BIG VOICE PICTURES is compelled to post these important words from a mother whose son was sexually abused as a young, innocent boy. This is a mother who will never be quiet about the sexual abuse of children. She knows all to well the damage it has on a child’s life, damage which continues into adolescence and adulthood without adequate support and counseling. We all need to continue to have a BIG VOICE like she does.
As a mother of a child who was sexually abused, I consider the resignation of Penn State officials – including the president of the University – and the immediate firing of Joe Paterno – to be necessary first steps in addressing the sexual assaults of children that occurred on their watch. But those steps are not nearly a sufficient response to the sexual and psychological torture visited upon those young boys.
Pursuant to the NCAA’s constitution and operating bylaws, the Penn State football program should be suspended immediately because the institution is responsible for the acts of its staff members and employees. Here, those acts were not only unethical but in many instances, were criminal, as well.Certainly, if the NCAA suspends teams and coaches for unethical conduct consisting of giving prospective recruits athletic gear or inviting them to barbecues, the conduct of Penn State athletic personnel here deserves the most serious discipline the NCAA can impose. The upcoming game against Nebraska should be cancelled immediately. Inaction on the part of the NCAA under these circumstances is hypocritical and grossly ineffectual.
Moreover, any Penn State staff member or other persons who were under a legal obligation to report suspected child abuse to state authorities and failed to do so or who lied to the grand jury or investigative law enforcement personnel during Sandusky’s investigation, should be prosecuted to the full extent of Pennsylvania law. This could include school officials in addition to the two already charged – Gary Schultz and Tim Curley – and could extend to the graduate assistant coach, Mike McQueary, and the janitor, Jim Calhoun, both of whom witnessed young boys being raped and sodomized, and failed to try to stop the acts from continuing or even report the crimes to the police. Even those officials outside Penn State – Joseph Miller, the wrestling coach for a local elementary school and Steven Turchetta, the assistant principal and football coach at a local high school – both of whom had either directly witnessed or had reason to suspect Sandusky’s crimes against young boys – should be prosecuted if they violated any state reporting requirements. The law cannot turn the same blind eye to these crimes – silence and inaction cannot be tolerated any longer.
So what is left after the smoke clears? The answer is simple but so sad – the shattered childhoods and lives of those young boys who were victimized both by Sandusky’s crimes and the indifference of school officials whose sacred trust is to protect children placed under their care. It speaks volumes that most of the media attention is focused on Paterno and the football program and so little has been said or written about the little boys. Nameless, faceless, “at-risk” children. It is more than ironic that the two boys whose sexual assaults were actually witnessed by Penn State personnel remain unidentified. There is no evidence that school officials ever confronted Sandusky to try to locate the boys in an effort to help them or at least to let them know that they mattered. Whatever ultimately happens to Penn State, Paterno, and anyone else atfault here, those boys and their families are left to themselves to try to somehow overcome the horrific crimes against them.
Until society adopts a mentality of zero tolerance, such crimes will continue. These despicable acts are far from “horsing around” or “inappropriate conduct.” They cannot be viewed as similar to indiscrete sexual acts between consenting adults. Make no mistake – such acts are forcible sexual assaults on children. Try to picture the young boy being anally raped in the shower with his hands up against the wall or the child who was pinned against the shower wall while being sodomized by Sandusky. How can any thinking person describe such acts as anything but torture. Sexual assaults against children are among the most heinous of crimes imaginable because they are often committed by adults in positions of trust and they rob the victim of his childhood and destroy his soul.
A society that fails to protect its children from such torture because it does not sufficiently care about them, is morally bankrupt. No one at Penn State cared enough about those young boys to stop Sandusky. No one even cared enough to try to find them to provide medical and psychological care, as well as to let them know that what happened to them would not be tolerated. The mob mentality that rallied around Paterno appears to be choosing football over the welfare of children. One would hope that when circumstances cool off a little and those folks take a step back, they will recognize that their priorities are out of line.
Sexual crimes against children can never be tolerated under any circumstances. Those young boys are our children – yours and mine. Like many pedophiles, Sandusky preyed upon poor kids who had less than strong family support. And he did it so incredibly blatantly because he was confident that no one would care enough about those children to stop him – and regrettably, he was right for 15 years. Think how many of those kids could have been saved if law enforcement had done its job in 1998 and prosecuted Sandusky after he essentially admitted to assaulting a young boy in a shower. But the district attorney at the time decided against instituting criminal charges. The lack of concern for removing from the street an admitted pedophile is shocking but not so unusual – one need look no further than the church cases for other examples of the same type of official indifference.
In the end, we are all responsible for the safety of any child among us. Unless we realize that and act on that realization, our children will never be safe. And until such time, we must all share the blame and the shame in failing to protect every child – those at Penn State and those down the block – who are entitled to expect us to care enough to help them. As a society, we can do better. And we must.