"All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing" -- Anna Bright, STSM Victim Advocate

If you aren’t familiar with the Penn State scandal, you can read all about it online (just Google it, and you’ll have tons of articles, columns, videos, blog posts, and tweets to choose from). Basically, the university’s former assistant football coach, Jerry Sandusky, is accused of abusing young boys over a 15-year period, and several university officials, including president Graham Spanier and football coach Joe Paterno, have been fired and/or charged for having known about the abuse and failing to have it reported to the appropriate authorities.

Following the board of trustees’ announcement that Paterno was being let go on Wednesday night, riots broke out on the Penn state campus. Thousands of Penn State supporters, many of them students, were so outraged over Paterno’s dismissal that they vandalized school grounds and turned over a news truck, requiring police to use tear gas.

Despite the fact that I couldn’t care less about college football, I understand why Paterno’s supporters would be devastated. He is, after all, an award-winning football coach under whom the Nittany Lions have enjoyed much success. But the fact is that no matter his contributions to Penn State, he failed to do his part in something that is far more important than winning a football game (at least, what decent human beings would consider more important), and that is ensuring the safety of children.

After a 2002 incident in which a graduate student witnessed Sandusky anally assaulting a young boy in a locker room shower, Paterno was notified of the incident and then upheld his legal obligation to report it to his superior. Yet when his superiors – including Spanier – decided to keep the situation quiet and simply bar Sandusky from bringing children to the campus, Paterno followed along. Legally, he was covered. Morally, he failed. Sexual assault is, as you probably know, an extremely underreported crime, and it is shameful that someone so prominent in his community, someone who so many people look up to, would contribute to that trend.

All forms of sexual assault and abuse have long-term effects – it’s not something that happens once and the survivor just goes on with his or her life. Children who have been sexually abused have to live with that for the rest of their lives, and while there are ways to help them heal, they will never be the same. After Sandusky raped that young boy in the shower, the Penn State officials swept the incident under the rug and Paterno led the football team to more victories and Sandusky continued to victimize other boys and that young boy was an ignored victim. He can never just get on with his life, and neither should Sandusky and his accomplices.

Maybe Paterno was a scapegoat, and maybe the board of trustees could have handled the situation better, but the bottom line is that Paterno knew what his assistant was capable of, and he didn’t do a thing about it. I won’t call him a villain, and he certainly isn’t the only one who fell short, but he played his part in a villainous act. He and his superiors had the power – and therefore, the responsibility - to not only ensure that Sandusky would pay for the crimes he’d already committed, but to prevent him from damaging more young lives. They could have done something, and they didn’t. They lost their jobs and their good reputations, and a couple of them are even facing criminal charges, but their deserved punishment is nothing compared to the price that eight – and likely more – young boys have had to pay for their negligence.

The moral of the story is summed up well by Edmund Burke’s famous quote: “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” If you have suspicions that a child is being abused, please don’t hesitate to report it. Not only will you seek justice for that child, you could prevent other children from being abused. The difference between reporting child sexual abuse and sweeping it under the rug is a lifetime of suffering.

Contact your local Department of Social Services Child Protective Services office if you think a family member is sexually abusing a child. To find your local DSS office, visit this link: https://dss.sc.gov/content/about/counties/index.aspx. Contact your local law enforcement agency if the person you need to report is not the child’s family member. For additional resources, you can contact STSM or your local child advocacy center.