More Thoughts on the PSU Sex Scandal

Last night I was thinking about the PSU Child Rape Scandal. One of these days I’ll stop thinking about it, but I don’t know when that will be. One of the things that has stood out to me in this case is that there are multiple people who made mistakes and/or were involved in a cover-up. Any time this happens at a large institution that will be the case, but much of the focus here and elsewhere has been on Mike McQueary, the assistant who witnessed the anal rape of a 10 year old in the shower in 2002. Of all the guilty people involved, it’s quite likely that McQueary is the least guilty of them. But he’s also the guy who had the best chance to stop Sandusky.

Everybody has heard from their parents or from older journalists how we are a more violent society today. People will say in the 1950s we were such a loving community that had tremendous respect for one’s property that they left their doors unlocked. The problem is, this is not true. I think most people are aware of this. Certainly the younger generation has more than debunked this myth. Bill James did so in his recent book, Popular Crime. We are not a more violent society today than we were in our parents or grandparents generation. If anything, we are a less violent society.

The reason people can feel safe in their incorrect assumption is the amount of media coverage today highlighting every sickening act that takes place across the earth. The acts of goodness aren’t highlighted as much and they don’t sell newspapers or get people to watch the local news or national news coverage on the several news channels everybody has access to today. These stories are told in a matter of a few seconds, perhaps there is some commentary about it and then we move on to the sick and disgusting.

The reason our parents and grandparents felt safe was that there was practically no media coverage. Compared to today, there was almost no news coverage then. The readers only read about the news that the journalists deemed worthy of writing or commenting on during the tv news. The tv news, by the way, was also practically non-existent compared to today. The viewers were told what the newscasters wanted them to hear. They chose what was news. Often times, a horrible news story would be written or discussed, but they didn’t have the money to send their own reporters to the scene and they’d often just let the larger newspapers tell that story.

Today, everybody has access to news like never before. The idea that this generation is uninformed has always seemed laughable to me. There has never been a more informed generation on this planet than this one. Each generation will probably be more informed than this one. Unlike past generations, we have far greater control over what stories are written about or discussed on the 24-hour news channels. That our parents and grandparents slept with the doors unlocked is an example of how uniformed they were compared to people today. 

By the way, people could still sleep with their doors unlocked just as frequently as they did many years ago. It’s not like once a week someone is coming up to your door trying to get in. The only thing that has changed is perception. The same sickos out there today were out there 50 years ago. People just didn’t read it about in the newspaper or hear about it for hours on CNN. When you think about it, we’ve gone from being naive in thinking that we’re safe to being overly worried about our security. People slept without their doors locked in the 1950s and today they sleep with them triple locked and state of the art alarms. There’s less violence today yet we’re more worried about our security. Bill James wrote a bit about this in Popular Crime.

Stories like the PSU scandal happened in the past. I don’t believe I have to link to a bunch of examples to prove this. We know that a socially accepted part of Ancient Greek culture was adults having sex with young children. The clubhouse manager of the Boston Red Sox sexually abused children in the 1970s.

I was talking to my dad about the Donald Fitzpatrick (Red Sox clubhouse manager) sexual abuse and he reminded me that it’s important to consider how the views of society towards child sexual abuse has changed dramatically over the last 30 to 40 years. Prior to the 1970s child sexual abuse was not often discussed. It remained secretive. It wasn’t until the 1920s before studies on child sexual abuse were written. In 1948 the US published the first report estimating the number of children being sexually abused. Six states didn’t even require doctors to contact police in these cases. In 1974 the federal government created the National Center for Child Abuse and passed the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act.

This led to a huge increase in the amount of victims stepping forward. Less than a decade later the day-care sex abuse hysteria began. I only have vague memories of this, but I do recall the numerous victims that stepped forward that proved to be false accusations. It began in 1982 with supposedly 60 victims resulting in at least 36 convictions. 34 of those would later be overturned. This led to many copycat incidents throughout the 80s and into the early part of the 90s.

People became more skeptical any time claims like this were made. People still are skeptical. I think part of that is because the crimes are difficult to imagine any human being doing even though we know it’s been done for many centuries. Part of the skepticism, at least for people who remember the 80s, are all of these false accusations that ruined hundreds of lives and cost the government millions of dollars in what was nothing more than wasteful. The copycats didn’t stop in the United States. They spread around the world too. While society began to take serious child sexual abuse in the 1970s, the sex abuse hysteria in the 80s made it more difficult for us to take the accusations seriously.

Relatively speaking it has not been very long that we, as a society, have openly discussed child sexual abuse. I think the fact that the Fitzpatrick case remained hidden for so long is evidence that we have not yet been discussing these crimes for very long.

Shortly after learning that Sandusky had been arrested, many of us were not only obviously angry at what he had done, but angry about the coverup that had occurred. Some were angry that McQueary had not done what we think was appropriate for, well, for any decent human being. I remain convinced he should have done more. I remain convinced that along the way he made not one, but many mistakes in that he never followed through to make sure the necessary and immediate actions were taken to ensure that Sandusky could not endanger other children. I realize it’s not necessarily that simple, but I am also convinced that along the way he made conscious decisions to trade the safety of the children for his career.

