Trouble and a Trial in Paradise
Jerry's a saint and a great guy.
Hear the chorus of denial from Happy Valley — dramatist Eugene O'Neill couldn't have named the place better. Welcome to State College, Pa., where Joe Paterno reigned as head football coach for 45 years. Paterno, the Penn State paterfamilias, is also named well for an American tragedy. "JoePa" failed to face violence in his midst.
Now Jerry Sandusky, Paterno's longtime assistant, is on trial for molesting boys. Witnesses portrayed a Jerry few knew. Yet many saw him taking showers and wrestling with boys.
The jury heard closing arguments Thursday. Now they are weighing the words of eight men who testified that Sandusky abused them when they were young. I believe they told the truth. Hard as it is for women to talk about being raped, it's worse for men. As my father, a children's doctor, says: "You cannot make up the stories of sexual abuse. These things leave an indelible impression throughout your life."
Perhaps Sandusky wasn't a coach who was a predator on the side, but a predator first and a coach second, scouting Happy Valley for victims. He founded a charity and gave vulnerable youths favor in the football world. What could be better?
The court case shows a dark side. The burly coach subdued victims with horseplay. After his sordid assaults, he relied on silence and shame to do the rest.
One day, Sandusky was seen in a locker room sodomizing a boy. While in the act, he made eye contact with a young coach, Mike McQueary. The junior coach didn't intervene, nor did he notify the police. He told JoePa a sanitized story.
McQueary's a bloke who fumbled the most important play of his life. On the prospect of being fired, he said, "I don't think I did anything wrong to lose that job." Actually, the truth is there: "I don't think I did anything." For a boy in that plight to be ignored by a second adult is doubly devastating.
Hard truths in paradise. Aren't we in overtime to confront abusive male authority? It's not easy when trusted coaches and priests rule weekends. Yet abuse of boys is endemic in the American Catholic Church, too busy conducting a war against women's choice to contritely address crimes against countless children.
Charges against a leading archdiocese are playing out in criminal court in Philadelphia. Let more prosecutions of predator priests catch up with lives they've scarred. Abuse isn't a sin to be smothered against robes, but a crime properly aired in court.
In Washington, we have a gadfly. Outside the Vatican Embassy, a man keeps a vigil, accusing the church of harboring pedophile priests. Walking by, I asked him why. He said he was abused as a boy in Poland.
Pedophilia is as ancient as Athens. In English schools like Eton, older boys choosing among choirboys is a cultural cliche. Among male classmates at the Horace Mann School, secrets of sexual assault a generation ago surfaced recently in The New York Times.
We need serious scrutiny of male institutions where men and boys are in close contact. Boys must be trained to resist advances, if possible, and to report them in a context where they are believed.
Only then will schoolchildren have a chance against the great guys lurking out there.
To find out more about Jamie Stiehm, and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.
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