The Washington Post

Penn State riot, ‘Sanduskied’ and the insensitive reaction on campus

Penn State students flip a television news van during a riot on Wednesday night in State College, Pa. (Michael Henninger/AP)

The grand jury court documents on the Jerry Sandusky case spell out in graphic, stark terms the allegations of sexual abuse inflicted on young boys.

What’s worse, like the Catholic Church’s child abuse scandals, people in positions of power knew about Sandusky’s alleged violations and did nothing to keep him away from other young boys. Susan Orlean writes in the New Yorker that it reminds her of a movie from the 1950s, with “a lot of soulful, whispered conversations that conclude with bromides like how this had to be kept quiet for ‘the good of the team’; that everyone had to keep ‘eyes on the prize’; that the team was ‘bigger than any single one of us.’”

Careers have ended. Lives have been forever damaged. And in the aftermath, hardly anyone’s reaction to the accusations seems appropriate.

At Penn State University, some students protested in the streets at the dismissal of legendary head football coach Joe Paterno, Sandusky’s boss, for not making sure the abuse was reported to authorities. They overturned a media van, broke car windows and rioted into the night. Except that they weren’t aiming their rage at Sandusky’s alleged behavior, but at the loss of their beloved “Jo Pa.” One Reddit user posted this reaction:


But that outpouring of emotion for the wrong victim is not the worst crime that some Penn students have been accused of. The sister of one of Sandusky’s alleged victims, who is a junior at the university, told the Patriot-News how painful it is for her to be on campus when her classmates make light of the controversy, joking about being “Sanduskied.”

The sister, whose name the Patriot-News withheld to protect her anonymity, did not blame the school. Only the situation.

Many of the students rioting on Wednesday accused the media of sensationalizing a story and causing Paterno’s quick dismissal.

They were not the only ones to find fault with the media coverage of the crime. The Onion wrote a scalding satire: “After former Penn State defensive coach Jerry Sandusky was charged Saturday with multiple counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, corruption of minors, indecent assault, and unlawful contact with minors, the national sports media sought out his victims this week to ask if they were worried about Joe Paterno’s legacy and how their molestations might affect the recently fired head coach’s place in the history books.”

Others blame the overblown, all-powerful college athletic departments. But the damage from the scandal likely won’t have much of a long-term impact on the Penn State football program, Christopher Morphew, professor and chairman of the University of Iowa’s College of Education, told The Post.

For at least one group of students, laying blame isn’t as important as showing support forvictims of sexual abuse. On Thursday, students gathered on campus holding signs and wearing blue ribbons in solidarity with those who’ve suffered.

Penn State students gather at Old Main, at the center of campus, to show support and sympathy for victims of child sexual abuse. (Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)


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