Note: This article deals with child molestation. If it will cause you distress to read it, please don’t.
Former FBI director Louis Freeh has issued a report after an exhaustive investigation into how Jerry Sandusky managed to molest boys for quite a long time without getting caught. His conclusion?
It cited former Penn State University president Graham Spanier, former vice president Gary Schultz, former head football coach Joe Paterno and Athletic Director Tim Curley, now on leave, as never demonstrating “through actions or words, any concern for the safety and well-being of Sandusky’s victims until after Sandusky’s arrest.”
This is depressing, but not exactly surprising. Molestation of strange boys in semi-public places actually isn’t that easy to hide. If you keep doing it over and over for years on end, there will be witnesses. The problem here is that the witnesses chose, or felt compelled, to be complicit rather than to do the right thing. See also: Catholic church.
Why does this happen? That’s what I want to understand, because in knowing why people collaborate with rapists, we might find a way to prevent it in the future.
“None of them ever spoke to Sandusky about his conduct,” Freeh said. “Nothing was done and Sandusky was allowed to continue with impunity. … None of these four men took responsible action.”
But now read this:
“What I found to be extremely telling and critical in deciding not just what I thought recommendations should be, is the janitors,” Freeh said. “These are the employees of Penn State who clean and maintain the locker rooms in the Lasch building where young boys are being raped. They witness, what I think in the report is probably the most horrific rape that’s described. And what do they do? They panic. The janitor who observes it says it’s the worst thing he ever saw. He’s a Korean war veteran. He said he’s never seen anything like that. ‘It makes me sick.’ He spoke to the other janitors. They were awed and shocked by it. But, what did they do? They said they can’t report this cause they’d be fired. They knew who Sandusky was.”
Privilege clearly plays a part. Sandusky wasn’t just a white male – he was also a VIP. But why did Sandusky’s superiors, who had power over him, not stop him from molesting kids? Where is this “total disregard” coming from?
Is it that they saw these kids as unimportant? Is it that they just didn’t want to get involved, because sometimes whistle blowers don’t come off as well as they should? They – and in the case of Paterno, his family – have claimed they just didn’t quite know what was going on, but Freeh is having none of that, and I agree. At the very least, they should have created an atmosphere in which janitors felt welcome to report what they saw.
So why didn’t they? Keep in mind that the average person, even when they don’t care that much about the victims, is grossed out by the idea of shaking hands with a child molester. These men didn’t just cover up for Sandusky; they continued to work with him. What was going on in their minds?