Op-Ed Speak up and Speak Out Often
*Dear Stop Abuse Campaign –
I’m a mother of two tiny, innocent children, and I haven’t been able to turn my attention away from the erupting Penn State scandal. When I think about someone molesting one of my children—an adult taking my boy into a college locker room shower and raping him or putting a hand on my girl’s genitals during “horseplay”—my hands shake, and my heart brushes up against the edge of seething rage. When I consider the damage a man like that would do to those sweet, unmarred hearts and the shame and fear he would bestow upon them, I struggle to inhale. It is unthinkable. Yet, I can’t stop thinking about it.
Much has been said over the past few days about Penn State’s beloved “JoePa”. I cringe when I hear that affectionate nickname for Joe Paterno. He and Tim Curley, Gary Schultz, Mike McQueary, and Graham Spanier have taken up much of the headline space for the past few days, and while they’re deserving of every bit of scorn and punishment (and none of the hero worship) they are receiving, my interest in their stories is waning, and I’m ready to turn them over to the police and the civil courts and be done with them.
Why? Because as I read and reread the twenty-three-page Grand Jury presentment, I am increasingly appalled by the other bit players in this tragedy. I am enraged by the men who chose, time and time again, to ignore their better instincts, to turn a blind eye to events they witnessed, and to allow more boys to be broken by the Penn State power structure. Those men chose to cement their own lowly positions as victims of that power structure, rather than release themselves from the control of men like Paterno and Spanier by speaking out.
They will say they felt neutered in the face of an administration that, by all accounts, ran the county that surrounded it and much of the state. They were afraid for their jobs. They didn’t want to tarnish the reputation of “JoePa’s” number-two guy. They didn’t want to be wrong. They didn’t want to be victims. Yet it is only by speaking up—by taking action—that we break the control that silence imposes on us. It is only by speaking up that we prevent our own victimization and the victimization of those children, my children, and your children.
So let’s name names, shall we? Let’s turn the light on the other men who might have stepped forward, who should also be the subjects of our ire, and who should also find themselves a part of the public story (highlighted text is quoted from the Grand Jury presentment):
Suddenly, a wrestling coach, Joe Miller, unexpected entered the room…Miller found the use of that secluded room odd for wrestling.
Translation: Joe Miller found the sight of Jerry Sandusky lying side by side, face to face, in a crowded, tiny room, with a young boy odd. He found Sandusky’s behavior—leaping to his feet and delivering a questionable excuse without being asked—odd. He was peripherally aware of the frequency of Sandusky and the boy’s outings together. Joe Miller’s Spidey sense was tingling, but he didn’t take action.
(Steven) Turchetta testified that Sandusky would be “clingy” and even “needy” when a young man broke off the relationship he had established with him and called the behavior “suspicious”.
Mr. Turchetta knew something was wrong before he was made aware of the boy’s mother’s report to the school. He knew Sandusky’s behavior was suspicious. But he didn’t act.
In 2002, following on the heels of Mike McQueary’s report of a boy being raped by Jerry Sandusky in a Penn State locker room, Tim Curley:
…informed Dr. Jack Raykovitz, Executive Director of the Second Mile of the conduct reported to him….
What did Dr. Raykovitz do? Nothing of substance that I’ve been able to find. He could have easily taken away Sandusky’s access to the hundreds of children involved in the Second Mile program. Yet he did not.
Schulz testified that the 1998 incident was reviewed by the University Police and “the child protection agency” with the blessing of then-University counsel Wendell Courtney. Courtney was then and remains counsel for The Second Mile.
Wendell Courtney could have followed up. An assistant coach was reported to have fondled a boy on the university campus. It seems like the kind of thing the school’s chief counsel would have followed closely. Instead, he went to work for the very foundation that Mr. Sandusky created.
When Victim 6 was dropped off at home, his hair was wet and his mother immediately questioned him about this and was upset to learn the boy had showered with Sandusky. She reported the incident to University Police who investigated. After a lengthy investigation by University Police Detective Ronald Schreffler, the investigation was closed after then-Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar decided there were be no criminal charges.
