Politi: Joe Paterno, Penn State officials should have done more to help victims
Maybe your first reaction when you heard the vile news out of Penn State was outrage. Maybe you wanted school officials, including longtime head coach Joe Paterno, to pay with their jobs for what happened.
Mark Crawford had the same thoughts when he heard what Jerry Sandusky, a former assistant football coach at the university, allegedly did to young boys and how feebly the school responded — then and even now. But Crawford, himself the victim of sexual abuse as a child, was most tormented by a single question:
What about the boy?
Does he understand that what happened to him was wrong and that it wasn’t his fault? Has he gotten help to deal with the emotional scars? Is he battling addiction the way so many victims of child sex abuse do in their lives?
Is he even alive?
“We have a victim that we know exists and no one knows his name,” said Crawford, the local director of Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests. “What if he’s asking, ‘What did I do wrong to deserve this?’ What if he took his own life? It’s horrible.”
Crawford was talking about “Victim 2” on the grand jury report, one of eight described in the 23-page document. He is believed to have been about 10 years old when a graduate assistant coach allegedly saw him being raped by Sandusky in the Penn State locker room on March 1, 2002. The shaken graduate assistant told Paterno the next day what he had witnessed.
Paterno went to athletic director Tim Curley and university vice president Gary Schultz. No attempt was made to find the identity of the boy. No one involved called the local authorities. To this day, nearly nine years after the alleged crime, the boy’s identity is a mystery.
Of all the outrageous revelations in the Penn State case, that one might be the most reprehensible. A boy was abused and no one knows who or where he is. No one tried to help him or contact his parents. This story is not about a legendary football coach. It’s not about a university’s reputation.
It’s about a boy. Or, more accurately, several boys. At least eight, and probably far more than we’ll ever know.
“They will be scarred for life,” said Andrew Dundorf, a Somerset County resident who is suing the Archdiocese of Newark and the Boy Scouts over alleged abuse in the 1970s and 1980s. “And what’s so sad, the Penn State administration could have prevented that from happening.”
Paterno is expected to answer questions about the scandal for the first time Tuesday, but really, it boils down to one: Why didn’t you call the cops, Joe? Telling his superiors might have legally cleared Paterno, as the Pennsylvania state authorities said at a press conference Tuesday.
But it doesn’t morally clear him. It wasn’t nearly enough, and it’s why Paterno should resign as Penn State coach. He is not some scared intern who doesn’t know better. He is the CEO of a multimillion-dollar football company. He is responsible for everything that happens in that building.
How did he not do more?
“Call the police immediately,” Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan said when asked what the proper response should have been. “How difficult is that? It’s not a high standard.”
Instead, according to Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly, the inaction of Penn State officials “likely allowed a child predator to continue to victimize children for many, many years.”
Sandusky, 67, was charged by a state grand jury with a long list of crimes, including involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, corruption of minors and endangering the welfare of a child. Schultz and Curley were charged with perjury and failure to report to authorities that they knew about the allegations.
Crawford, an Avenel resident who was first abused when he was 13, provides support to victims of priests. But he thinks Penn State looks an awful lot like the Catholic Church now since the people in charge chose to protect the institution instead of the values of the institution.
Penn State has to deal with that cloud now, but it’s nothing compared to what the victims will live with the rest of their lives. Crawford is 49 now, decades removed from his abuse that lasted for much of his adolescence.
“You never forget,” he said. “I still get nightmares.”
But at least he’s gotten help, and in turn, he’s helping others. We have no idea if the boy labeled Victim 2 in this sad case has the support he needs. Because of the inaction of Paterno and others at Penn State, we might never know his name. Or if he’s even alive.