“Victim 8’s Identity is Unknown.”

I’m not big on trigger warnings, since I think it’s hard to anticipate what readers might find triggering to read. But I want to say, up front, that reading the materials I’m about to discuss in this post, I literally felt dizzy and nauseous. So, yes, this is some shitty, shitty stuff I’m about to discuss.

I read the Sandusky grand jury indictment yesterday (pdf). And let me just say that almost anything you read about the indictment is mild compared to what’s in the indictment. It is literally page after page of “This kid was groomed and molested and sometimes anally raped and these people were made aware something hinky was going on and… next page… this kid was groomed and molested and these people were made aware something hinky was going on and…” repeated over and over until it ends with “victim 8’s identity is unknown.”

But, when you read the indictment, you don’t seem to be reading the behavior of a man who’s just trying out these things. His grooming techniques come across as very, very well-practiced, which means, basically, that there are more victims.

Sandusky sounds like a monster. But the thing that haunts me is just how many people knew something hinky was going on and did nothing. Only two people at Penn State–a grad student and a janitor who witnessed disgusting acts of molestation and rape–reported it to who they thought were the proper higher-ups. Some mothers seemed to suspect something wasn’t right and complained, but they also had very little power compared to Sandusky.

Everyone in a position to be believed with enough power to make an investigation happen seems to just repeatedly stare the truth in the face and be like “Um, just maybe don’t do that here.” He brings young boys he’s not related to everywhere with him, even to hotels before big home games. He’s constantly lavishing gifts on them, having their school administrators pull them out of class so that he can talk to them, being found “wrestling” with them, traveling with them out of state, etc. etc. etc.

And none of his peers seem to say “Hmm, that’s really weird bordering on not right. I wonder if those boys are okay?”

I mean, good fucking god, the grad student tells them a kid got raped in their locker room shower and they make NO effort to find out who the kid is.

It’s no wonder Sandusky was bringing kids onto Penn State’ campus and to Penn State’s games. His colleagues were constantly clearing the way for him to continue molesting children without getting caught.

To me, this is illustrative of the problems with combating the sexual abuse of children. I think it’s obvious that he picked victims whose accessibility was evidence of his nobility. Much like priests who molest young boys, he used his role as benevolent figure in the community to get near his intended victims. When people saw him with a bunch of boys he wasn’t related to, lavishing them with gifts, spending extra time with them, well, he was providing them with a father figure, wasn’t he? People are reluctant to accuse someone who’s doing so much good with doing something wrong. And when the difference in social status is so great, it’s easy to dismiss claims as being those kids just trying to get something from him.

Couple that with him having such a high status in the Penn State community, people with almost no status did report but didn’t have enough clout to make their reporting carry weight. People with enough status that their reporting would carry weight did not want to rock the boat. And so they downplayed what was going on. Made it seem to themselves that it wasn’t that bad.

I mean, my god, even his wife must have suspected something odd, since he had kids over to spend the night, put them in the basement, and then, at about bedtime, went down in the basement and spend considerable time down there. And if he had to spend the night before home games at a hotel instead of at home in order to focus on the game, fine. But if the idea is to focus on the game, why was he unable to do that with her company but able to do that in the company of children? I love my nephews, but I have to tell you, the times between age 8 and 14 seems to be nothing but them being hugely distracting. That set off no bullshit meter? And fine, fine, fine, I’m even willing to believe that you, in love person, were completely blind to the not-cool-ness of your husband. But when he’s arrested? You don’t try to get in touch with a victim before he testifies to the grand jury. Not if you’re not also hugely culpable.

So, here’s the thing–if people with enough clout to be believed and to make sure an investigation gets going and stays going can look straight at a guy like Sandusky, see him with his victims, catch him touching them inappropriately, be told that a subordinate has seen him raping a kid, hear complaints from mothers, and live in a house with him or spend time in hotels with him where they see him spending a ton of unsupervised time with children and each and every one of them can find some way to write this off, to believe it’s somehow less hinky than it appears and therefore they do nothing…

It makes me despair.

This isn’t one of those cases where no one knew. Over and over again in the indictment is evidence of how many, many people saw him with his victims and how many of them were in a position to say “You know, it’s weird that he shares a hotel room with little boys he’s not related to.” Or “you know, kids already know football exists and there are plenty of ways that they can be involved in football programs at their own level. Maybe it’s weird that he’s bringing grade-schoolers and middle-schoolers to college football practice and games all the time.” And yet, there wasn’t one of Sandusky’s peers or superiors who saw that behavior and moved to mitigate the potential harm to those children. The only harm mitigation they tried to do was for the football program.

It’s terrible.

If people can see something that wrong and deliberately turn a blind eye to it, how can we ever protect kids from it?

10 thoughts on ““Victim 8’s Identity is Unknown.”

