Silence Is Not An Option

I can stay silent no more.

This could possibly alienate a very close personal friend, someone I truly would never want to hurt with my words and yet here I sit, unable, unwilling to stay silent any longer. I have to hope she will understand, I have to believe she will know that my intention is to share my feelings in the same way that she would know I would want her to share her own feelings.

I have thought about writing about the Penn State scandal since the story broke. Others have done it, most of them far better than I could ever hope to do, in fact. In light of the report that was just released and despite the fact that Joe Paterno is dead, I am speaking out.

I cannot stomach reading one more time about how this man is a hero, because of how he coached young men for years on and off the football field. How he was an inspiration to students and parents because he walked the campus like a mere mortal. When it mattered the very most, this man, this “hero” failed so profoundly that there is no recovering from that in my book. What is the famous line? It is what you do when no one is looking that shows your true character or something like that? Well folks, I think we can all now see that when no one was looking, Joe Paterno was certainly no hero I would ever choose to celebrate. He turned a blind eye to the rape of a child, and let’s be very clear here, he had been told point blank that a child was being raped in his locker room showers, because it might damage the reputation of his University and his beloved football program. Never mind, I suppose the damage that was being done to that child or would continue to be done to the children who came after.

Please do not misunderstand me here. I realize that this scandal was not solely the responsibility of Joe Paterno. I know that the abuser was Jerry Sandusky. I know that the cover-up was perpetuated by others besides Paterno, but here is what I also know about large football programs with men like Paterno at the helm; the buck stops with him. If the leader of that program says enough changes are made, charges are filed, children are protected. Make no mistake about that. This was not a trustee issue or a university police issue. This was a Joe Paterno issue. The moment that he decided not to proceed with protecting the victim, the child who was being raped in the shower by his own assistant coach, was the moment that any hero status he might have ever earned became null and void.

In order to be considered a real hero, you must protect victimized children. They should be your concern, not your own legacy, not the money your football program brings in, not the reputation of your university. In fact protecting victimized children wouldn’t even make you a hero, it would simply make you a decent human being.


Comments

Silence Is Not An Option — 114 Comments

  1. Ash, I commend you for NOT being silent – and you echo the words most of us are feeling but have no avenue to write about them. I, too, agree, that the moment Joe Paterno did not get up out of his chair to save a child or even another human from this type of abuse, well, he may as well have been committing the crime himself. I also agree, this IS a Joe Paterno issue when discussing the fact that….. he….did….nothing…..nothing – how do you do nothing when you know a child is being hurt in any way?!!? Fortunately, Jerry Sandusky will “get his,” but let’s remove the “hero” title from Joe Paterno. It doesn’t mean he did not do great things in his lifetime pertaining to football, but are we really putting that above all else? Again, thank you for not being silent….more people need to speak up about this story and this topic….we have all been silent for far too long in this country about this issue! Great job once again!

    • Thank you. Excellent comment. I appreciate you reading and sharing your thoughts. I could not agree with you more.

  2. EXCELLENT post Ashley! This story is of utmost horror and the legacy of the children victimized and traumatized will live on forever. I am so disgusted in both the monster who continued to abuse those poor precious souls looking for a role model, and the leader of an institution who possessed no moral character and seems to me to be the monster’s apprentice. SICK. It’s all so sick. Good for you for speaking your voice!!!! That is being AUTHENTIC… and it is both worthy and valued.

  3. Agreed. I get that PSU had a great football team, and that Joe Paterno was a great coach. Perhaps he did other wonderful things in the community. But this breach of trust was inexcusable. Thanks for this post.

    • Yes, Cheryl, you are so right. Whatever he did or did not do for the community became secondary after this breach of trust. Well said.

  4. Ashley, well said! It’s high time in this country that our priorities become less about sports, fame and fortune and more about basic human decency. It trumps any worldly accolades any of us could receive. Frankly, saving the dignity of a child and punishing a child predator would have made Paterno more of a hero than any football team ever could.

    • Thank you Melissa! Yes, yes, yes, a thousand times yes to this comment. I simply could not agree with what you wrote, especially your last sentence more.

  5. Yes, Ashley! In speaking up, you did what countless officials did not. I think one of the things this speaks to is a complete lack of leadership, which is stunning given their record on the field. Someone needed to lead this organization out of a very dark place; instead they were more worried about their name, endowment and legacy than the lives of children. They needn’t worry about that legacy anymore.
    http://goodenoughmother.com/2012/07/the-penn-state-report-punishment-at-what-cost/

    • You are so right. Their legacy has been forever tarnished and imagine what it could have been if they had done the right thing, the moral thing, the only thing they should have done from the beginning. Thank you for this excellent comment and for your blog about the topic. It was so well done.

