I apologize for using the graphic language above with regard to the one alleged attack in the Penn State debacle, but we need to confront the ugly truth here. "Sexual assault," while hardly a cheery term, just doesn't deliver the awful gravity that the details do.
Some will argue: "That's Penn State, not everywhere else. That's what happens when football coaches and jocks aren't held accountable."
To which my scholarly retort is: Bullshit. Look at the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Luzerne disaster. Religious and legal institutions also failed to protect kids.
The Penn State scandal hit me hard last weekend, leaving me sickened and angered. My father went to Penn State, and I was raised a Penn State and Joe Paterno fan. As a kid I joked that the chain of command I was supposed to follow went God, my parents, the pope, then Joe Paterno ... and actually Joe Paterno was number three.
I went to Penn State football camp every summer in high school. I met Joe several times there, and at various award banquets, and he was always charming and thoughtful, and radiated the integrity he always portrayed.
I also trained with the other high school linebackers at Penn State's camp and met Jerry Sandusky. In hindsight, it sounds ridiculous to say this, but at the time he left a huge impression on me. He was the first good football coach I ever encountered who wasn't a yeller and screamer, but simply a charismatic teacher. He was funny and kind and he inspired us to perform well without yelling, which was a novelty to me and others at the time.
While Sandusky is innocent until proven guilty, the evidence appears considerable. I was very unsettled this weekend to hear that a guy I grew up admiring could be accused of such horrible things. I couldn't believe that someone like Paterno, who almost always seemed to do the right thing, could fail so miserably to take the proper moral action.
When I heard the initial reports, as appalled as I was, I was initially relieved to hear that Paterno had reported the incident to his boss. Then more details came out and I realized, regardless of the law, Paterno had failed to do the right thing.
It reminded me immediately of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's failure to address sex abuse by its priests, which resulted in not one, but two grand jury reports.
We're all accountable to some degree, for what we've allowed to happen here. We have not conditioned our citizens to think of kids' safety first, rather than protecting (or fearing) corrupt institutions.