Penn State Abuse Scandal: Thoughts from a Non-PSU Alumni | Confessions of a Stay-At-Home Mom

November 12, 2011

Penn State Abuse Scandal: Thoughts from a Non-PSU Alumni

It seems that every blogger, news site and media outlet has given their commentary on the Penn State child abuse scandal.  I think it has hit many hard, and people need a way to process through their thoughts and feelings.  

So here's my two cents. Well, before I give my two cents, let me get a few things straight:

Disclaimer 1: I am not a Penn State University alum.  I am not part of that community. I am from Pennsylvania, so PSU is inevitably part of my environment. While I appreciate the "WE ARE PENN STATE" mantra, I cannot completely understand it, because I didn't go there (I believe Penn Staters would agree).

Disclaimer 2: I am not a football fan. In that, I completely don't understand it. I don't watch it.  I don't care about it.  And what does or does not happen during a football season (college league or NFL or whatever) in no way affects my immediate life.

Disclaimer 3: In my former pre-kids life, I was a social worker.  I still am a social worker in spirit, because, really, being a social worker is a mindset, not just a profession. Not only was I a social worker, but I was, specifically, a caseworker for my county's child protective services (aka, "Children Youth and Families") (aka, "that department whose sole purpose is to protect kids and look out for their welfare") (aka, "that department that deals with child abuse and neglect, among other things") (aka, "that department that is sometime villainized for being the service that 'yanks kids out of their homes.'")

Now, onto my two cents.

I'm not here to judge whether it was right or wrong to fire Joe Paterno with only a few games left in his season. I know that seems to be the big media blitz; he is one of the biggest celebrities at PSU, so of course it makes the most news.  I don't know if it's fair that he seems to be the fall guy, especially when so many other people were involved.  I'm not sure why Mike McQueary is being protected as a "whistle blower" for (eventually) going to authorities, while Joe Paterno got fired despite going to the authorities as well.

There is a lot to feel conflicted about.

There is a lot to also be outraged by.  I know I'm not a PSU grad, and therefore "can't get it," as many alumni have asserted to non-alumni over the past few days.  I'm not a football fan, so I know I can't "get" how firing JoePa can ruin a season and legacy. Nor do I care. I am disgusted that Penn Staters rioted when Joe Paterno was fired, to show their support and love for him. One even stating that it's wrong for him to get fired "over something like this."  The PSU scandal has been a comment storm over Facebook, and I've had a chance to read through the thoughts and feelings of alumni and non-alumni alike.  And there were plenty of people stating that Joe Paterno should have been given the opportunity to at least finish out the season.

This gives me pause. 

Because, once again: I don't know how much he knew. I don't know how much anyone knew.  But they knew.  They knew something. And I do applaud Joe Paterno for telling someone. For McQueary for telling someone. Being the one to bring out a story like this can be difficult. And many people claim as much: that Joe Paterno did his duty.  He told authorities.  You are right.  He did.  He told his boss, and I'm sure trusted they would do something about it.

But they didn't.

And he all but washed his hands of it.

How do I know he washed his hands of it?  He didn't pursue it any further.  McQueary didn't pursue it any further.  Authorities didn't pursue it any further.  Investigations fizzled, and Sandusky all but got a slap on the wrist.  Then Paterno is fired, and people get all in a tizzy about it.  So I have to ask:

What if it were your kid?

What if it were your kid with his hands against the wall in a shower being abused by a man he thought he could trust?  What if it were your kid who watched another grown man come into the locker room, his hopes soar that this savior will rescue him from a horrific situation, only to watch that man leave as though nothing was wrong.  What if it were your kid, whose story was passed from authority to authority, only to  lead to a dead end?  

What if it were your kid whose innocence was stolen, whose life would never be the same again?

I doubt you'd care that some football coach was fired with a few remaining football games left in his season.  I doubt you'd care if he "did his duty" by telling authorities.  You'd want him canned.  Let's be honest: if you are a parent, you'd want worse. You'd want every person who knew an inkling of your child's trauma to be held accountable. To be hurt, like your child was hurt.

