Urge to Rip Joe Paterno Leaves Society Ignoring Most Important Lesson: Stop and Report Serious Crimes When you See Them
The outrage over the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal (and by sexual abuse, we mean he allegedly forced kids to participate in oral and anal sex) has for many people turned into an excuse to do something they’ve wanted to for a long time: push Joe Paterno out at Penn State. The lynch mob is out in full force with “bold” columnists and their followers demanding JoePa’s head.
Before going farther, let me make one thing clear: Joe Paterno did not do enough to stop Jerry Sandusky from abusing children. He obviously did not take the anal rape allegation seriously enough. But before you destroy the character of every person involved, ask yourself one question: What would you have done if you had witnessed one of the Sandusky sex acts with a child, or if you were told about it?
I have a strong feeling you wouldn’t do everything you’d like to think you would have.
Of all the people who had heard about Sandusky or saw questionable behavior or actions, the Grand Jury Presentment indicates that only ONE person reported anything to the police. It was the mother of an alleged victim whose son was forced to shower with Sandusky after an athletic workout. It was in 1998, and she told university police that Sandusky had showered with her son and made him uncomfortable. Sandusky admitted to showering with the boy and making physical contact with him in the shower, but nothing was done.
Nobody from Sandusky’s family reported any suspicious behavior. Nobody from the Penn State program said anything either. Even before the 2002 rape that the graduate assistant saw in the shower, a janitor is said to have seen Sandusky having oral sex with a young boy in a shower. The janitor supposedly told all his coworkers about the disturbing event he witnessed. None of them reported the crime to anybody. They feared for the safety of their jobs and did not stand up and do the right thing.
I’d like to think my animal instincts would have kicked in if I had seen such a thing occurring and that I would have run over to stop it. I’m not sure one of my first instincts would have been to call the police. I probably would have told a few people close to me what I had seen and sought their advice. I probably would have been completely creeped out, not to mention shocked. But I don’t know what I would have done, and neither do you (unless you’ve experienced it).
Can you imagine how difficult it would have been to see a coworker you respect committing such a heinous crime? Would you have reported him? Or would you have been too disturbed to act? How many times have you seen friends or coworkers commit crimes without reporting them? How many times have you seen wrongdoings occur on the streets without stopping to help the situation? We’re not all heroes who do the right thing despite the way we’re now acting.
Instead of focusing on why Joe Paterno should lose his job, how his reputation is a sham, and how this ruins his entire career, why not focus on the most important lesson to be learned: stop and report serious crimes when you see them. We are all human beings. Your position in society does not matter. We all have the ability to stop and report serious crime when we see it, and we are obligated to do so.
This entire scandal is a good reminder that reporting the crime to the police is one of the first steps to take. The other is stopping crimes to the best of your ability. You can’t cover for people, and you can’t have sympathy for them. If there are serious crimes committed, you must act, and you must act without fear in order to stop such nastiness from occurring again.