  6. You know how I feel. I can’t believe anyone would try to defend the actions of these powerful men in covering up a heinous crime against a child–even if it had been just one child (and we know, of course, it was not) It’s morally indefensible to me.

    No matter what else they did in their lives, they perpetrated actual evil here. Yep, I said evil. No, they did not abuse the children themselves. It’s not far off, though. They victimized that child and many others. By not acting despite what they knew, they helped Sandusky to abuse children to enhance their coffers and protect their athletic reputation. They, these powerful adults, made a choice that a child who was being abused in the most vile and horrible way was less important to them than money & their reputations. They made a conscious decision about this. EVIL is what this is to me. Period.

    • I could not agree with you more, as you know. There is no defense. There is no justification. There is no explaining it away.

  7. Well said Ashley. It brings tears to my eyes to think about the child in the locker room, and how no one protected him. I can’t help but think had a mother walked in the door, Sandusky would have been put in jail years before. My heart breaks in the wake of his evil.

    • Thank you Jennifer. My girlfriend Lisa and I were actually talking about that earlier, and I wish I had put it in my piece. This would not have happened on a mother’s watch. Period. You are so right.

  8. The whole thing just makes my stomach turn. I don’t know how Penn State will be able recover from this, nor am I sure they should. I’m sure there will be more lawsuits in the near future. It is despicable. I wonder how all those students who rallied outside the Paterno home feel now. I bet they are in a state of disbelief that their beloved coach betrayed them, the school, and the victims in such a heartless manner. All for the love of a game? So wrong.
    Great post.

    • Thank you for reading and commenting. I agree with you totally and was thinking about those students earlier. I wonder how they feel about their rally now? Well said.

  9. There are so many things I want to say here. First, Ashley, I’m glad you are speaking your mind. I hope you know that our friendship is not at stake here as we are both intelligent grown women capable of getting along despite differing viewpoints. As I’ve said to you before, Bless your left-wing liberal heart. I love you, girl. No worries. ;)

    While I don’t have the time to go into details here and now, nor would I in a comment on your blog, I do have opinions on this. How could I not? I am a proud Penn Stater, and I still hold that Joe Paterno was no regular college football coach. Some will claim that I have “drunk the Kool-Aid” and am blinded by reverence for a mere mortal. I disagree. Truth is, no one knows better than Penn Staters just how much character, leadership, and integrity this man had. It’s that knowledge and first-hand insight into the man he was which gives us the right to speak for him since so many are speaking against him.

    Now, that said, when this news broke in November, I did not grant Paterno a clean slate and say that his inactions were excusable. (http://fromgrindtowhine.com/2011/11/10/mourning-the-loss-of-paterno-our-fallen-hero/) Nor do I do that now, after reading the Freeh report. Conversely, I am finally glad to see some evidence and proof of what actually happened.

    When I get back from the weekend, I will sit down and write out all that I have to say on this topic. I’ve already gone way over what I had planned for this comment.

    For now, let me reiterate some things I’ve said numerous times. This scandal is not what Penn State is about. It’s a horrible thing that happened at Penn State. This is also not a judgement on all that’s wrong with college football any more than the latest Charlie Sheen arrest is a commentary on all that’s wrong with celebrity. Are there problems in each situation? Sure. Does it mean every Penn Stater is corrupt or against victim’s rights? Hardly! To paint such a broad brush is ignorant.

    This needs to be discussed, so I’m glad you’re writing about your opinion. Many will applaud you and flame me, and I’m okay with that. Let’s just keep talking.

    • Stacy, just a comment about your post – I agree with all have rights to our opinions; however, this is not a “left-wing, liberal” topic….this is a moral topic…..and we are talking about a man (who was considered the institution) and he is the one that is vile. Penn State will go on to enroll students and athletes, but because of how this one man was idolized by so many, it will and has tarnished the reputation of the school. All of us intelligent people will realize the school is not a bad school. But the man, Joe Paterno did a horrific thing by not doing anything – you cannot deny that part – and I have a close friend whose family grew up with this man and his family, and he behind closed doors, he was quite different with his own children than his prized athletes. She, too, went to Penn State and is disgusted by this entire thing. But please let’s not make this a political issue – it is not- it is a moral issue and nothing more.

