[Long-time juicer asiangrrlMN has written 3 of 4 parts of the history of the PSU cover up. I think it’s important that everyone read these articles, so I decided to cross-post the first one. You can read part 2 here and part 3 here. And part 4 will be published later today. -ABLxx]
The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it. –Albert Einstein
Update: This post was cross-posted at Balloon Juice by ABL, and a few comments concerned with my wording as to the facts of the crimes arose, so I have edited for clarity.
I don’t use the word evil very lightly, but I will be using it in this post. My colleague, Allan, wrote a brief post about the actual rape cases at Pennsylvania State University involving Jerry Sandusky, the former Nittany Lions defensive coordinator.
The facts are not much in dispute Jerry Sandusky is innocent until proven guilty, of course, but I believe the findings of the Grand Jury report – and I will be writing from that view point, and the alleged crimes are horrible. However, the focus of these series of posts is not going to be on Sandusky or on his despicable behavior – instead, I want to focus on two things: 1) the systemic cover-up of Sandusky’s crime by various people affiliated with PSU and outside of the University; and 2) the reaction to the firing of Joe Paterno, the coach who has been there forever and is a coaching icon. I will cover the first point in two posts and the second point in an upcoming post.
Rape Culture/Sports-Venerating Culture
Before I start on my first point, I want to say something up front. We* live in a rape culture and a sports-obsessed culture. As to the former, I mean that we live in a culture that tolerates sexual harassment, rape, abuse, etc., to a highly-unacceptable degree. You only have to look at the Herman Cain case to see how easily the alleged victims are denigrated, belittled, smeared, and dismissed. We don’t take rape as seriously as we should, and we find a million excuses to explain the behavior or rationalize it.
In tandem, we are a culture that glorifies sports and worships our sports heroes. I will say that I am a huge sports fan, despite my severe reservations about our sports culture in general. So, I am not speaking as someone who hates sports or who doesn’t know who Joe Paterno is and what an icon he is in college football. He’s such an icon, he’s been allowed to do whatever the hell he wants as the titular head coach of the football program. Even now, he’s being supported to a ridiculous degree – but I get ahead of myself. That is my second point, and I will get to it in due time.
We give unwavering loyalty to our team, irrationally supporting them no matter what they do. There is a reason fan is short for fanatic, and, unfortunately, we have embraced our fanaticism wholeheartedly. This is part of the reason I have soured on sports in recent years as I am uncomfortable with hero-worship of any sort. Still, I am always ready for some football as anything can happen on any given Sunday.
The reason I am bringing up these two observations is because what happened at PSU did not happen in a vacuum. It was not an aberration, and, sadly, I can easily see it being replicated in colleges across the country in which we revere men like Joe Paterno and the game that he coaches**. Here is an account from a woman who was an athlete at the U of Colorado during its own sex abuse outcry. She closed ranks back then, and she regrets it now. If you still think I’m exaggerating or that the PSU case is being blown out of proportion, that it was just one man involved in secret felonies, let me take you back in time so you can watch the progression of the Jerry Sandusky case unfold.
Call It What It Is: RAPE
Before I do that, however, I have one other thing to say –
Jerry Sandusky committed rape if the allegations are true, Jerry Sandusky committed rape. I want to make that absolutely clear. I see the headlines, and they mostly say scandal, sex-abuse scandal, or, worst yet, sex scandal. The word rape is used later in some of the articles, but the headlines are what grab readers’ attention***. Even using the strictest definition of rape – anal penetration – Sandusky committed at least one rape that was witnessed – and yes, I will most definitely get to that later – and using the definition of penetration of mouth and/or rectum without consent, he committed more than one rape. What Sandusky did was rape, and we need to call it that every single fucking time we talk about him.
Finally, a warning, I will be quoting from the Grand Jury Report, and it’s very graphic and disturbing. Normally, I would not do this, but I cannot chart the historical arc of Sandusky’s case and all those who covered it up without quoting, so be forewarned. In addition, the report is not in any particular chronological order whereas I will be working chronologically from the earliest cases to the latter cases, so the victim numbers will be out of order.
Here’s the set-up. Jerry Sandusky had been a PSU assistant for 32 years and defensive coordinator for 23. He was considered Joe Paterno’s heir apparent, but was informed by Paterno in May of 1999 that he would not be appointed the next head coach. A month later, Sandusky retired from coaching, but retained emeritus status. This is important because it allowed him unlimited access to PSU facilities with absolutely no supervision whatsoever.
In addition, Sandusky founded The Second Mile in 1977, a foster group home to help at-risk boys. Over time, it grew into a charity dedicated to helping children with dysfunctional or absent families. The mission of the program was to “help children who need additional support and would benefit from positive social interaction.” Sandusky was the main fundraiser for The Second Mile, which mean he had access to hundreds of vulnerable boys. He resigned from The Second Mile in September of 2010.
The Trajectory of Jerry Sandusky’s Predatory Behavior
Now, on to the earliest-chronologically reported cases. I say cases because four of them overlap. There was a fourth boy involved, but he’s in the military serving outside the states and was not subpoenaed. Sandusky met all the boys through The Second Mile.
