When I posted "Blaming Mike McQueary," about the one person who spoke out about Sandusky's behavior, and the negative reactions he was receiving, reaction was swift and awful. Commenters usually automatically assumed they would have done much more than McQueary, and my suggestion that many people knew and did nothing was met with derision. ZanZig, for instance, wrote: "The fact that you can seriously ask this question is quite damning of you(!). I cannot think of any universe in which if I saw a grown man sodomizing a child I would not call the police, after first rescuing the child. That McQueary did none of this is unbelievable."
Fortunately for my state of mind, several other commentators in prominent places supported my point of view. Writing in the NY Times, conservative columnist David Brooks described what we know from the literature about people's self-assured assertions that they--unlike those other cowards--would have stood up to Sandusky and the entire Penn State power structure:
Unfortunately, none of us can safely make that assumption. Over the course of history--during the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide or the street beatings that happen in American neighborhoods--the same pattern has emerged. Many people do not intervene. Very often they see but they don't see.
But an even braver piece, an Open Letter to Mike McQueary by Jane Leavy, appeared in GRANTLAND. This long post was remarkable for both its bravery and understanding. It pointed out the McQueary, a former Penn State football player who grew up in the region, was himself completely enmeshed in the school's "Happy Valley" universe. It is amazing that he had the courage to speak up in this environment, which no one else was willing to do.
Here Leavy quotes Richard Gartner, author of Betrayed as Boys, "the definitive book on male survivors of childhood sexual abuse," a person who is well aware of just how many people will let the greatest atrocities proceed apace:
He [McQueary] at least tried to get the information to the authorities and pretty much right away, the next morning. It's sad, but not surprising that he is the focus of the rage. It's easier to demonize those we don't know much about, but harder to criticize those we idolize.
What does Gartner mean, we would rather trust those higher up on the totem pole? Nobody's doing that, are they? Well, here's one response to my post in HuffPo, from Barandy: "I am more amazed that so many take McQueary's word over Coach Paterno, Schultz and Curly (respectively, Penn State's head coach and the administrators above him, all of whom have been relieved of their duties)." But If we agreed with Barandy and followed the lead of Paterno, Schultz and Curly, then Sandusky's reign of terror would still be going on!
Now a New York Times follow up of one of the boys Sandusky is accused of repeatedly raping, Victim #1, reveals how widespread suspicions -- even actual knowledge -- were of Sandusky's activities, how terrible the consequences for the boy, and even how another young coach who tried to help him was punished for his efforts.
Quotes from the Times article follow:
The assertions by prosecutors are terrible and terrifying: the boy was 11 or 12 when he first met Sandusky. Sandusky, according to the charges, gave the boy gifts -- golf clubs and a computer and cash -- and took him to professional and college games. Sandusky also victimized the child repeatedly over many months in Sandusky's home.
Late in 2008, concerns about Sandusky's possible abuse of the boy made their way to the authorities, and over the ensuing months, the boy, high school officials and at least one other coach at the school testified under oath about Sandusky. . . .
According to Hunter, school officials, once aware the boy might have been molested by Sandusky, took some degree of care, telling Hunter he should not be alone with the boy, but never saying exactly why. Hunter, whose relationship with the boy deepened through months of coaching and the boy's recovery from a serious car accident, was ultimately let go by the school. Hunter's e-mail communications with the boy -- aimed at dissuading him from abandoning track this past summer -- were deemed a breach of the school's rules on maintaining distance between coaches and student-athletes, particularly the boy now known as Victim 1.
When a predator with such high status as Sandusky prowls a community, there will be terrible consequences in his path, and many, many complicit authority figures.