      • Debbie, thank you for your follow-up to Stacey’s comment. I totally agree with you that this is no way, shape or form a liberal or conservative issue, or I certainly hope it isn’t anyway…child rape I would imagine is able to span across the aisle as a human issue. I also found it interesting to read the perspective of your friend who had first-hand knowledge of the inner workings of Joe Paterno’s home life vs. the public life we all have seen. Certainly sounds like those were two different pictures.
        Stace, I know you will have a lot to say on your blog next week when you write about this topic, and I will be interested to read your perspective upon the release of this report. I imagine that it must be extra crushing to have someone you admired for so long be revealed to be who he turned out to actually be. I feel like if news like this were revealed about the head of Emma’s lower school, I would be rocked to my core and devastated by someone who I genuinely revere and hold up as a model for how I want to live my life turning out to be a coward and a criminal in all honesty (because I genuinely believe that knowingly allowing the rape and abuse of children to even possibly continue is criminal) would take me a long time get over. However, I would be the first person to say if news like that were revealed that she was a person of no integrity as it turned out, of no moral character. That is how strongly I feel about protecting children from abuse. In fact, when I looked up the definition of integrity, the antonym is dishonesty. So, I do find it interesting to hear you use the word integrity to continue to describe Joe Paterno. In no way, shape or form, do I feel that this report or this story or this scandal describes Penn State as a whole, I simply believe that it reveals the people who did know of the truth to be men of no integrity, no moral character, lacking completely in leadership and at the end of the day, I believe it shows them all to be criminals.

        • Just some clarification. This issue has nothing to do with politics. My “political” comment was simply to illustrate that my friendship with Ashley is not in jeopardy. Ashley and I are usually at opposite ends of the political spectrum, which could end weaker friendships. But we still respect each other’s opinions. It was a jest meant to reassure my drea friend, nothing more. Lots more to come on my blog when I return from vacation. For now, a margarita is calling my name.
          Much love and no hard feelings,
          Stace

          • Ah…understood, Stacey. I have actually lost friends over the political difference…not because of me but because they only want to be friends with “people like themselves.” Very sad but very true. I will seek out your blog through Ashley, too….and to echo what Ashley said, it is extremely hard when our “heroes” fall. My thoughts are with all the children and young people who were abused by Sandusky and those who chose to look the other way.

  10. Very nicely done. You got right to the heart of the matter. No matter what he may have accomplished on the football field, he failed miserably as a human being. There was so much innocence lost under his watch. Thanks for sharing and I hope your friend understands.

  11. Could not agree with you more, Ashley. I am so glad you wrote this column. I don’t think anyone is saying every person associated with Penn State is corrupt—BUT THOSE MEN WHO KNEW ABOUT THIS FOR 14 YEARS AND DID NOTHING ARE. No doubt about that.

    I honestly have a hard time believing anyone could make a statement today, now that we know what happened, that Paterno has “integrity”. Wow. When you allow a child predator to operate for 14 years, you don’t have one ounce of integrity. (and that’s the kind of “leadership” the world could do without completely) Yuck.

    I am FB friends with a few folks who went to Penn State and love the place like crazy. They are VERY upset—upset that these men have put such a black mark on their beloved school. THAT is a position of integrity, not making excuses for people who enable a child predator to operate unfettered.

    • I totally agree with you Katy. I just left a lengthy (longer than I expected, always hard to tell in these little boxes how big the comment will wind up being!) comment back to Stacey essentially saying exactly what you said.

  12. This whole thing makes my stomach turn. I don’t care who it is…when you steal the innocence of a child(ren) the way these men did, everything good you have ever done is tainted. It’s inexcusable.

  13. “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing

    Well stated. This quote I remember seeing when the scandal broke. It’s a quote from Edmund Burke, and its spot on. Except for the good men thing. but I’m sure they thought they were good men.

    • And in this case, evil most certainly triumphed because men (as you said, they thought they were good) did nothing. Thank you.

  14. Ash, you worrying about offending your friend is sort of like Joe Paterno worrying what people might think if he brought this issue to light. This is a moral issue, a human issue, not a school issue. As a graduate of Penn State’s medical school, this issue disgusts me to my core. Any Penn State alum who is offended by people denouncing JoePa or their school should be ashamed that they are more concerned about their alma mater’s reputation than the ruined lives of young boys. Nothing will take away from the book education that I received at this school. Fortuantely, I learned my moral education else where. Maybe when schools (and society) realize that there is ALOT more to teach a student than words in a text book, our world would be a better place.

    • That is a good point Erin. This comment is just so excellent on every level, and I really appreciate you taking the time to leave it. Thank you.

  15. Very brave and well written.

    My mom took good care of me. She made sure I had all my shots, was fed, had all necessities and someplace to go after school. She was a very skilled nurse and would get stopped on the street by former patients who wanted to thank her one more time for the generous care she gave them. She also worked hospice, she helped people die. All in all, most would say, she was a stand-up person.

    However.

    She failed to stop my dad from raping me at night. When I was a little girl.

    So what should her legacy be?

    You want my opinion?

    She was afraid. So afraid she couldn’t protect her own children for fear her image would be discolored. That’s not good. Not good at all. And no, it doesn’t wipe out the good she has done…it’s a conundrum.

