#220 – Penn State and Being The Adult

The situation at Penn State weighs heavy upon me. Every time I read a story about the situation or see a report on ESPN, I am both infuriated and moved to tears. I cannot comprehend how the lives of so many young boys were allegedly exploited and betrayed.

The former defensive coordinator for the Penn State football team, Jerry Sandusky, has been charged with 40 counts of sexual abuse of young boys. The charges paint a picture of a predator who used his foundation, which was designed to help at-risk boys, to find victims for his heinous, deplorable and unspeakable crimes. Should Sandusky be found guilty, I hope the full force of the justice system is brought to bear upon him.

It’s a long and complicated situation which you can read about here. In short, Mike McQueary, a graduate assistant at Penn State in 2002, allegedly saw Sandusky sexually assaulting a 10-year-old boy in the shower. McQueary did nothing to intervene and instead told Joe Paterno, Penn State’s iconic head football coach. Paterno told his superiors and at no point did anyone contact the authorities or beat the living crap out of Sandusky.

Paterno, McQueary and others involved in this situation may not have done anything illegal, but they are guilty of inaction and indifference.

I’m so enraged by what Sandusky allegedly did. I’m also angered by what Paterno, McQueary and others didn’t do.

How could anyone, with even an inkling of an idea of what Sandusky had allegedly done, simply pass that information up a corporate ladder? And even if that information was passed up the corporate ladder, how does anyone not follow up or just contact the authorities themselves?

This week I’ve often thought about what I would have done had I been involved in this situation.

I can’t say for certain, but I like to think that if I was McQueary I would have tackled Sandusky to the ground and rescued the boy he was assaulting. If I was Paterno, I like to think that I would have utilized my influence and contacted the authorities.

In this situation it seems like all of the adults failed to be the adults. Responsibility was just passed from one rung of the ladder to the next until everyone abdicated their accountability and moved on. And all that was left were broken lives and shattered childhoods.

None of us know for sure how we would have responded had we been there. What we can do, though, is make a decision today for how we will act in the future. If we’re ever in a situation where we see or hear about a child being abused, we need to decide how we will respond. Today, we need to say that we will choose to be the adult, we will choose to bear the responsibility for the well-being of a child and we will choose to defend those who are vulnerable and exploited.

I pray that none of us will ever have to come face-to-face with child abuse. But, if and when we do, that’s not the moment to choose how to respond. In that moment we may be timid, reserved or blinded by extenuating circumstances. We need to make that decision today. We need to choose to be an advocate for all children today. Because when a child is abused by an adult, they need to know that there is another adult out there who will stand with them, do the right thing and be the adult.

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