It’s been both disturbing and shocking the news coming out of Happy Valley, Pa this last week with the child sexual abuse revelations. As someone who hails from Western Pennsylvania, Penn State University and their football program has been the model of excellence for many years. Even as far back as when I was going to high school in the late sixties and early seventies, Coach Joe Paterno was revered and respected. He’s done nothing but add to his remarkable career since then.
As despicable as the allegations are against the former Penn State Assistant Coach, it was still quite surprising that the media fervor created sufficient outrage to bring about the firing of Coach Paterno, an institution unto himself. Despite the fact that Sandusky was 12 years removed from active coaching on Paterno’s staff, the mere fact that the primary incident took place on the campus, witnessed by a coaching intern and first reported to Coach Paterno, the board of trustees felt the only way to demonstrate how serious they took the allegations was to severe ties with the program’s icon.
It is unfortunate that one person as disturbed or evil as you might consider him, can have such a devastating effect on so many lives. His alleged crimes to the young victims under the disguise of assisting under privileged young boys made the events even more shocking. We live in a society full of stereotypes and Sandusky didn’t fit the type of person we think of when we picture a child predator. Unfortunately we continue to realize the world is full of individuals who can’t control their impulses and they come from all walks of life.
As our justice system and further investigations into the incidents continue, we’ll learn more details of the events surrounding these hideous allegations. Once again though, we must learn from events such as these and become even more vigilant to all types of abuses in society but especially to our young and those most vulnerable. It’s almost certain we’ll learn that somewhere in Sandusky’s past he too was a victim of abuse.
But aside from the tragedy to these young boys, other issues surrounding this event should be considered also. We should allow our judicial process to work through the issues and investigations rather than reacting to a media frenzy over allegations alone. The intensity of emotions boiled over because of the school’s high profile and the hype of something more sinister and conspiring going on than one highly disturbed man’s actions. An institution like Penn State must have procedures that are required to be followed. In time we will learn what went wrong within the institution and if it knowingly protected Sandusky or if it was overly concerned with protecting its own reputation when it should have been more concerned with the lives Sandusky was allegedly affecting by his actions.
People must also realize that violence accomplishes nothing but to destroy. The riot outbreak that took place immediately after the firing of Paterno only added to further heighten the media’s desire to uncover even more of the spreading scandal. Once common sense prevailed over heated emotion the Friday night vigil and fans at Saturday’s football game revealed a truer picture of life on the Penn State Campus.
Aside from the issues at Penn State we must all take a look at abuses to the young within our own communities. Similar events take place within our own small towns, not associated with high profile institutions and thus don’t receive the intense media spotlight but are every bit as profound. We must also consider the affect our media has on young and old alike. Advertising commercials for enhanced sexual products are ever growing in print, the air waves and the internet and very few television shows don’t use sex as an added draw for ratings. As a society we are struggling with the line between sexual attraction and sexual abuse. We must begin to consider the affects these images and products have in society for those who lack self control and become addicted to destructive behavior.
The innocent pay the ultimate price for society’s lack of discipline to these issues. We only need to look at recent high profile individuals to realize that we have an ever growing epidemic. From presidents, high profile political figures, sport and entertainment personalities, they are the ones in the news today.
But we should be just as shocked and looking for answers here at home when these actions take place out of the spotlight of fame.
Dan Alexander is publisher and CEO of Denton Publications. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.