Because even if the men who knew about this abuse "did their duty" by telling their higher ups, they left it at that.  They washed their hands of it.  They didn't follow up. They didn't pursue.  They didn't stop until justice was served. They didn't fight.  

We need to fight for our kids.  Because they cannot fight for themselves. They are innocent and fragile. And they need us to protect them.  Whether they are our biological children or not.

THAT is our duty.

Our response should not be "I can't believe Joe Paterno got fired!"

It should be, "I can't believe these children were abused."

So do I care that a school's honor is at stake? That a legendary coach has been fired? That a president has been canned?  Do I care who knew what and did this or that with the information?


I care about those young souls who endured a nightmare that no child should endure.  The victims whose trust was broken, innocence stolen and mind completely screwed up.  The children whose lives will never be the same.

The kids are really who matters in this situation.  

Let's not lose sight of that.


  1. Steph , very well said..I agree with your words. Because it is about the kids.

  2. THanks for this post, Steph. I agree.

    Also, in mind-blowing news, one of my Facebook friends' status right now is: "Cheering for PSU today in support of the victims..." Really? REALLY?! How does PSU beating Nebraska support the victims?

    too bad I'm not such good friends with her to tell her that her status is ridiculous. Maybe those Penn Staters are right... I will never understand.

  3. If a 28yo man, the product of PSU education & football, does not know what to do in the face of walking in on a child being raped, then PSU culture is worse than worthless. They are destroying culture. A civilized man would never turn his back on a 10yo boy needing rescue. Only an obsequious coward would need to go ask what to do.

  4. Very well said Steph. Matt and I were discussing the same thing last night! It's about the kids, and people truly need to look at the situation as if it were their own children who was abused. I know that if it were my child, JoePa would have had it a hell of a lot worse than just losing his job!

  5. Good post, Steph. I am a Penn State fan, and have been a big fan of Joe Pa for years -ever since he started coaching there. A great coach who did everything for the kids at PSU for 46 years, except for this one huge mistake. And I first thought there was a rush to point fingers and fire the whole lot - in a kind of a "too little, too late" frenzy. But . . . somebody needed to step up and rescue that kid, and no one did. That's what's very sad.

    What you wrote here is exactly right and is very well said. Thank you.

  6. I was in State College this weekend and went to the game yesterday. From what I saw and witnessed most "Penn Staters" ARE for the victims. The traditional Friday night pep rally before a game (which as far as I know has never been canceled), was canceled and instead tens of thousands of folks gathered in a candle light vigil to honor the victims. The players had gathered to pray at the beginning of the game and the entire stadium (full of 106,000 people)was silent. Penn State fans raised over $22,000 AT THE GAME on Saturday and over $200,000 online for child abuse awareness. And as someone who's family grew up in State College (many still live there), we do feel connected to the victims and mourn for them. From what I know several (if not all) of the victim's families are still living in State College. Penn Staters are supporting them and hurting for them. I know that you only get to see what the media chooses to portray. I guess what I'm trying to say is it doesn't have to be one or the other. There are lots of people who DO NOT support child abuse, who DO hurt for the victims and still love Penn State and are sad that the school's honor is at stake.

  7. I'm a PSU alum. I am sad that none of these men went to the police. But I'm more horrified that at least one of the mother's went to the police, and they did NOTHING. Nothing. I think her son deserves an award for telling his mother; my kids don't like to tell anything that might get anyone in trouble (although I have drilled into their head that if anyone tells them that they shouldn't tell mommy, that means you tell mommy RIGHT AWAY.)
    The other thing that boggles the mind is that this has all been going on for three years, and NOW suddenly people get fired? Doesn't that seem odd to you?
    I don't think we'll ever know the whole story, so I have a hard time pointing fingers, saying this person should have done this. But I do feel very sad.


Hey! Share a thought or two - I'd love to hear from you! ~ Steph

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