Victim 4, Victim 5, Victim 6, and Victim 7 overlapped timewise. They all met Sandusky in the mid – to -late 90s, and their stories follow a similar pattern. They were all a part of The Second Mile and approached by Sandusky after they had been in the program awhile. They were between the ages of 7 and 13 when the initial assaults occurred. Usually, it started with Sandusky driving the boy (or boys) somewhere and putting a hand on the boy’s thigh as he (Sandusky) drove. At some point, Sandusky would tell the boy they needed to shower. The boy would try to shower away from Sandusky, but Sandusky would either go over to the boy or call the boy over. He would wrestle with them or throw soap to initiate contact. The one constant was that the boy would be uncomfortable, but Sandusky wouldn’t stop unless he was interrupted or the boy got away. The assaults varied in terms of intensity. Victim 4 testified that:
Sandusky would wrestle with him and maneuver him into position in which Sandusky’s head was at Victim 4’s genitals and Victim 4’s head was at Sandusky’s genitals. Sandusky would kiss Victim 4’s inner thighs and genitals. Victim 4 described Sandusky rubbing his genitals on Victim 4’s face and inserting his erect penis into Victim 4’s mouth. There were occasions when this would result in Sandusky ejaculating. He testified that Sandusky also attempted to penetrate Victim 4’s anus with both a finger and his penis. There was slight penetration and Victim 4 would resist these attempts. Sandusky never asked to do these things but would simply see what Victim 4 would permit him to do.
The reason I included this excerpt from the report is to underline my point that Sandusky committed rape. Some of the other incidences have been minimized as inappropriate touching or horseplay or other such nonsense. Bullshit. It’s all on a continuum with this example being at one end of the spectrum and other examples falling at other points along said continuum. I also quoted this excerpt to show that if the investigation as I detailed below had cast its net a bit wider, the investigators could have found Victim 4, which would definitely be a reason to press charges against Sandusky.
In 1998, Victim 6 was also forced to shower with Sandusky who grabbed him around the waist and said, “I’m going to squeeze your guts out.” Sandusky soaped the boy’s back and then hugged the boy from behind. Then, he lifted the boy to rinse the soap out of the boys hair. When Victim 6 got home, his mother questioned him about his wet hair and got upset when he found out that he had showered with Sandusky. She did the right thing and called the University Police. University Police Detective Ronald Schreffler performed a lengthy investigation and then was told to close the investigation by the director of the campus police, Thomas Haron after then-Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar**** decided there would be no criminal charges. This investigation also included B.K., then 11, the man now in the military and serving outside the U.S – he was subjected to a nearly-identical shower experience.
During the investigation, Detective Schreffler and State College Police Department Detective Ralph Ralston eavesdropped on two different occasions on conversations between the mother of Victim 6 and Sandusky, with her permission. The mother questioned Sandusky about his behavior, and he admitted to showering with other boys. She tried to make him promise that he wouldn’t do it any more, but he refused. She asked if his ‘private parts’ touched the boy when Sandusky bear-hugged him. Sandusky responded, “I don’t think so…maybe.” At the end of the second conversation when the mother told Sandusky that he couldn’t see Victim 6 again, Sandusky said:
I understand. I was wrong. I wish I could get forgiveness. I know I won’t get it from you. I wish I were dead.
Detective Ralston and Victim 6’s mother confirmed these conversations.
In addition, Jerry Lauro, an investigator with the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare testified at the time that he and Detective Schreffler interviewed Sandusky who admitted to showering naked with Victim 6 and hugging him while naked. Sandusky said he knew it was wrong. Detective Schreffler advised him not to do it again, and Sandusky said he wouldn’t.
Let me pause in my recitation for a minute to point out the obvious: Had Sandusky been charged at this point or at least banned from PSU and The Second Mile, it still would have been a horrifying story, but it would also show the university doing the right thing by the vulnerable boys upon whom Sandusky preyed. Plus, it would have prevented more boys from being victimized by Sandusky. The mother did the right thing by going to the University Police. They initially investigated and then were told to drop the case by the DA for whatever reason. Sandusky admitted he knew what he was doing was wrong, but he didn’t receive anything but advice. It’s so frustrating that future tragedies could have been stopped at this point, but because people weren’t willing to press harder for whatever reason, Sandusky was allowed to continue molesting boys on the campus of PSU, even after he retired in 1999. The story only gets worse from here on out, as I will detail in my next post.
*Throughout this post, I am using ‘we’ as a reference to American society in general.
**It happens in institutions everywhere, of course. The Catholic Church has been covering child rape cases for decades. It recently came to light that the Boy Scouts of America has covered up sex abuse cases as well. This is part of the rape culture of which I spoke in that it is deemed more important by these institutions to cover their asses and protect their brand name than to, oh, I don’t know, protect children from being raped. By the way, another said case happened in the Boston Red Sox organization, and the story is very similar to the PSU case.
***I have a particular bias against the use of scandal in this situation because it implies something tawdry and banal. This is a fucking outrage, not a mere scandal.
****After an investigation into Sandusky was started in 2005, Prosecuting DA Gricar disappeared. His body was never found, and foul play is suspected.
[Again, Part 2 is published here; Part 3 is published here]