Jerry Sandusky’s arraignment on 40 criminal counts, including indictment on dozens of counts of child sexual abuse has rocked the sports world and the Penn State community. Yet as shocking as the news out of Happy Valley is, the most horrific part is not just what happened to those kids, but how easily the “next one” could have been saved.

The group of people who could have changed the fate of future victims was large enough to have made a difference. If Joe Paterno, Mike McQueary, Graham Spanier, former athletic director Tim Curley OR former vice president Gary Schultz had reported what was graphically witnessed, a monster may have been take off the streets much sooner. Instead the decision was made to simply restrict kids from Sandusky’s charity from visiting the football building. No calls to 911 were made; the police were not notified and a monster remained on the streets to victimize kids for another nine years.

The obvious question here is why? The answer speaks to something much more covert going on. Did the five men involved in the cover-up really think that taking away the “location” would stop Sandusky’s reprehensible behavior? That’s like saying if you stop bringing vodka home the alcoholic will be cured. What about all of the other places in the world where booze can be found? Let alone all the little kids.

Fear and loyalty are a deadly mix when it comes to breaking out of a comfort zone and doing “the right thing” — in this case, the two worked together to create a miserable mix of cover-ups, ongoing, preventable abuse and deceit. The actions taken by those people who had a chance to make an impact were so limited that it speaks to a ripple of tragedies in this tsunami. As reporters and the public start to make sense of what has happened, a few things are starting to add up.

Andy Staples, journalist at Sports Illustrated had this to say:

From the information contained in a grand jury presentment released Saturday, several powerful people at Penn State appeared to worry more about the brand of the football team than about the safety of a child… That is inexcusable, and it speaks to a need to change the power structure and the culture at Penn State. For too long, the school and the athletic department have felt they didn’t need to answer to anyone. Now, the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office and the U.S. Department of Education will come in asking questions the administration can’t ignore. People will be held accountable. The findings to come could be ugly, but sunshine doesn’t only light the darkest recesses. It also helps heal.”

Ph.D. therapist and couples expert Dr. Tammy Nelson offered this:

Let’s face it folks. This isn’t about football or coaches or who you like better. The Penn State scandal is about what happened to those young boys in the shower stall. The horror of those ‘alleged’ moments is almost lost in the uproar and focus over the shakeup of an historical and cultural mob mentality that ignores the small and crushes the weak.

Even in the media coverage of the recent shakeup at the college the focus has been on the loving and loyal connection to the old guard football legends of coaching at Penn State. We ignore the victims of the abuse by a coach who was accused 18 times of abusing young boys and instead hear interviews and news coverage of nostalgia for the good old boy/good old days. That type of loyalty to the team spirit could have and should have kept all the team players safe and protected instead of throwing the weak and vulnerable to the wolves for the sake of the big game.




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