    Let me get my scale and weigh this out. Umm…

    The bad outweighs the good.

    The same is true for Paterno.

    If kids were being murdered at Penn State by Sandusky, what would Paterno have done? And not to sound over dramatic, but healing from child sexual abuse is like trying to put back together a slaughtered and murdered soul.

    No, Penn State is not defined singularly by Paterno. But the world is watching. And if it is going to be anything like what Jay Paterno has already said in interviews in response to the report, well, pass me some kool-aid. I’m going to need hydrated to sustain my strength during this rough, ridiculous ride.

    Thanks for being so courageous. Silence is how the scandal began…it won’t end until the silence is broken…and when voices are not drowned out by powerful men shouting in fear. Many, many conversations are needed and I’m grateful to be having it with you.

    • Kimberly,

      I am carrying you in my heart. I haven’t been on your blog much, so I don’t know if you’ve shared this there before or not. But I am proud of and in awe of you for sharing this here. And I’m sorry you had to go through that and your mom wasn’t your ally. But look how well you’ve turned out in spite of (or because of) what happened? ANd I’m sorry, I’m probably saying all the wrong things here. You are amazing. I am sending virtual hugs.

      • I understand trying to find the right words, worrying if what is said is okay, portraying what I’m trying to convey. Nothing wrong about what you said, all is right, and I am grateful for your support.

        • I cannot thank you enough for leaving this comment Kimberly. For sharing your story. For being honest. For giving a face and a name to this crime. You have for some of my readers, I am certain, made it more real. Perhaps made them think more about exactly why this topic is so important. Exactly why the failing of Joe Paterno is so monumental. Exactly why staying silent is so unforgivable. As adults, we are the only voice children have, the only protection they are provided, so if we do not use our voices to protect them, then we are failing.

  16. Ashley,

    Cheering for you and this post right now. You said it. And I love the way you said it.

    Proud of you for standing up and saying what so many of us are thinking but not saying for whatever reason (mine is b/c I am so out of it and tired and don’t even know where to start w/ that whole debacle).

    YAY, YOU! xoxoxooxoxxoxo

  17. I think the biggest failure was when he saw that boy being raped and didn’t stop it right then. What a coward. If I happened upon a child being victimized, my first priority would be to help that child. What kind of a man leaves a child in that situation? A terrible person, that’s who.

    • Yes, I totally agree. While Paterno himself did not see the child being raped (that was Scott McCreery, who in my opinion should also be in prison) he was told about it and did nothing. And I could not agree with you more, who could possibly leave that situation?

  18. This is a wonderful commentary on this situation. It really is. Possibly the best I’ve read! I wrote early on about it http://janasthinkingplace.com/2011/11/open-letter-to-psu-students/ and can’t gather my thoughts enough now to write about it more. It’s just… it’s too much. Too big. Too unbelievable that grown men, heads of universities, heads of one of the most beloved sports programs, people who are parents, didn’t do more. Didn’t freaking do ANYTHING. It’s just too much. Thank you for this post.

    • I thought your piece was excellent as well Jana. Thank you for sharing it here. I hope others will read it.
      I appreciate this comment, and I appreciate you sharing this post.

  19. Wait, did he witness the rape or was told about it? Either way, whatever coward witnessed it and walked away is just a dreadful person. Period.

  20. This was a very thoughtful article. Paterno knew Sandusky ran camps for young boys and that there was a great potential for future abuse of innocent children. You can’t excuse him for keeping silent. Nor any of the other Penn State officials who knew, but covered it up.

    It doesn’t help the victims, but I am so glad Sandusky is in prison for the rest of his life and I hope he suffers every day there.

    • No, I can’t excuse him. Or any of the others. So, I won’t.
      I totally agree with you about Sandusky.

  21. Ahhhh-men.

    In a big, huge, GIGANTIC freakin’ way.

    And a bravo to you for saying so.

    I’ve been avoiding a lot of the news and so forth now as I am sick to my stomach when I do read it, see it. I even flinched some through your post. So sad. So angry. So much. Sigh. Thank you for this post. I think it does need to be said and I’m glad to have read this.

    • Thank you Andrea. I appreciate you reading, even though (and I totally agree with you) it is sickening. When I think about it, I feel sick. And then I take it a step further and imagine how those boys felt, and well…I just can’t honestly. But I know I must, because something like this should never happen again.

  22. I was going to leave a lengthy comment about Penn State being more than this, a lot of the stuff your friend Stacey very eloquently said about, but I don’t think any of that really matters.

