I have been watching the news as the Penn State scandal has unfolded. Penn State is ranked #45 by U.S. News and World Report, a list I am increasingly familiar with as Sissy sifts through college choices. My daughter isn’t considering Penn State, but were she, our family would be rethinking things based on the outrageous behavior of members of the student body in response to the firing of the disgraced leader of the Penn State Cult of Football, “JoePa,” or Joe Paterno. (To be fair there was also a well-attended candlelight vigil for the victims.)
What happened at Penn State is the worst nightmare of many a mother, but especially of those of us who are always on the lookout for good role models for our fatherless boys. In the early years of my career, I worked in a residential treatment facility for adolescent youth who were adjudicated Ch.I.N.A., Children In Need of Assistance. These kids were survivors of abuse, often of sexual abuse. Many were exactly the same sorts of kids who were victimized by former Penn State defensive coordinator, and scum-of-the-Earth, Jerry Sandusky. (Sorry, I read the Grand Jury report, and like many, I’m not waiting for the verdict.)
In those days I spent hours listening to the harrowing stories of the youth who were my charges. There was one who was bulimic, who ejected the contaminates that had been forced down her throat every time she vomited. There was one who wrote stories about crushed glass and body parts that were so disturbing they would make you cry. I heard enough heartache for an entire lifetime, enough to make my own exercises in navel-gazing look foolish. There are many among us who are broken and, if your humanity is intact, their stories will break your heart. I have lost track of all those kids. I don’t know how many survived or how their lives came out, but I do know something of how rough their roads probably were.
“I’m just a broken, miserable shell of a human being. Being molested has defined me as a person and shaped me as a human being and it has made me the monster I am and there’s nothing I can do to escape it. I don’t know any other existence. I don’t know what life feels like where I’m apart from any of this. I actively despise the person I am. I just feel fundamentally broken, almost non-human. I feel like an animal that woke up one day in a human body, trying to make sense of a foreign world, living among creatures it doesn’t understand and can’t connect with.”
—Twenty-seven-year-old Princeton graduate student Bill Zeller, who took his own life.
“Most victims are compliant and their molesters don’t use force,” said former FBI behavioral science unit agent, Ken Lanning, to ABC News, “The victims feels shame and guilt and embarrassment because they were supposed to yell and tell.” They may feel guilty, but they aren’t guilty.
“At least six men could have called 911. Not one did. Why?”
Those six are among the people who should feel guilty.
Pittsburgh sports radio talk show personality and rumor-monger, Mark Madden, predicted this scandal back in April. He now claims that we will come to find out that Sandusky retired at the ripe young age of 55 in exchange for a hush operation—a cover-up. Additionally, Madden outrageously suggests that we will also come to find out that Jerry Sandusky was pimping out Second Mile boys to wealthy donors. (Madden interview here.)
I pray that does not prove true.
Authorities are saying there is no evidence linking the scandal to the mysterious 2005 disappearance of Pennsylvania District Attorney, Ray Gricar, who investigated allegations that Jerry Sandusky had inappropriate contact with an eleven-year-old boy in a school locker room in 1998. Gricar failed to prosecute. Seven years later, he called his girlfriend to say he was going for a drive and was never seen again. His fastidiously kept car was found abandoned by the Susquehanna River with cigarette ashes littering the passenger seat. Gricar was a non-smoker. His laptop was fished out of the river sans hard drive. The hard drive was fished from the river a few months later a few hundred yards from the parking lot where Gricar’s car had been abandoned. The hard drive was damaged beyond recovery. Lots of folks are wondering if Ray Gricar is wearing a pair of concrete overshoes at the bottom of the Susquehanna river, and if he is—why?
Sandusky says he is innocent. His attorney, Joseph Amendola, who also apparently also likes ‘em young, told Rock Center’s Bob Costas in an interview that he would leave his children alone with Jerry Sandusky. (Jon Stewart aptly asked, “What kind of creepy guy club do you both belong to?”) When asked by Costas in a phone interview if he was “sexually attracted to young boys, to underage boys,” Sandusky first restated the question, “Am I sexually attracted to young boys?” Then he answered, “Sexually attracted? …ya know, nah. I enjoy young people. I, I love to be around them. Uh, I, I, but no—I am not sexually attracted to young boys.”
“…ya know, nah.”
Rock Center’s Bob Costas hit it out of the park when he said to Sandusky: “It seems, if all of these accusations are false, you are the unluckiest and most persecuted man that any of us has ever heard about.” (Even more persecuted and unlucky than my ex-husband.)
Other questions are rumbling around, too. Including: what did they know and when did they know it? There are likely rooms in hell reserved for anyone who knew of the 1998 molestation allegations and investigation and still failed to turn Sandusky into the police in 2002 when they heard whatever watered-down version they did of “he was seen raping a ten-year-old boy in a Penn State locker room shower.” I have little certainty with regard to many matters of faith, but I have no doubt that there is an especially unfriendly place in the ever-after for men like Jerry Sandusky and for those who look the other way.
Speaking of hell—I have it on good authority that jail is not a nice place, especially not for child-molesters. There is often honor among thieves and other criminals, and it is a strange code with its own twisted version of justice. That offers no more comfort than the prospect of eternal damnation. A friend pointed out that it is probably naive to assume that there is ultimate justice anyway. He argues that “justice must be dealt with in life or not at all, certainly before Sandusky does us the favor of dying (of old age, in prison).” Justice sets an example and my friend is probably right that “God wants us to police our own, showing forgiveness with firmness of principle.”
There is no penalty, however, that could ever right these wrongs. Although support and therapy and resources may bring comfort and healing, there is nothing that will give those young men and boys back what was stolen from them, nothing.
JoePa got one thing right: We should all pray for the victims.
If you have been sexually abused, contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline by going online to their instant message format or call their twenty-four hour hotline at 1.800.656.HOPE. Help is free and confidential.