In 1977 newly elevated Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky founded The Second Mile, a charity ostensibly dedicated to helping some of the most vulnerable children in our society. Moving beyond its initial charter of running and financing a group home for at risk children, The Second Mile eventually grew into a multimillion dollar charity which, according to their slogan, provides children with help and hope.
Unfortunately for far too many young boys that offer of help may have come at a dear price.
Pennsylvania’s Attorney General has released the details of a Grand Jury indictment of Sandusky that alleges that he utilized the charity to gain access to a steady stream of young boys, many of whom he may have subjected to unforgivable acts of sexual abuse. The report details the Grand Jury’s investigation of the reported abuse of eight separate young boys at the hands of Sandusky.
Victim 1 testified that Sandusky had a practice of coming into the basement room after he told Victim 1 it was time to go to bed. Victim 1 testified that Sandusky would “crack his back.” He described this as Sandusky getting onto the bed on which Victim 1 was already lying and rolling under the boy. With Victim 1 lying on top of him, face to face, Sandusky would run his arms up and down the boy’s back and “crack” it. The back-cracking became a ritual at bedtime. Victim 1 said that after Sandusky had creacked his back a number of times, he progressed to rubbing Victim 1′s backside while they lay face-to-face in bed.
The report continues to outline what sounds like a methodical and well-rehearsed routine of desensitization employed by Sandusky. According to the investigation, the contact ultimately elevated to Sandusky performing oral sex on the boy, who was in 6th or 7th grade at the time, and making the boy perform oral sex on him.
These allegations are the first of many disturbing things about this investigation beyond the sexual abuse itself. The charges in this report make Sandusky sound like an exceptionally experienced predator. Considering this charity had given him unmonitored access to vulnerable children for over three decades there’s no telling how many young boys he may have honed his craft with should these charges prove to be true.
The details of Victim 2′s experiences are even more horrific, and I must warn you what I’m quoting is extremely graphic and disturbing.
On March 1, 2002 a Penn State graduate assistant (“graduate assistant”) who was then 28 years old entered the locker room at the Lasch Football Building on the University Park Campus on a Friday night before the beginning of Spring Break…
…As the graduate assistant entered the locker room doors, he was surprised to find the lights and showers on. He then heard rhythmic, slapping sounds. He believed the sounds to be those of sexual activity. As the graduate assistant put the sneakers in his locker, he looked into the shower. He saw a naked boy, Victim 2, whose age he estimated to be ten years old, with his hands up against the wall, being subjected to anal intercourse by a naked Sandusky. The graduate assistant was shocked but noticed that both Victim 2 and Sandusky saw him. The graduate assistant left immediately, distraught.
Ultimately the graduate assistant immediately reported what he saw to Joe Paterno. Paterno summoned athletic director Tim Curley to his home to meet the following day regarding the Graduate Assistant’s chilling accusations. During that meeting Paterno reportedly described Sandusky’s alleged anal rape of a 10 year old boy as fondling or something of a sexual nature. According to the report, Curley in turn waited A WEEK AND A HALF to meet with the Graduate Assistant regarding what he witnessed, and when he did so he didn’t have the police present. He did, however, have Penn State Vice President of Finance and Business Gary Schultz present.
The Graduate Assistant again recounted the details of Sandusky’s encounter with the boy and was told that Curley and Schultz would look into it.
Were the police contacted?
Two weeks later the GA was informed that Sandusky’s keys to the locker room were taken and the matter was reported to The Second Mile, the charity that ultimately answered to Sandusky himself.
When Curley describes the meeting he claims the GA, who the Grand Jury found extremely credible, never reported sexual conduct of any kind and termed what Sandusky did to that boy as “horsing around”. It’s hard to imagine a man who was so deeply disturbed by what he alleges he saw so dramatically downplaying the severity of the incident.
If the charges contained in this report are true, the tragedy within the tragedy is how many people had an opportunity to put this to a stop (Paterno included) and chose to kick the ball along instead and worry about covering themselves before the welfare of these children. The more of this heart-wrenching report you read the more you come to the conclusion that Paterno, countless other employees of Penn state and officials at the individual schools these kids attended had to have some idea of what was going on. If true, and the details of this report certainly are damning, then the failure to step in and save these children from unspeakable abuse paints a black mark on both Penn State and Paterno.
Joe Paterno is a guy I’ve always looked up to. A solid, steady and seemingly fair man whose passion for the sport was infectious. Reading of his alleged inaction when some of society’s most vulnerable children were reportedly being subjected to a systematic pattern of sexual abuse is deeply disappointing.
Curley and Schultz have both been charged with crimes for their part in failing to report the matter to the police. Paterno, perhaps due to his status as the elder statesman of the Big Ten, has not been charged.
I realize the details of this are unfathomably horrible, but I think it’s important that we look evil like this straight in the eye. This is a man who allegedly preyed on young boys with a brazenness and practiced hand that would indicate that he has been at this for a very long time. In all his years of alleged abuse none of those closest to him (including Paterno) took the necessary steps to stop it.
The actions of Penn State, Paterno, Curley, et al beg larger questions about their conduct. What did they know? When did they know it? Of the people in this report who seem to have failed to act appropriately did any of them do more than just fail to act but actively help sweep this matter under the rug? It’s hard to tell to what degree each official was complicit in giving Sandusky a pass, but in the absence of full details they all share the blame.
If all this is true from Sandusky’s actions to Paterno and Penn State’s inaction then there can be no remediation short of terminating Joe Paterno, Tim Curley, Gary Schultz and everyone else whose refusal to act allowed this alleged abuse to continue.
College football is an insular culture in which coaches, administration and players all want to handle things “in house”. Holding these men accountable for their inaction would be a significant step towards breaking that cycle and encouraging others to come forward in the future.
Considering the countless young boys and girls who take part in youth sports and sport related programs throughout the country I don’t think we can afford not to act here. There are no telling how many other Sanduskies there are out there, and any step we can take towards forcing people to do the right thing and expose these people is a step we need to take.
Penn State President Graham Spanier has made leadership one of his core talking points in his tenure at the university. It’s time for him to show some now.
Dismiss Tim Curley, dismiss Gary Schultz and yes do the once unthinkable and dismiss Joe Paterno.
Common decency demands no less.