What would I have done? It’s easy to say what I would have done, but in all honesty I don’t have the foggiest damn clue what I’d have done. I’d like to think I’d have put a stop to what was happening, but I don’t know that I would have. I can’t say for sure. What I can say for sure is that I would have made very different decisions than McQueary did.

Thinking about this case and how our society has evolved from not talking about these things to finally taking action just 40 years ago make me think about the first time I knew this type of stuff was just plain wrong. I’m certain I knew before 1987 when I was 12 years old. In fact, I’m positive I did, but in the summer of 1987 I know I knew.

I was 12 years old and at a sleepover at a friend’s house. There were three of us and we were going to sleep outside in a tent. Two houses down lived a 12 year old girl and she was also having a sleepover and sleeping outside in a tent. I can’t even remember why both groups of 12 year olds were sleeping outside in a tent and it’s not relevant to the story.

At about 10 pm the parents went to sleep and we went down to the girls tent. I think the six of us hung out for about an hour before we went back to our tent. We couldn’t sleep. The house was near the end of a cul-de-sac. At about 1 am we could see lights turn onto the street. Those lights immediately turned off. We’re 12 years old, but we already knew this wasn’t normal. The car slowly drove to the end of the cul-de-sac. By this point we had already gotten out of the tent and thank to a nearby light were able to get the license plate. It appeared as though that was a waste of time as the car drove off. The lights turned on at about the same location they went off the first time.

Down the hill from the tent, probably about 200 yards or so, was another street. There were no houses in between. Within 5 minutes we saw a car pull onto that road. The lights went off. We’re scared to death. Something isn’t right. What happened after this is a blur. I remember the son went inside to wake his parents while the two of us nearly peed in our pants outside. I do remember we felt like we had to keep eye on the girls tent so the two of us stayed outside. The back light came on the father came out to get us. They called to wake the other parents who went out and got the girls.

The parents called the police, they gave them the license plate number that we had gotten (LQA 507) and we then tried to go to bed. I can’t remember if we slept. Really, most everything that happened after we saw those same lights turn off down the road was a blur. We knew something not right was going on. I remember we were mostly afraid the girls would be sexually abused, but I’m not sure any of us thought that the targets could have been us. This isn’t something I’ve thought about many times in my life, but as I was writing this it was the first time I realized the potential victims could have been us. In 1987

I do know that not long after the police were notified a car with the license plate of LOA 507 was found and I seem to remember whoever was driving it had warrants for his arrest. I can’t remember what they were. We had five of the six letters/digits on the plate correct. The ‘O’ looked like a Q to us. We must have described the car in some way. I don’t remember that.

What I do remember is that when we saw those lights on the cul-de-sac go out we immediately felt like something was up. So I know that by the summer of 1987 I already knew that child sexual abuse was a serious issue. It wasn’t something I wasn’t aware of or hadn’t heard about. I was well aware of it by that time and in a situation that very well could have ended up horribly, we took some actions to see that it didn’t happen.

I can’t say that this is comparable to what McQueary saw. It’s not. What he witnessed is much worse than the potential crime that we may or may not have stopped in 1987. My only point with this story is that by 1987 society was openly discussing child sexual abuse. I can’t accept that by 2002 a 28-year old educated adult thought the most efficient way to handle the horrific crime he just witnessed was to just send it up the ladder. As I’ve said in other comments, if you wanted to ensure a cover-up would take place, that’s precisely what you do. I don’t believe that’s what McQueary wanted. I’m just saying sending that up the ladder makes it many times more likely that nothing is done. This wasn’t a young student we’re talking about. It was a 28-year old adult.

But he didn’t do anything other than the bare minimum, which was what everybody else did. So we’re asking ourselves how something like this could go on for so long. Let’s not kid ourselves here. You don’t become a child rapist overnight. One usually doesn’t wake up at the age of 50 (Sandusky’s age in 1994), roll out of bed and then compile a to do list that looks something like this:

1. get cleaned up
2. Eat breakfast
3. Walk dog
4. Rape child
5. Teach football
6. Eat dinner
7. Watch tv
8. Go to bed

I’m going to guess that damn near every single person who puts raping child on his to-do list at the age of 50 has been doing so for many years. I’d even guess that he’s been doing so since he was a young adult. Trying to figure out when it’s likely an offender begins raping children is difficult, but not impossible. Sandusky has shown interest in children as young as 10 years old. He clearly suffers from pedophilia. This reserach (pdf file) indicates that 40% of pedophiles begin to molest much younger children by the time they are 15 years old. The majority are molesting children before they are 20.

Perhaps Sandusky was one of the few who didn’t begin by the time he was 20, but if you were going to bet money you’d be wise to bet a lot of money that he began much earlier than 1994. Pedophiles prey on the less fortunate, the weaker, those who are craving for attention, and those who aren’t likely to fight back. Is it any wonder that a pedophile started a charity dedicated to “helping” those who came from broken homes?

To a pedophile this is like Disneyland. It’s like a child staring at his big bag of Halloween candy. It’s similar to a crack addict entering a crack house. Jerry Sandusky, more than likely, created his own sick version of Disneyland and somehow managed to trick people, get them to cover up for him, and even found powerful and rich people to donate money to his charity.

It’s easy to be baffled right now. I know I am. I don’t know if any of the answers are within the babbling nonsense I just wrote or not, but I don’t know if we’ll ever have answers to any of this. Ever.