    You are 100% correct when you say that this was Joe Paterno’s failure. You’re right that he wasn’t the perpetrator, but in his silence, he allowed the crimes to continue. It was a personal failure. In the comment you left on my blog post ( http://www.feelslikehomeblog.com/2012/07/joe-paterno-was-just-a-man-and-men-make-mistakes/comment-page-1/#comment-36529 ), you drew a line between a choice and a mistake. I think it’s two sides of the same coin.

    I really appreciated the quote you shared about what a person does when no one is looking. Joe Paterno is an important man in Penn State’s history. He did great things for our university. But when no one was looking, he failed us in the worst way possible, as an honorable man who would speak up for the voiceless.

    Thank you for not remaining silent.

    • Thank you Tara for coming over and sharing your thoughts. I appreciate hearing them. I assure you I do not feel that this is about Penn State as a whole.
      Your comment here is excellent, and I agree with it totally.

  23. Thanks for this, and well done on speaking your mind. I cannot fathom knowing that a child is being scarred in the most heinous of ways and NOT doing anything about it. That makes you just as guilty as a perpetrator – you become an accomplice.

    Visiting via SITS Sharefest

  24. Ashley – thank you so much for not staying silent and for speaking out. I too have mulled over this situation in my mind over and over again and whole heartedly agree with you. As adults, particularly adults in positions of power and influence like Paterno, I do believe that there is an obligation to protect those who cannot protect themselves. Yes, who knows what I would have done had I been in that situation and maybe I wouldn’t have the courage, but I hope that I would have.

    • Based on your comment, I have a feeling you would not stand idly by and know that children were being raped under your watch. We have a duty as adults to protect children, you are so right about that, and they cannot protect themselves. Thank you for reading and commenting.

  25. Stopping by from SITS. And what an excellent post!

    With Paterno, the trouble is he ended up doing more damage to his legacy and to the football program by not stepping in and doing something. Now he has a bad legacy and people are thinking negatively about the program and all those involved who did nothing to stop the terror that child faced. What good did it do? Absolutely NONE.

    Paterno had a chance to stop it but did nothing. He’s not a hero. He’s a worthless coward and nothing more.

    • Could not agree with you more Kim. As Melissa said in one of the early comments, imagine his legacy if he had stopped this abuse.

  26. I’ve sat with this post for a day or two, wondering if I should just delete it or not.
    I came across Ashley’s post/ blog via another blog. I wasn’t familiar with Ashley’s blog before.
    Most of the blogs I come across these days are written by women much younger than myself who have amazing ideas and it’s fun to read them and try out some new ideas. I never comment or post though.
    But this one won’t let me go.
    I love that Ashley wasn’t and isn’t silent.
    So many that did post, posted in reply and reaction to Ashley, concerning Penn State and Joe Paterno, etc.
    I reacted mostly to Kimberly’s response.
    I would have hoped that everyone who heard the story from Day One would know that the most important part of the story was the sexual abuse of the boys and it’s cover-up.
    Not the reputation of the school, although I can see how some would consider that important.
    Certainly not the reputation of Sandusky.
    And not the reputation of Paterno or the many others who covered up a CRIME.
    Because sexual assault of children is a CRIME punished by law.
    As stated–if Paterno had witnessed them being murdered, would that have made a difference?
    Sexual assault of children has been aptly called a murder of the soul.
    I gaurantee that if your son or daughter were to be sexually assaulted by an adult you would be outraged and crushed forever.
    And that child would have been given a lifelong sentence.
    Penn State, the story, the media, etc. seem to act like a dysfunctional family who once the abuse is discovered, run around like chickens with their heads cut off–placing blame everywhere, taking the focus off everything but the truth, sometimes trying to bame the accuser, shunning the accuser, covering up, and on and on and on………….
    Can you tell I’ve been there? I have.
    Kimberly, I applaud you for telling your truth because “healing from child sexual abuse is like trying to put back together a slaughtered and murdered soul” as you said and only those who have walked in your shoes or have a child who has walked in them can truly understand.
    And to quote you again, “Silence is how the scandal began…it won’t end until the silence is broken…and when voices are not drowned out by powerful men shouting in fear.”
    Silence is the only reason that the sexual abuse of children not only still continues in this country but all over the world. And it will continue forever unless women make it a priority to stop it.
    Fear, silence, shame………….destruction of lives and families………
    Ashley, thank you for speaking out and speaking up. I believe you have the power to really make a difference. I believe you all do.
    And Kimberly, you go girl, I’m proud of you!

    • Peggy, I want you to know from the bottom of my heart, how much I appreciate you posting this comment. I can imagine it was not an easy one to publish, but your courage and the courage of Kimberly are what will actually make this kind of blog post have value. You two make it matter, because you are reminding ALL OF US exactly what the real story is here and you are SO RIGHT about it. It is about these children and the heinous crimes committed against them. Period. We need to get back to talking about that. And how to keep that from ever happening again. Your comment has truly moved me this morning, I want you to know that. It has reminded me of what this is really about and the change that must come is to protect children. All children. Thank you.

