PA--Victims blast proposed state Paterno bridge honor
For immediate release: Tuesday, May 26, 2015
We are deeply disappointed that a Pennsylvania politician wants to honor Joe Paterno by re-naming a bridge after him. This is a very insensitive and harmful idea.
Adults can make it easier or harder for victims to report and police to investigate and prosecutors to pursue child molesters. Publicly honoring Paterno will make it harder. It's just that simple. One can side with an accused, deceased wrongdoer. Or one can side with wounded adult victims and vulnerable young people. State Rep. Mike Regan is siding with a credibly accused wrongdoer.
Somewhere there's a 19 year old girl who is depressed or anorexic or suicidal because she was molested by her middle school teacher who is still on the job. She worries he's abusing other kids and she’s trying to find the courage to tell someone about him. And if she sees Paterno being honored, she may very well give up, thinking “What's the use? The bad guys, the powerful guys always win.”
Somewhere there's an owner of a chain of day care centers who is considering reporting or concealing suspected child sex crimes. If he sees Paterno being honored, he may well choose to conceal the suspected crimes, thinking “Even if I'm caught, people have short attention spans and controversies pass quickly. Eventually, it'll all be forgotten and people will remember me for my business achievements above all else.”
Politicians cannot “help” Paterno. He's dead. They can however, by praising a wrongdoer, hurt child sex abuse victims who are already suffering. And they can hurt vulnerable kids who may yet be molested. Let's hope they don't win and if they do, let's hope they'll be less callous and more sensitive and back off their pledge to restore the Paterno statue.
Paterno was a great coach. But the importance of children's safety trumps every athletic feat on or off the field, once or hundreds of times. It trumps every musical or artistic or journalistic achievement too.
One can debate how much Paterno knew or didn't know. But few claim he was completely innocent.
Dozens of innocent children were sexually molested, in part, because he did not call the police or act more responsibly. So it's irresponsible to honor him, especially on public property with tax-payer funds.
If there's a need to re-name this bridge, let it re-named to honor a child, to remind ourselves of what is truly precious and deserves our thoughts and our protection. Or let it be re-named after a professor of social work or law enforcement one of the “helping professionals” whose work enables adults to better safeguard kids from predators.
At the very least, if there is to be something honoring Paterno, let it be built on private property with private funds and let each donor's name be publicly displayed so that everyone will know who believes college football is more important than kids' safety and who believes praising a complicit coach is better than helping suffering crime victims.
If we want a world that is safe for kids, we cannot let those who are complicit in child sexual abuse crimes or cover ups to be rewarded and honored. We hope Pennsylvania lawmakers will reject this callous and hurtful proposal.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 25 years and have more than 15,000 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 and, increasingly, victims who were assaulted in a wide range of institutional settings like orphanages, summer camps, athletic programs, Boy Scouts, etc . Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)