Sandusky: No closure, healing in verdict
I haven’t posted much about the Sandusky case. And I made the decision not to read the testimony from the trial, since I had read some earlier descriptions from victims and the realistic language in them had made me wish I could “unhear” the words that then echoed in my head. For a number of days I couldn’t get it out of my mind—and that’s only appropriate. But I prefer not to dwell on something that I can do nothing about personally.
The language of the law, so compelling and so descriptive in so many cases, fails to describe the crimes of Jerry Sandusky. Words such as “deviate” and “indecent” and “corruption of children” are not enough.
Even when we add lawyers’ courtroom rhetoric with nouns such as “monster” and “atrocity,” we do not begin to describe what this former Penn State coach did to so many boys, and we do not begin to measure the actions and inactions of those in the Penn State football program who enabled Sandusky to rape children again and again in football facilities, before and after football practices, and on football trips.
As we struggle to find the vocabulary that will work, we will use words such as “closure” and “healing.” The verdict Friday evening will not produce closure, and it will not produce healing. If it does anything that is positive, it tells us that the legal system has concluded the most important part of its work on Sandusky. That’s it. There is nothing more to it. Much more remains to be done before we even begin to discuss healing or closure.
Over in another article a writer seems to attempt some soaring rhetoric that rather sweepingly demands an answer to “why did no one stand up to stop Sandusky in the community.” He opines all sorts of reasons, mainly about conspiracies to “protect institutions.” And while I’m sure that there were a few involved in discussions and actions to “protect our beloved institution”—there always are—the shorter, less grandiose answer to why Sandusky wasn’t “stopped” by “somebody” is because it’s awfully hard to stop people from doing bad things!
There are a few instances where actions might have been taken—although even taking such actions don’t mean that Sandusky is “stopped” by “somebody” in the “community.” The witness to the shower incident could have popped Sandusky in the face, rushed over to the nearest school administrator’s house, raised holy hell, and personally called 911. But often people do what they think they should do—pass it on to a higher person in authority—and make assumptions.
But other than a *few* people having a bit more opportunity to “do something”—most people can’t go to the police and say “hey, police, I think there’s a guy that’s sexually molesting children.”
“Oh? Why do you say that?”
“Well—I’ve heard some rumors. And where there’s smoke there’s fire. And I know he takes showers with the boys after football practice—like all the other coaches do. But I think he may have touched a boy inappropriately—at least I heard that once.”
“And do you have a name?”
I’ve got a friend who tried to explain to her mother and the church elders that she thought a church elder was molesting his daughters. She didn’t get very far—he had perfectly good reasons for the few odd things she’d noticed—at 14—and the girls didn’t say anything.
Eight or nine years later, it all came out, quite horribly.
Why didn’t “somebody” do “something” to stop him?
Well—it’s mighty hard to get evidence against sneaky people who are doing bad things, that’s why. I don’t think it’s much more than that, except for a few people who also cared about “the institution” and also engaged in a coverup. But basically, it’s more incompetence, unsurety, insecurity, muddleheadedness, and some willful denial that prevents somewhat-less-bad people from stopping somewhat-more-bad people from doing really bad things.
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