When you're six, most things are fun. After a little first-grade homework, plenty of time remains for watching cartoons, sorting through trading cards, or playing with friends. It's an innocent, beautiful time. At least it should be.
When I look at my wonderful six-year-old son, Alex, I see through his eyes. And I remember what it was like to be six.
For me, it was not all good.
Children are highly impressionable; they look up to adults with all the trust in the world. They are our most vulnerable citizens. Teachers, parents, police officers, librarians—all grown-ups hold great power and influence over the lives of our youth.
I was unsuspecting. My stepmother and father left me with friends on a remote mountain in Vermont, where we lived at the time. They were headed to the hospital for my baby brother's delivery. I was excited.
My parents' friends with whom I was staying had jobs. They decided to leave me with a neighbor across the street. I remember that he was big with a beard and friendly eyes. He reminded me of a giant teddy bear.
It didn't take long for "things" to get underway. There were kid shows on TV and plenty of sweet treats if I complied. I did.
This went on for roughly three days. It seemed like forever. Sesame Street and candy bars were not a fair swap.
I never said a word. Why? He threatened me. He threatened my family. He threatened my baby brother. I was powerless.
I do not share this for sympathy. I'm surrounded by a great group of family and friends who support me every day.
I share this in an attempt to make people understand that there are no excuses for what allegedly happened at Penn State.
Nobody gets a pass here. No adult with knowledge of Sandusky's alleged actions should come out of this case clean—and that includes legendary PSU Head Coach Joe Paterno.
The all-time leader in wins, Paterno was told a graphic story by a then-graduate assistant coach in 2002. That individual, identified by the Harrisburg Patriot News as a current full-time Penn State assistant coach, relayed to his superior that he saw Sandusky sexually molesting what appeared to be a 10-year-old boy in the showers of the Penn State locker room.
Paterno took that information to his athletics director, Tim Curley, and washed his hands of it. The coach followed university protocol. No legal action has been brought against him in this case.
Fine. Paterno is legally cleared in this one. Still, Joe must go. There is no excuse for Paterno. While he's a hero to many football fans, his alleged actions in this case are much more horrific than heroic.
Yes, the 84-year-old Paterno comes from a generation when incidents like this were kept from public discussion and handled within the family. Sorry. That doesn't exonerate him here.
Society, thankfully, is changing. Adults, especially those who wield power like Paterno, are expected to speak up when children are abused. No exceptions. Zero tolerance.
Paterno is called a builder of young men. He has children and grandchildren. He knows right from wrong.
Even upon learning that story from his grad assistant, Paterno continued to allow Sandusky to bring children from his foundation, The Second Mile, to Penn State practices and games, including a bowl game, according to the Grand Jury Report. The report also states that the longtime Nittany Lion assistant established the program to help disadvantaged youth and then found all of his alleged victims there.
Sorry. Paterno gets no pass. This case should result in a black eye on his legacy if for no other reason than on the grounds of moral bankruptcy. Why in the heck would his graduate assistant make up that claim and take it to his legendary boss? How Paterno handled the GA's story should tarnish the reputation he worked all these years to build.
I grew up on the East Coast. I followed Penn State football. I admired Joe Paterno for how he ran a program, not just in wins and losses, but in doing what appeared to be the right thing.
That image is gone. It's replaced by disgust when I look at photos of Paterno and Sandusky from recent news stories. My predominant feeling toward Curley and senior university vice president, Gary Shultz, is anger.
Curley and Schultz surrendered to authorities on Monday on charges that they failed to report suspected child sexual abuse by Sandusky and committed perjury in their related grand jury testimony. They resigned their positions at Penn State a day earlier.
If this report is accurate, the adults in this case failed these children miserably. They hold some responsibility for every alleged Sandusky victim after they learned of it in 2002.
There will be adults, besides the defense lawyers, who stick up for Paterno and others accused in this case. They'll make excuses.
But to me, it's pretty simple. If you hear about or see a child being abused, you go to authorities. You don't ask why. You don't sweep it under the rug. You don't say you "told a superior" and that's where your responsibility ends.
There's no doubt this story will grow. It includes all the ingredients for the juicy talking heads on 24-hour news stations. My hope is that the focus remains on the alleged victims. I would not be shocked to find out if more than the eight came forward.
Yes, Sandusky is innocent until proven guilty. Still, the thoroughness of the Grand Jury Report leads me to believe he's done something here. It also would be quite a coincidence for eight different people of varying ages to tell similar stories of abuse.
If the story holds true, then those kids were overpowered by an adult they trusted. People may wonder why they didn't tell someone or do something. It's crippling to any child, especially one who is underprivileged.
The boys that Sandusky allegedly molested—the boys essentially abandoned by Penn State officials—could be permanently damaged. At the very least, they will never forget.
I understand that not everyone shares my perspective. All I ask is that you share my concern for children and attempt to protect them from predators. It is both our legal and our ethical duty.
Curley, Schultz, the graduate assistant, and Paterno himself had an opportunity to do something. They decided to protect their own interests instead of the innocent. That sent the only message that matters.