The verdict is in for the Penn State football program. It’s not good, but it’s appropriate. Because of the sexual abuse scandal and subsequent cover-up, Penn State was fined $60 million and former head coach Joe Paterno’s wins from 1998-2011 have been erased. In addition, the football team will not be able to make a Bowl Appearance for the next four years. Penn State students reacted with shock and horror as the penalties were revealed on the morning of July 23rd. Some claim the fines to be excessive and especially harsh on students who were unaware that the sexual abuse was even occurring. Harsh or not, I tend to argue that these sanctions send a necessary message. No amount of money and no number of penalties willever erase what Sandusky’s victims experienced. Nothing will make up for the fact that his transgressions were covered up for 13 years. This judgment sends a powerful message that should echo not just through the halls of Penn State, but everywhere in this country.
The horror that stems from this scandal extends far beyond the sexual abuse perpetrated by Jerry Sandusky (which, for obvious reasons, I will not detail here). What makes this scandal even more disgusting is the fact that it was swept under the rug for 13 years. All of the graphic details can be found in the official report, but here are a few brief highlights:
1. Athletic Director Timothy Curley, Senior Vice President of Finance and Business Gary Schultz, President Graham Spanier, and Head Football Coach Joe Paterno “failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade.”
2. The report concluded that university officially intentionally concealed evidence of the abuse to avoid bad publicity.
3. After the first report of sexual abuse (the victim was 11-years-old) in 1998, the police immediately began to investigate. However, the District Attorney declined to file charges and university officials met with Sandusky “discreetly” before claiming that the issue was behind them. No disciplinary action was taken.
4. A janitor who witnessed one of the incidents in 2000 did not report the assault because he was worried “they’ll get rid of all of us.”
5. The high ranking officials previously mentioned did not report any of the sexual abuse incidents to the Board of Trustees.
The above information has been leaking slowly from Penn State since word of the scandal broke last year. However, now after the University has been penalized, it is important to remind ourselves why such harsh penalties were necessary. Notice the commonalities in the report. At every step in the process, Sandusky’s conduct was covered up. University officials either looked the other way, or worse, intentionally suppressed the evidence of the abuse. We’re not talking about parking tickets here. This is child abuse, plain and simple. The incidents that took place are horrific and the victims will be affected for the rest of their lives. What’s worse is that everything could have been prevented if someone had done the right thing in the first place. However, people involved were more interested in their football team, public opinion, or their own reputations to reach out and prevent further incidents. Sure, this type of situation doesn’t happen every day, and it’s tough no matter how you spin it. However, that does not justify silence. Is your public image worth letting young boys languish in horrible abuse with seemingly no escape?
I hope to God that no one ever has to be put in such a situation ever again. Although Penn State is making strides to prevent a similar situation in the future, there are still lessons to be learned from this whole situation. Let’s bring it a little closer to home. It’s necessary to apply these lessons to all types of abuse, such as domestic violence or schoolyard bullying. Most importantly: If you see something, say something. Many on the left are often clamoring for a “new” solution to stop bullying and abuse. Perhaps we’ve had the answer all along. It stems from our individual hearts and consciences. Many cases of bullying and abuse can be halted if someone stands up for the victim. We might not be able to prevent abuse from happening at all, but we must step in once we notice something wrong.Edmund Burkeonce said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Let’s all learn from this and ensure that we target and eradicate all types of abuse in our own lives.
Amy Lutz | Saint Louis University | @AmyLutz4