What Can We Learn from Penn State?

BY IN Uncategorized 2 COMMENTS , , ,

There is so much to say about the headline news from Penn State University. I will address the issues that I feel can prevent such an egregious act from every happening again. Here are my thoughts:

Penn State University.  I commend Penn State trustees for their extreme and expedient reaction to the disclosure that officials from their university failed to report acts of child sexual abuse resulting in the abuse of more children. I suspect more actions need to be taken but the trustees are setting a precedent for every high-profile agency in the private and public sector.

Children will not be sacrificed for the sake of preserving notoriety!

Joe Paterno. The firing of President Graham Spanier was reported by the press as “expected.” The firing of Joe Paterno, 46 year football coach and Hall of Famer was more of a surprise. Why? Because he was revered in the world of college football, built a program based on “Success with Honor,” was described by many as a “good man.”

“Good men” make bad choices. Paterno himself said, “With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more.” It is reported that he went to athletics director Tim Curley but when nothing was done he let it slide. We cannot surmise why Joe Paterno did not go to the police with his knowledge of accusations that his assistant coach was sexually abusing young boys. Is there an excuse that is acceptable? Not in my mind and certainly not in the minds of the innocent victims.

I agree it is sad that this is how Joe Paterno’s outstanding coaching career ends but he caused his own demise. Let’s learn from his example.

No matter whom we are, no matter how high a regard others have for us, if we do not protect children from harm, we are responsible.

Protestors.  A friend commented on the thousands of students protesting the firing of Paterno. He questioned if this was a reflection of the moral fiber of our youth; football taking precedence over everything else. I believe the protests stem from students’ lack of knowledge rather than lack of morals. They adored Joe Paterno and the spirit his football team brought to their campus. My guess is that any student who has been sexually abused or knows someone who has been sexually abused is not in that protesting crowd.  The students opposing the decision of the trustees are only thinking about the pain and sadness of losing their coach.  If they had been educated on the damaging effects of sexual abuse, if they were taught that it is the responsibility of all adults to report suspected offenders, if their parents had candid discussions with them about sexual abuse, I believe their morals would supersede their admiration for their coach.

Students need to be educated on the devastating effects of child sexual abuse and how it can be prevented.

The Bigger Picture: As big as this story is and as devastating as it is for the Penn State community there is a bigger story here. The blind eye of the Penn State President, coach and perhaps others glares at us because they are well known. That same blind eye to child sexual abuse is happening on every campus, in every school district, around every corner. It must stop and perhaps it is going to take a high profile school such as Penn State to get our country moving in the right direction. Education is the key. We can and must protect children from becoming victims of sexual predators. There are programs such as Stop it Now! designed to educate the public on how to recognize signs of sexual abuse, how to report sexual abuse, how to create a family safety plan etc. That is one of many educational programs available. Just as there is no excuse for the lack of action by Spanier, Paterno and others, there is no excuse for us to not to learn how to protect children from sexual abuse.

Let this be the time. Read, research, go to a lecture, talk with others, learn how YOU can prevent this from happening to another child.

One final thought. No matter what we learn or how much we do as a result of this tragedy, we cannot take away the pain Sandusky’s victims are experiencing. But if this exposure brings about a national effort to stop child sexual abuse I guarantee those victims will feel vindicated. I know because I am one who has experienced their pain.  Roberta

To see where I will be speaking next on Stop it Now! How to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse go to www.RobertaDolan.com.


  1. Erin Merryn |

    Very good post Roberta. Everyone is talking about it. Sad that it takes something like this to get people to start talking. Glad you decided to write something on it.