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 last nights events, 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 last night.

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13 comments
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Harpua89
Harpua89

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Your voice is a beacon of sanity in a sea of madness.

Ag224
Ag224

This is absolutely brilliant. Thank you for understanding that for the media, this was about focusing on a god's fall from grace because a headline like that would make much more money than a headline about "Jerry Sandusky, pederast" or focusing on the boys who have had their souls ripped away from them. The Roman Colisseum is alive and well in 2011 and too many people think they are heroes for screaming for Joe Pa's head as part of a faceless mob. I hate to break it to them, but they're cowards who have let ESPN, CNN, ABC, etc. drive the conversation here and take the focus off of Sandusky and these kids and put it on Paterno because it will sell more papers and get higher TV ratings. Again, thanks for writing this.

Mike
Mike

Give Joe Pa a break! The acceptance of and covering for the rape of children is synonomous regarding anyone related to the catholic church! The pope most likely called Joe Pa and offered him an immediate bishop position...no doubt Joe Pa demanded a cardinal position at the least...considering his qualifications!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

E
E

"Joe Pa" is a perv himself...a sick old man. How can you NOT call the cops when you see a 10 year old being raped by your own employee/staff? And he knew this was happening for over 10 years. Joe got off easy with just losing his job.

Mike
Mike

I hope someone puts the bastard in prison...

Cheri Leoncio
Cheri Leoncio

Ms. Grollmus,I do not trust journalists/media to write truth. Not that they don't (always) on purpose because I know from experience that they do not get the truth or the facts to start with. But what is disgusting is the "frenzy" they (most often times) are trying to create.With that said, Thank you for your extremely well written and well thought-out article. I have read too many knee-jerk and reactive opinions on this incident.

bulletbob
bulletbob

But isn't that what we do to our football players, high school, college or pro? We are doing the same thing with Tebow, putting him on a pedastal and making him out to be some sort of god, all these athletes and coaches alike are just people, that's it. We must never lose sight of that

Great Speckled Bird
Great Speckled Bird

Ms. Grollmus, I congratulate you on your incisive article about Penn State and Paterno. Penn State has always been a great university and Joe Paterno a great coach. What really bothers me the most is Joe's choice to do as little as he could legally to report this horrendous act to the proper authorities, but instead, get it swept under the carpet. I have to think that he was trying to save his own ass and legend. I wonder if this incident ever crossed his mind during the years that led up to his sensational fall?

There is another aspect to this cover-up. All those involved were men. Men have a way of compartmentalizing their lives when it comes to sex. It's the "old boy" thing. They all lie about improper sex unless it is to their advantage to tell the truth. Paterno was certainly no better than the rest of those who failed to tell the whole truth. Some of these men have to take the blame for this horror. We all have feet of clay when pushed to rise to an impossible height.

Of course there is nothing left to do but pick up the pieces and go forward. I hope that Penn State does a better job of it than the Catholic Church did with their sex problems. They seemed to have just gone underground with them.

Mike
Mike

PS: I hope authorities will put "ole Joe Pa" in prison for the rest of his life...and he complains to prison authorities about being ass raped...and they do nothing.

Mike
Mike

The most predominate issus is that "Joe Pa" willingly decided to become the accomplice of a child rapist..."Joe Pa" assured through his silence and inattention that more children would be raped by his partner.

 
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