It’s been unavoidable news that former Pennsylvania State University football coach Jerry Sandusky allegedly raped and molested at least eight young boys between the ages of 10 and 15. Sandusky gained access to his victims through a children’s charity program, the Second Mile, created to assist underprivileged children “with absent or dysfunctional families.”
The graphic grand jury report, which details unspeakable alleged crimes, notes that that the charity allowed Sandusky access to hundreds of boys, “many of whom were vulnerable due to their social situation.”
In the aftermath of the Penn State Scandal, Sandusky remains free on $100,000 bail (thanks, I guess, American legal system), and University President Graham Spanier and legendary Coach Joe Paterno were both fired by the university board. Both Spainer and Paterno were aware Sandusky sodomized a child (or at the very least, there had been inappropriate sexual misconduct between an adult and a child) in the campus showers in 2002, and did not report the rape to the police. Bafflingly, Penn State students rioted in objection to Paterno’s firing. (And yes, they were aware of the circumstances behind it.)
Since the grand jury report was released, more alleged victims have come forward — up to twenty, according to reports. And the big question has been, “How was this able to go on and for so long?”
“Nameless, faceless and voiceless boys were invited to play a sick, dangerous and twisted game, while good men watched in silence, and did nothing,” wrote Edward Wyckoff Williams in a story for the Grio, “Are poor black boys easy targets for sexual predators?”
There was the director of campus police who ordered a 1998 investigation in Sandusky’s activity be closed even after Sandusky confessed to police that he’d showered with a boy, hugged him while naked, then admitted it was wrong. In 2000, there was the janitor who saw Sandusky performing oral sex on a child, but left without interrupting the rape. He reported it to his supervisor, who told the janitor to whom he should report the crime. (As the supervisor, it was his duty to report it, according to Pennsylvania state law.) Neither man contacted the police.
There was a 28-year-old grad student who saw Sandusky raping a child in the showers, and did nothing to stop the act. Instead, he left the room and called his father to ask what he should do (he did tell his supervisor, Paterno, what he saw. Paterno told his boss, Penn State Athletic Director Tim Curley, who also did not report the crime to police. He was recently charged with perjury and failure to report allegations of child sexual abuse.)
As adults, we have an obligation to protect children from harm. As Paterno, Spainer, Curley, other administrators and Sandusky prepare to get something akin to their just due, be mindful of how your actions, and even inaction, can affect the course of someone’s life, including your own.
Demetria L. Lucas is the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria) in stores now. Follow her on Twitter @abelleinbk