Schreffler testified that he was told to close the investigation by the director of campus police, Thomas Harmon. That investigation included a second child, B.K., also 11, who was subjective to nearly identical treatment in the shower as Victim 6, according to Detective Schreffler.
Detractive Schreffler testified that he and State College Police Department Detective Ralph Ralston, with the consent of the mother of Victim 6, eavesdropped on two conversations the mother of Victim 6 had with Sandusky on May 13, 1998 and May 19, 1998.
…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 the mother of Victim 6 confirm these conversations.
Ronald Schreffler, Ray Gricar, Thomas Harmon, and Ralph Ralston possessed the testimony of two boys and an admission of guilt straight from Jerry Sandusky’s mouth. And they did not act to protect those boys. They bent to the political powers of the day and allowed what followed to take place. Even more distressing:
Detective Schreffler advised Sandusky not to shower with any child again and Sandusky said he would not.
Jerry Lauro, investigator with the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare testified that he interviewed Sandusky with Schreffler during the 1998 investigation. Sandusky admitted to showering with the victim, hugging the victim while naked in the shower, and acknowledged that it was wrong. Lauro, who very job it is to protect children, did not act. If we cannot trust the Department of Public Welfare to act on real molestation charges, whom can we trust?
In the fall of 2000, a janitor named James “Jim” Calhoun observed Sandusky in the showers of the Lasch Building with a young boy pinned up against the wall, performing oral sex on the boy. He immediately made known to other janitorial staff what he had just witnessed.
(Ronald) Petrosky described Jim as being upset and crying. Jim reported that he had seen Sandusky…holding the boy up against the wall and licking on him.
Petrosky testified that all the employees working that night except Witherite were relatively new employees. In discussions held later that shift, the employees expressed concern that if they reported what Jim had seen, they might lose their jobs.
Jim Calhoun and Ronald Petrosky, as well as an unreported number of other men, were concerned they would lose their jobs as janitors at the mighty institution of Penn State, and so they did not take action that would have saved countless boys from harm. I’m sure they had mortgages and bills to pay, families to support. I’m also sure that some of them had children of their own.
Jay Witherite was Jim’s immediate supervisor. Jim reported to Witherite that he had observed Sandusky performing oral sex on the boy in the showers. Witherite told him to whom he should report the incident, if he chose to report it.
“If he chose to report it.” Jay Witherite had been employed longer than anyone on the janitorial staff. His word might have carried some credibility, some weight. At a minimum, he could have encouraged Jim Calhoun to file a report. I don’t have to tell you that neither Jim Calhoun nor Jay Witherite filed a report, do I?
I’m not naïve to corporate and academic politics. I am not blind to the sway that sports hold over our academic and political institutions. I am also aware of the religion of football. Like the Catholic religion, sports are an immense power structure yielding great influence over many people. Paterno is God. The administrators, the police, the public agencies, and even the janitors who were tasked with caring for students and the surrounding community bowed to their god and the holy city of silence that he created, and in doing so, they failed. They failed to do their jobs, and they failed to fulfill their moral and ethical obligations. They failed us, and they will do it again.
As a mother, I spend half of my day telling other people what time it is. It’s time to wake up. It’s time to put on our shoes. It’s time to leave for school. It’s time for bed. So you’ll have to trust me when I say that I’m an expert on time, and right now I’m telling you that it’s time to rise up against the people who look away when evil things are happening to our children. It’s time to say the names of the people who stand idly by, who say they just weren’t sure, who say “in hindsight, I should have…”, and who, by virtue of inaction, victimize our children again. It’s time to ask why: “Why didn’t you speak up? How could you let them get away with this? You felt powerless? How do you think that child felt, pressed up against a shower wall, being fellated by a man decades older and much stronger than he? Why didn’t you act?”
As a mother and as a human, I’m outraged. I hope you are, too.