“Silence in the face of evil is evil itself.”
On Friday, June 22, 2012, a jury convicted Jerry Sandusky of 45 out of the 48 charges filed against him in criminal court. Most of the charges Sandusky was convicted on carry lengthy prison terms; at age 68, it is believed that Sandusky will spend the remainder of his life in prison. What will survive far beyond the years Sandusky resides in prison are the physical and psychological scars he inflicted upon the young boys he preyed upon at the Penn State summer football camps, and as a “mentor” to boys via The Second Mile charity he helped found while at State College in Pennsylvania. Participation in these organizations and events gave Sandusky unquestioned access to young boys. The unfathomable and despicable abuse Sandusky subjected his victims to throughout a 15 year period were not all committed under the radar. As early as 2002, reports of Sandusky’s abusive behavior towards a 10-year-old boy were made to officials at Penn State. Assistant Coach Mike McQueary reported having walked in on Sandusky while he was anally raping a 10-year-old boy to Coach Joe Paterno who reported the incident to Penn State Athletic Director Tim Curley. Rather than reporting this incident to police, various officials at Penn State, with the blessing of then university President Graham Spainer, reasoned that the best course of action was to bar Sandusky from bringing children to the football building, along with taking away his keys to the locker room and reporting the incident to the Second Mile charity. The willful and unconscionable act of failing to report this incident to the police not only furthered Sandusky’s access to young boys, boys he would later go on to sexually abuse, it demonstrated the precedent of reputation, money, and prestige in the minds of Penn State officials over that of the welfare of a child.
Alongside Joe Paterno, Jerry Sandusky was one of Penn State’s most revered football treasures, winning Assistant Coach of the year awards in 1986 and 1999. His esteemed coaching career in hand, Sandusky went on to author several books related to his football experiences and in 1990 received a letter from former President George H.W. Bush praising him for charitable endeavors with children. All the while, Sandusky the predator was no doubt growing more and more confident in his ability to cover his deplorable acts against children. Positioned as a man of great leadership ability and affinity towards helping children, Sandusky did not garner any significant scrutiny with respect to his work with children. There was no reason to question the seemingly altruistic motives of the football legend with the grandfatherly looks and mannerisms. Undoubtedly, Sandusky counted on his unassuming appearance, stellar reputation and authority to ward off any suspicions or second glances. Like all child sexual predators, Sandusky rested on the fear and shame that engulfs the lives of sexual abuse victims to cover up his acts. But unlike most child abuse incidents, Sandusky was caught in the act. Unfortunately for the young boy Sandusky was caught abusing, Sandusky had a strong ally in his corner. For a predator like Sandusky, the silence of the Penn State officials was worth more than all of the gold in Fort Knox. The need for self-preservation, power, revenue and reputation on the part of the Penn State officials is in part what Sandusky rested on to shield his dastardly deeds against these young boys.
Are any of the individuals who helped cover up Sandusky’s rape of the young boy on the Penn State campus parents? If so, how could they rationalize their behavior in light of their role as parents? Parent or not, I can hardly conceive of a scenario where the acts of a child predator are sanctioned by a group of individuals who had the ability to shed a light on this abuse, potentially halting the abuse of the boys that Sandusky preyed upon following this incident. In failing to alert the police of Assistant Coach McQueary’s report of having witnessed Sandusky raping a 10-year-old boy, in essence, Penn State officials opened the door to the possibility of Sandusky abusing more boys. Denying Sandusky access to the Penn State locker room was not going to stop Sandusky from targeting more boys to abuse. Sandusky had the financial means and wherewithal to find alternate locations where he could abuse boys. More important, Sandusky had the luxury of an untarnished reputation that allowed him to tread untethered around young boys. Failing to act on a level beyond the Penn State campus, along with Penn State officials attempt to deny that they were informed about the rape of the 10-year-old boy on campus, makes them just as reprehensible and culpable as Sandusky. Justice for Sandusky’s victims will not be complete until all parties involved in harboring his actions are held criminally liable for their silence. May justice delayed not be justice denied.