      • Thank you for responding to me, Ashely. Your response, for some reason, has moved me to tears. I very, very rarely talk about this. I learned early on NOT to talk–stay silent–don’t rock the boat–keep the peace–and most importantly–DO NOT TELL! That lesson is one most victims learn well no matter even in these days of open talking and teaching from parents.
        So my own silence was part of this whole mess of child abuse although I do not blame myself–it was just what I learned.
        I also learned as an adult that most people shy away from this subject and would “rather not know”.
        Especially since their are many misconceptions about victims of sexual abuse.
        There is no misconception about abusers –they are evil.
        My most heartfelt wish is that no child ever has to suffer this assualt on their bodies and souls.
        The incredibly high incidences of human slave trafficking in this world is also sexual abuse of minors. Young child prostitutes the world over–sexual assault. Think of it every time you read or hear a story in the news and call it what it is. Men assaulting children. American men assaulting children.
        It really opens up a whole can of worms whenyou start thinking about it.
        Sorry –the truth is ugly.

    • Thank you, so much for this rally of support, not only for me, and more importantly, for the mission of breaking the silence. I need to read it again. Hopefully this time my vision won’t be blurred by tears. I was quite surprised. Good stuff going on here….

      • Since this post first went up I have not stopped thinking of both of you and the importance of what you two in particular have had to say about this topic. I have also had private conversations with others as well, and it has served to continue to remind me that this is a topic that needs to be talked about more. Because silence is truly not an option, certainly not for the children being harmed and definitely not for the adults who can stop the abuse. Again, from the bottom of my heart, I thank you both for your courage, your strength and your honesty.

  27. Great post! This was sad in every single way. when I watched this break, I couldn’t believe how everyone was idolizing him. It was pure disgust! He could have stopped it right then and there but instead he let the monster continue to molest more children. It makes me sick.

    stopping by from SITS

    • I totally agree with you Irene. I had and continue to have a very hard time with that myself. Thank you for stopping and reading and commenting.

  28. Great post. If anyone can find anything wrong with your words in this post there must be something wrong with them. Protect innocence. Protect children. Simply just DO THE RIGHT THING. In this particular case, doing the right thing shouldn’t have been hard if you have a soul at all. Joe Paterno is NOT a hero. Great football coach, yes. But great? No.

  29. It’s so sad and inexcusable that Joe Paterno didn’t stand up and say something. His legacy will not be about what he did on the football field, instead it will be about what he did not do to save those kids.
    Thanks for sharing…well written post. Visiting from SITS sharefest.

  30. Thank you for a voice of sanity! No, it isn’t about Penn State as a whole. It is about a few people in power who decided that football was more important than protecting kids.

    It’s a sickness which is too pervasive, by no means limited to any one institution.

    That said, I send my best wishes to Penn St. as a whole, and hope that those in a position to show all of the good things about it will do so.

    • Thank you Steve for this excellent comment. I certainly hope that the remaining people in power at Penn State will use this opportunity to do something good with the power they have. Something positive. Something that will actually help people.

  31. As a fan of sports, first of all, I remember Joe Paterno as an icon, his thick glasses, plain windbreakers, high-water trousers and distinctive voice as much a part of Penn State’s fabric as his teams’ tradition of excellence on the field.

    As a father, I can’t imagine that I’d send my child to an institution for higher learning that would support a program that allowed such atrocities.

    As a fan of sports, I wanted to believe Joe Pa existed outside of what Sandusky did, so engulfed in his players and his school and his program that he simply didn’t know what was going on. That, upon learning it when the rest of us did, his heart would sink, and he’d blame himself for not knowing.

    As a dad, knowing now that he did know what was going on, I can do nothing to help the boys who were forever traumatized on that campus, but I can make sure that if my girls become fans of Penn State, somehow interested in the history and tradition of Paterno’s program, that they’ll also know that their legendary coach failed at such a basic function of not a big-time college football coach, but of all men, everywhere, regardless of stature or job: To protect the children.

    To me, as a sports fan and a dad, there is no legacy. Not any more.

    • I did it read Stacey, and I have read the report, and I have been following the comments on your blog as well. I think I am most disappointed/shocked/surprised by the attempt to defend someone who when confronted with actual, credible evidence (I speak to everyone who knew about this, not just the “beloved” Joe Paterno) of a child being raped (this is outside of the 1998 report, mind you, but certainly WOULD have entered into my mind had I been presented with this NEW information in 2001) chooses the path of not following the law, never mind protecting this child or any child who would come after him. I have honestly tried to see this from all sides, and I just so firmly believe that this is a rare case of something being so clearly black and white that I can’t begin to find a shade of grey. None. I feel so shocked that you don’t see it the same way. I genuinely believe this is a case where we will have to agree to disagree.

