PA--Penn State president should resign over abuse remarks
For immediate release: Tuesday, May 10, 2016
Penn State University’s president should resign. If he doesn’t, he should be forced out by university trustees. At a bare minimum, he should be severely disciplined.
He’s making a tragic situation worse by attacking victims, adding to their pain, and discouraging others who are suffering from protecting kids by speaking up and exposing predators.
-- “There are now two allegations by men who say they were sexually abused by Jerry Sandusky, who also say they reported their abuse to the legendary coach in the 1970s,” according to Penn State graduate and Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Sarah Ganim of CNN.
-- “As many as six assistant coaches at Penn State allegedly witnessed "inappropriate behavior" between Jerry Sandusky and boys, stretching as far back as the 1970s,” NBC News reports.
-- “Former Penn State coach Joe Paterno was allegedly told in 1976 about an accusation of child sexual abuse by former assistant Jerry Sandusky, according to a court order.”
-- “Penn State’s legal settlements with Jerry Sandusky’s accusers cover alleged abuse dating to 1971, which was 40 years before his arrest, the university said Sunday. . .” (according to the Associated Press).
In response to all this distressing news, PSU President Eric Barron shoots the messenger, criticizes the media and dismisses the victims. And folks wonder why child sex abuse victims usually don’t come forward!
Already, there’s a climate of intimidating climate at PSU toward victims of sexual violence. Barron’s just making it worse.
Barron claims he thinks “few crimes” are “as heinous as the sexual assault of a child.” If he believes this, he should help prevent such assaults. But immediately, publicly and harshly dismissing the sworn testimony of a victim essentially enables more assaults and cover ups.
He claims he and others at PSU are “unified in our commitment to prevention.” If that were true, Barron and his staff would be withholding judgment about these latest revelations – and especially the victims who are making them. That would enhance “prevention.” Instead, Barron’s actions and remarks impede prevention by deterring those who see, suspect or suffer abuse from speaking up, lest they too are met with such vehement rejection.
“I have had enough of the continued trial of the institution in various media,” Barron writes. That’s the attitude of a self-serving bureaucrat, not someone who genuinely cares about the safety of kids.
One in four girls and one in six boys will be molested. (Imagine the public outcry is one in four cars were stolen or one in six homes were burglarized!) So we face a simple choice. We can make it easier or harder for child sex abuse victims to report predators and protect others. For years, many at PSU have made it harder. Barron’s making it harder now.
He needs to go. At a bare minimum, for the sake of healing, prevention and progress, he needs to be demoted.
We concur with Chris Korman who writes: “This much is inarguable: A man who says he was a victim of Jerry Sandusky was paid a settlement by Penn State. He said in a sworn deposition that he told Joe Paterno what happened in 1976.
Whether or not that claim has been proven in a court of law is irrelevant. The cases from the 1970s could never be tried in court anyway because they fall outside the statute of limitations.
So we basically have the word of two alleged Sandusky victims against Joe Paterno’s word (he maintained that the only time he heard about Sandusky abusing a boy was when a graduate assistant told him about an incident in the locker room showers in 2001.)
Penn State supporters seem aghast that Paterno and the university aren’t getting the benefit of the doubt in that equation. Which is absurd. Paterno knew about Sandusky in 2001. He told his bosses. Nothing happened. Sandusky kept abusing boys and remained free for a decade. The university has no credibility. None.
The university deciding to take this stand — deciding to challenge the story of at least one person it has paid to settle claims of sexual abuse by an employee — is deplorable. Valuing a coach’s word over the safety and sanctity of victims is what led Penn State here in the first place. That level of hubris! It’s unimaginable.
How was one allegation — Sandusky’s abuse — believable, but the other — telling Paterno — so easily dismissed?
And as we said yesterday:
Paterno backers say these “allegations” are “unsubstantiated.” But one was made in a sworn deposition. Another was made by a man with whom PSU has already settled, so it’s hard to imagine he has any axe to grind or hidden agenda. And this news is consistent with everything we know about child sex crimes and cover ups: Most adults, when confronted with suspicions or reports of possible abuse by a charming, charismatic and evidently successful colleague, supervisor, neighbor or friend usually side with the accused and ignore or rebuff the accuser.
Joe Paterno is dead. Nothing anyone can say or do now can ease any pain he once felt. Many in the Penn State community can, however, ease the pain of Jerry Sandusky’s victims and child sex abuse victims everywhere. They can start by stopping – or at least dialing back - their public diatribes against proven and suspected child sex abuse victims and those who are trying to shed light on the disgraceful actions and inactions by Penn State officials.
No matter what university officials do or don’t do, we urge every single person who saw, suspected or suffered child sex crimes and cover ups at Penn State to protect kids by calling police, get help by calling therapists, expose wrongdoers by calling law enforcement, get justice by calling attorneys, and be comforted by calling support groups like ours. This is how kids will be safer, adults will recover, criminals will be prosecuted, cover ups will be deterred and the truth will surface.
(Recent statements by the Paterno family are similarly hurtful, of course. But they aren’t making six figure, tax-payer supported salaries. Nor are they responsible for the safety of thousands of students and staff, as Barron is.)
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 20,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)