  1. How do those people who knew something was going on live with themselves? How do they rationalize that because they didn’t step forward, children were being harmed, over and over and over again? Except for the grad student and Mr. Joe, of course, whom I suspect, because they are good men, are still blaming themselves for not doing more, even though they tried.

    The others are cowards, and they should lose everything — their jobs, their careers, their freedom, everything. I lost a job once (they called it a layoff, but I later learned the truth) because I reported a colleague with a gun in the workplace. (A colleague who was none too stable and was waving it around in the breakroom, by the way.) I don’t regret that for a moment, even though it took me 18 months to find another job. If the situation had involved a child in ANY way, I not only would have lost a job for reporting it, I’d probably be in prison for killing the perv.

    Children’s safety and well-being has to trump everything else. The Talmud says (paraphrasing) “He who saves one life, saves the world entire.” Those who save monsters and let the children fall are monsters too.

  2. Oddly enough I think this also plays into the other conversation I babbled on about re. the whole “here’s my sick kid’s germs! Be well!” farrago.

    Because of course a lot of these people seemed to think these kids who were being lavished with gifts of money and prestigious attention were Lucky and Honoured and Hitting The Jackpot. And then the adults also benefitted materially from Sandusky. So there’s that, too. I usually try to stay away from bringing The Bible into these discussions but here I think there’s more than a few examples of The Love Of Money being the root of all evil.

    To most people the money and material benefits they received from Sandusky coupled with those received by the kids was more than enough reason to turn a blind eye.

    Like the vaccination question it boils down to not worrying about or even pondering the unintended consequences of things as long as the end result is some sort of personal benefit. After all there was no concrete proof in most folks’ minds about the molestation because things that don’t happen to us directly…just don’t happen.

  3. As far as I’m concerned, those who knew what was going on and turned a blind eye to it, or rationalized it to themselves, are just as guilty of abuse as Sandusky. This has been going on for how many years? And only two people, other than parents, tried to do something about it? That’s inexcusable, and as grandfille said, those who knew and failed to act are monsters too, just like Sandusky is a monster.

  4. Fucker. He’s a predator, pure and simple, and others are complicit as well. Send the asshole to prison, have him see what it feels like, as there is honor even amongst murderers and other criminals, and they hate child abusers. This just turns my stomach.

    Great post, B.

  5. I just keep thinking about the fact that his victims were my nephews’ ages. The kid who was raped in the shower is the same age as my youngest nephew.

    The idea that someone could even look at him or a kid his age and become sexually aroused makes me almost blind with rage and disgust. And I know my nephew. i can see how he’d not want to shower near an authority figure, but be too afraid of being bad to refuse.

    I hope they offer him a deal that will keep him in jail until he dies and I hope, if there is any glimmer of goodness in him, he takes it so that these kids don’t have to testify against him.

    Coble, it is amazing how we, as a society, seem to have extrapolated from “we have a capitalist economy” to “hey, as long as everyone’s getting paid, it’s cool” even when some of the “everyone” getting paid are child rape victims.

  6. I admit, if he did take a deal, I would want it to be in exchange for his testimony and I’d like to see him up on the stand outlining every time he was caught doing something hinky by someone who then shrugged it off as the shruggers sit at the defense table.

    If there’s some way to get him in prison until he dies and get these other folks in prison without having to further ruin these boys’ lives, I’d like to see it happen.

  7. I’m sorry, someone is surprised that a person connected to a powerhouse, money-making college sports program is going to be allowed to do whatever the hell he wants to do, and the powers that be will cover it up to the fullest extent they can?

  8. I’m afraid you’re right, nm. If the molester were the head of the library? Or an engineering professor? Would the coverup have happened the same way, or at all? Highly unlikely.

  9. Remember the “um, maybe just don’t do that here” portion of this post? It was in reference to them telling Sandusky that he couldn’t bring kids onto campus.

    Only it turns out–wait for it–Yes! He was allowed to bring children as young as nine to campus as recently as 2009.

    http://deadspin.com/5856887/

  10. it is amazing how we, as a society, seem to have extrapolated from “we have a capitalist economy” to “hey, as long as everyone’s getting paid, it’s cool” even when some of the “everyone” getting paid are child rape victims

    I strain and squint, but I fail to see any space between those two concepts. If ‘getting ahead by fucking over the next guy’ is your societal ethos, it stands to reason that eventually some of fucked will be easy and vulnerable targets (like children).

    http://morrisberman.blogspot.com/2011/10/why-america-failed-overview.html

    We treat Bill Gates as some kind of national hero, when the truth is that any system that allows one person to accumulate $50 billion, and leaves fully two-thirds of its population living from paycheck to paycheck (assuming they can even find a job, that is), is pretty sick.

    A society that subscribes to the philosophy of a woman who idealized a sociopathic murderer is bound to turn a blind eye to a few raped kids, especially if a few bucks and a little prestige is on the line.

    http://michaelprescott.net/hickman.htm

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