paterno and then spanieri.e."these are allegations",and "I stand 100% behind curly and schulz".  WHAT! I then went to the grand jury report-OMG these people did not say one caring thing about the victims.  The public is outraged.  The board finally did the right thing.  My only thought was when did the board first hear of Sandusky problem?And the da-Gricer that first started the investigation who "disappeared" .  This is starting to sound like a mafia hit is somehow involved.     And then Bradley coming on the air telling us what a great guy Paterno was etc.  Give us a break.  Someone got raped in your football locker room and Paterno,shulz&curly decided to just ignore the rapistpedophile on your staff.  Great well a lot of us just can't put it out of our head that easily. We live in simple land and not big bucksville.

Portann
Portann

I am so sorry, but being a too busy to report the rape of a child just doesnt sit well. It is very clear, reading the grand jury indictment, aside from the media hoopla, that there was a pervasive culture of silence that helped perpetuate a sexually criminal atmosphere. The subsequent furor on campus after the story broke and after Paterno was fired says it all. The level of campus backlash is in direct proportion to the investment that was made in concealing this filth for the sake of the reputation of the university.

Suzenjohnson
Suzenjohnson

This by far is the Most fair article about the Penn State scandal .. This young jounalist is so articulate and straight forward.  As a former General Manager of State College's Tofftress Golf Resort , where all the home games were the lodging facilities of Joe and his footlball team for years i experienced... the Owner of Toftrees was a child molester as well and i wonder if he participated with any of this ... as there were numerous reports from our housekeepers and maintenance and other employees that they witnessed many of the  abusive behaviors. I certainly was  a victim and viewed such abuse from my Employer and his family.. what do you do when you want to keep your job and they threaten, not so nice concequences to you and your family... I applaud those who could come forward... all of this must stop and expecially if it does not ... the young continue even in maturity to more abuses... and may learn to live with it... terrible.. My main career was in State College was in State College and myself as well as other collegues have to live with the abuse our company's owner placed upon us... fortunately for him he passed away before they could put him away.

Metsfan27
Metsfan27

The point of the article is well-taken; the focus should be on the real crime and the victims rather than on the most convenient scapegoat, the highest profile figure  involved.  And I've even asked myself if a busy coach, taking care of players, assistant coaches, media, etc., etc., could have done what he was supposed to, reported an incident involving a RETIRED EX-assistant coach to his superiors, then moved on to the hundred-and-one things he's responsible for and FORGOTTEN ALL ABOUT IT.  Heinous in retrospect, but kind of understandable.  But her conclusion belies her premise, because the 2 worlds she's posited, the world of the real and the world of sensationalism, kinda converge in the next to last paragraph--the "real issue,"  that "the administration...failed to respond appropriately,"  and the "perverse narrative," have become the same narrative--the university failed to respond appropriately BECAUSE the football team was more important.

 
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