  32. I loved your post and I think that it was a very well written expression of what many are feeling. As a mother of a small boy, this whole saga makes me sick — especially when you realize that it may have been stopped. I’m not naive enough to realize that even if they would have stopped Sandusky from abusing children at Penn St, this may not have been enough to keep him from abusing children elsewhere.

    I’m not really a college football fan and I’m not from Penn so I don’t have an interest in Penn State (either for or against) but it seems that you and your readers may know a little more about the entire situation as a whole and one thing I have been wondering about since the Freeh investigation broke was if this doesn’t go further than just a coverup to protect the football program or Paterno’s legacy.

    I’ve read a lot on the subject and from what I’ve seen, most have been saying that Sandusky’s crimes were covered up to protect the legacy of the football program. What I can’t understand though, is why Sandusky was allowed, after “retirement” to use the facilities, continue using Penn State’s name, etc. If Paterno, et al, knew (or even just suspected) what he was using the facilities for, why still allow him access? I understand that he worked there for 30 years and was entitled to certain retirement benefits but why not just give him his pension money and say, that’s the end of it — you’re not getting anything else. What was Sandusky going to do? Tell the world that Penn St. wouldn’t meet his retirement(ransom) demands and let him bring small boys to campus to shower? I may be paranoid, but it seems like Sandusky had something on Paterno, or the football program, that they didn’t want getting out (maybe NCAA violations?) so they gave Sandusky what he wanted to keep him from running his mouth about something else much bigger.

    I’m just wondering if anyone else has felt that there’s something even deeper in this whole mess or if it really and truly was just about protecting a friend and a stupid football legacy.

    • Thank you Deana for this comment. I have been thinking about it since you left it, honestly, and I don’t know the answer to your question. It certainly does make you think, right? Why would they ever allow this man into the locker room facilities again or on campus accompanied by young boys. Even if they had chosen (as they clearly did) not to report the suspicions of rape to the police, you would think they would keep him off campus for good.
      I think the biggest lesson here for me personally is that when any one institution, person, program, etc. gets so big and so powerful that not reporting a crime against a child even seems like an option, then something must change.

  33. I just cannot wrap my mind around the whole scandal to be honest.
    To think of the ALL OF THOSE people who knew/saw/heard something(s) and for no one to really STAND UP for those children – how can they live with themselves – honestly – wouldn’t the guilt eat your soul and heart alive???!

    • One would think so, right? I truly do not understand it either, honestly, because when I think about it, truly stop and actually think about it, it seems unimaginable that adults would do something like this.

  34. Ashley I think your blog is well written and cuts directly to the point that this was a leadership and morale failure on many levels inside of Penn State. However it is not an indictment on Penn State as an institution, the 10s of thousands of students who have gone there or the other faculty who had no knowledge of the heinous crimes. It also is not an indictment of all men! As a man and a father I am totally disgusted by the actions of Sandusky and the inaction of those who knew about the crimes. I feel very sad for the victims in this case and the ladies in this post who were also abused. However, I am outraged by the “not on a Mother’s watch” and the “man” failure undertones. I can 100% say this would not have happened on this dad’s watch (Sandusky probably wouldn’t have made it out of the room) and we have plenty of real life examples where women (and often mom’s) could have stopped abuse and haven’t. This is about the character and strength of individuals, not populations, not races, not universities, and not specific sexes. Let’s focus on the individuals and not expand their failures to others.

    • M, I agree (as I’m sure most do) that this is not an indictment of anyone except Jerry Sandusky and those who helped cover up his actions.

      I also agree there are many good men in this world (I like to think I’m one of them :)). But speaking very generally, I do think women generally are somewhat more sensitive and less tolerant of crimes like this. I’m admittedly somewhat biased, having been sexually assaulted by males as a kid. Still, I wonder what might have been, had women been “running the show” at Penn State. Maybe it would’ve made no difference. It’s impossible to know. I waffle a lot on the gender issue. I had great male role models (among them my dad). Yet, scanning the comments online regarding the Penn State mess, I’ve seen much which is intended as “humor” about male rape and so forth, by far most of it written by males. Is it an objective indicator of anything? I wish I knew!

      But maybe what matters above all is that there are good people, regardless of gender. So please take my comments for whatever they’re worth, if anything. I wish I had the answers…

      • We have plenty of stories of female teachers abusing children and Mother’s not stopping abuse. I stand firm on believing it’s all about individuals and not because Joe was a man.

