Denial is a powerful thing. It is a reaction to painful, disturbing realities that are seemingly too great to bear. For the short term, it appears more emotionally palatable to live in the land of an altered reality than to confront one's inner demons and courageously process them.
The stakeholders in the state of Pennsylvania and Penn State University appear to be living a lie - a massive fabrication filled with ineptness and endless cover-ups. In typical fashion, the perpetrators of childhood sexual abuse, and those who suppress it, have their power and control protected at the expense of our young people. The innocence and trust of our children continue to be shattered as those in a role of authority find ways to irreparably damage them.
The state of Pennsylvania is in no position to effectively address the Sandusky problem, since their laws and execution of them are at the core of the scandal. It is a kin to asking the Catholic Church to police its own ranks. Only the judicial department of the federal government can sort out this mess and clarify for all of us what happened and how it played out.
The state of Pennsylvania is culpable based upon its ambiguous statutes regarding mandated reporting of abuse. In most state statutes "all individuals" are to take responsibility for reporting suspected child abuse to child protective state agencies and the police. Severe penalties for not reporting eyewitness accounts and alleged information about sexual abuse are a punishable offense. In some states, failures to report suspected sexual abuse is considered a felony. The impotent Pennsylvania law permits reporters an easy excuse by merely requiring that those working in institutional settings pass the alleged information along to immediate superiors. Apparently, this latest version of the Pennsylvania statute was supposedly considered an improvement over the previous child abuse reporting law. This doesn't bode well for the competency and insight of Pennsylvania legislators. The statute is set up for failure. It allows those individuals with powerful information to begin the denial process by using the passing of time and the mechanism of one’s selective memory to spring into action. It was the responsibility of Mike McQueary to immediately call the police and child protective services regarding his eyewitness account of Jerry Sandusky's locker room rape of a young child. The archaic Pennsylvania statute allowed professionals at Penn State University to play "hot potato" with the lives of our children. By the time the information reached the university president, we can only speculate on how deluded the toxic message became
McQueary now wants us to believe that he contacted the police and tried to stop the sexual abuse as indicated in an email he sent to a friend. Had he merely picked up the phone on day one and called the police or child protective services, they would have asked him a host of questions to get to the bottom of Jerry Sandusky's behavior towards the child in the Penn State locker room. Rather than make the contact, McQueary met with Joe Paterno, whose remarks before the grand jury about Jerry Sandusky's behavior had already been toned down and compromised. It appears clear that through minimization and deception, Penn State University officials, from the top down, felt the need to protect their football culture from a sordid affair perpetrated by a coach who no longer works there.
If anyone has doubts about Jerry Sandusky's culpability in abusing children, one only needs to listen to the interview with Bob Costas of NBC Sports. When Costas asked Sandusky if he had a sexual affinity for young boys, Sandusky repeated the question several times and dodged and weaved through each response. It was an awkward interview, set up by an obvious inept attorney in hopes of doing damage control.
Furthermore, due to a judge with a conflict of interest, Jerry Sandusky is free on $100,000 bond without even meeting the minimal court requirements for alleged sex offenders of an ankle bracelet. Jerry Sandusky appears to have used the power of his volunteer organization dedicated to working with-risk kids, to sexually prey on the neediest of children.
At every level, this tragedy represents a breakdown consisting of denial and deception within Pennsylvania government and the Penn State University institutional setting. To create a sense of civility, responsibility and accountability, all entities dealing with our children must courageously step forward to encourage, support and protect those who have the most to lose - our children. When will we learn to face boldly, the ravages of childhood sexual abuse? When will we stop the denial and deception and quit living in the land of an altered reality?