Last week, news broke that up to six other coaches knew Jerry Sandusky was a serial child molester. Media also reported Joe Paterno had known for years that Sandusky was sexually abusing young boys. One survivor, who was raped by Jerry Sandusky in 1971, says Joe Paterno ignored his report. From CNN:
This man, who CNN has agreed not to identify in keeping with our policy on sexual assault victims, was just 15 in 1971 when he says Sandusky raped him.Sandusky was 27, a budding public figure who’d played football for Penn State in the 1960s and was one year into his tenure as an assistant linebacker coach. This was long before he started his now-closed children’s charity, The Second Mile, which prosecutors would later call his victim factory.Victim A says he was hitchhiking when Sandusky picked him up, bought him beer, gave him pot — and then attacked him as he was standing at a urinal in a Penn State bathroom.“I felt his presence behind me,” he said. “I felt his left knee on the back of my knee, and his arms went around me, grabbing my …” he trails off. “He said, ‘Let me help you with this.'”Victim A said he jerked his head back, hitting Sandusky in the jaw. His head started bleeding and they both fell to the floor.“Then there was a wrestling session,” he says. “And I lost. One thing led to another and the crime happened.”Victim A was already a troubled kid. During a church sleepover the year before, he said he was molested by a local priest. When he tried to report it, he was thrown out of the church. He was living with foster parents when Sandusky attacked him.A day after the assault, Victim A’s foster mom noticed the cut on his head. She pestered him about what happened. And when he told her, she and her husband — who owned a local bowling alley and knew many high-ranking school officials — called Penn State against his wishes. “I was blindsided,” he said, adding that his foster father told him, “I assure you the police won’t be called, but you gotta tell these people what happened.”He found himself on the phone with two men from Penn State.
This all makes perfect sense to me. The cover-up, the accusations against victims, the protecting of a child rapist. It makes sense because I am a survivor of Children’s Theatre Conservatory School in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Children’s Theatre was founded by a child molester, John Clark Donahue. Donahue had already served a year in prison for sexually abusing a male student at a school in the Iron Range, and people knew that, yet they gave him a school to run. They gave him the keys to a kingdom filled with prey. And he preyed, along with other teachers, including the man who tried to rape me in his car when I was fifteen years old. I have friends who were raped by John Clark Donahue, I have friends who were raped by other teachers, I have friends whose lives, to this day, are fractured and steeped in trauma. I have friends who will not be able to read this article.
Of course other adults knew Jerry Sandusky was a serial child rapist and molester. Institutionalized child rape is horribly easy to hide, especially if the institution is one that people respect and admire. The Penn State football program is sacrosanct, as was Children’s Theatre in the 1980’s. We were featured in Smithsonian Magazine, celebrities like Joel Grey lauded our accomplishments, famous children’s authors came to the opening nights of our plays based on their books. But what was happening to the acting and technical students was not a secret. It was simply that we were supposed to ignore the trauma and focus on the art, much like Sandusky’s victims were supposed to ignore their trauma, and focus on the Penn State football program.
Many of Jerry Sandusky’s victims tried to find a safe place, a safe person, where they could be believed. They found nothing but ridicule and accusations. As children, we CTC students did not have anywhere safe to go, no one to tell. The people charged with our safety were either rapists or enablers, much like the adults at Penn State. Imagine being Victim A, speaking as a kid to Joe Paterno, believing with your entire heart that he will listen, and offer help, or punish Jerry Sandusky, but instead, you are told you are lying, you are insulted, ignored, your trauma diminished.
Surviving institutionalized child rape changes a person. It makes relationships almost impossible, you find it extremely difficult to trust anyone, and you often seek therapy for PTSD, anxiety, chronic depression, and other issues. Jerry Sandusky’s victims, the brave men who survived his abuse, are to be commended, respected, honored, and cherished. The adults who knew, who placed football above the safety of children, are complicit in Sandusky’s crimes.
Jerry Sandusky was, and most likely still is, a serial child molester. Joe Paterno told a kid who had been raped by Sandusky he was making it up. If there is a hell, I hope Joe Paterno is there.