        To prove my point, watch the show “What would you do”… Every week they do human nature experiments and every week you are surprised by who did nothing and who did the right thing. It’s never the stereotype one might guess. They also often do kid abuse type scenarios (verbal abuse, about to drive a child while drunk, etc). Women have walked past and did nothing just as much as men. It’s the character of the individual that matters not their sex, religion, race, etc.

        • M, I agree totally. Blaming anything on gender, race, religion or whatever else is wrong. I suspect my wording was horrible in that post, speaking more of my own bias than anything else. Thanks for pointing this out.

          • I appreciate so much the dialogue that is being created as a result of this post. I think it is through genuinely talking about this topic that real progress can potentially be made. I don’t disagree with anything you have said here, either one of you, and I appreciate you taking the time to say it.

    • In response to M:
      You are so right in your observations. I myself can get a little carried away (and did) and sound as if I am raging against all men. Not true. In fact, I have the privilege of being married to a man who would stand up for any and all children being abused.
      And you are so very, very right about “not on a mother’s watch”……many, many cases of abuse do involve mother’s who have done nothing to protect their children being abused. Very often tremendous anger is directed at those mothers by their children who felt completely unprotected and betrayed by them those mothers.
      There are thousands and thousands of good people regardless of gender and fantastic, good Dads.everywhere.
      I

    • The character and strength of individuals are what communities and institutions are made of. Agreed, it’s not about race or gender, but it is about power. When perpetrators are in power, it is a very scary situation. We have learned this from Penn State and also from the Catholic Church (these are the institutions in the spotlight of the media, there are many unknown, I’m certain.) Unfortunately, at the moment, it’s difficult to be a Penn State alum or student and look “decent”. It’s wrong to group all those associated with Penn State into the group of people who were the leaders when this scandal was happening…but that’s what happens. When one says they are Catholic, what does another think? My hope is that Penn State heals from this. My hope is that we all learn from it. Learn to scrutinize our leaders very, very carefully.

      • Wow, “it’s hard to be a Penn State Alum or student and look decent…but that’s what happens” ????

        If you really think this way, I am not sure how that is any different than any other race, religion, nationality, sexual preference, or gender based stereotype.

        It’s idiotic to judge a Penn State Alum or student differently just based on them attending the school.

        • From reading the post to which you replied, I understood it to say clearly that, while grouping all of Penn State as being representative of the actions of a few, that’s what inevitably does happen.

          “Unfortunately, at the moment, it’s difficult to be a Penn State alum or student and look “decent”. It’s wrong to group all those associated with Penn State into the group of people who were the leaders when this scandal was happening…but that’s what happens.”

          I’ve spent some time trying to point out that the guilty few do not represent all (or even the majority) of Penn State. Yet it is a “gut reaction” to such things. I’d imagine we’ve all read some of the many brave voices from the university, expressing their outrage and disgust toward those who tarnished the reputation of the entire school. It is difficult to be a Penn State alum or student right now. To many if not most, it’s a symbol. Of course that isn’t right, but it’s human nature. Just my two cents worth.

          • Sorry, that should have read:

            “From reading the post to which you replied, I understood it to say clearly that, while grouping all of Penn State as being representative of the actions of a few is wrong, that’s what inevitably does happen.”

            I think the heat’s gotten to my brain!

          • I don’t actually blame people who went to Penn State or even those who hope to one day attend school there. I do 100% blame those in power who knew that a child was raped and did absolutely nothing to protect that child or any child in the future.
            I think that if Penn State as a whole has a black mark on it at this time, that blame can be laid solely at the feet of those men who knew.
            Again, I just want to say that I so appreciate the conversation being had here, because I think it is an important one and everyone has done it quite civilly and for that I am grateful.

        • I personally do not group all who are Penn State alums or students into any category. It’s what happens. I am not a proponent of it and apologize that my words were not clear. As a culture, we categorize because it makes things easier for us to communicate…to understand, maybe? Again, it’s not right. It’s definitely an obstacle that arises when we are trying to talk (type) things out and be understood. In an attempt to be clear, what I meant was, if right now, someone says they are affiliated with Penn State, the first thing that will come to mind for the person who hears this will be the Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal. My hope is that those affiliated with Penn State who had nothing to do with it, will heal from being disappointed by their leaders. Again, I am sorry to have angered you.

          • No apology needed. Often words are stated, read and or heard differently than intended. I am just suggesting that we don’t always accept the norm as the norm or even believe because something is the norm that it is right. Stereotypes are just one example.

  35. A very powerful post.
    I can not agree with you more.
    The minute you allow something to happen to a child, stand by and do nothing, any hero status you have goes down the toilet. In my opinion, standing by and doing nothing is almost as bad as being the abuser yourself.

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