Paterno, priests and Rene Portland

Five things to remember about the Penn State tragedy.

4. Let’s stop saying the boys were molested or fondled. If the charges are true, these young boys were raped. To say otherwise is dismissive and insulting, like saying the Nazis detained some Jews. Honor the victims by telling the sad, awful, and horrible truth. It’s the least we can do.

3. If the victims were girls, this might have ended differently.

Can you imagine anyone seeing a girl sodomized and not raising hell? At least two men, on two different occasions, witnessed atrocious acts on a child and walked away. We need to get to the reasons why grown men wouldn’t act on behalf of young boys.

2. Homophobia might be at least partly to blame.

Sometimes the locker room seems like the last safe place for public slurs against gay people, besides the set of a Brett Ratner movie. A 2009 survey showed that sports reporters believe homophobia is disturbingly prevalent in sports, especially among old-school jocks.

Joe Paterno has a history in this area. When he was athletic director he hired Rene Portland, a controversial and abusive women’s basketball coach, who made anti-gay slurs in the press during her tenure at PSU. Paterno helped to cover up policies that pressured lesbian players to keep their sexuality a secret.

Training Rules, a 2007 documentary, charged that Portland made her players’ lives a living hell, all thanks to an irrational hatred and fear of gay people.

Perhaps these crimes were so shocking and shameful to the grown men who knew about them, they allowed themselves to be scared into a submissive silence. That needs to end. Let’s demystify homosexuality, encourage understanding and acceptance, rather than just tolerance, and refrain from using homophobic slurs. This would lead to a better world for everyone, and a safer one for kids.

1. Parents should use this opportunity to educate their children.

Pedophiles go after young children who come from troubled homes, are often left alone, and are in desperate need of love and attention. I don’t give a good goddamn how busy you are — keep a keen eye on your kids.

Let’s learn from this. That’s the least we can do.

Find Catherine Durkin Robinson online at

My family is from Pennsylvania, and includes several Penn State graduates. When I first heard that former Assistant Coach Jerry Sandusky was charged with sexually abusing eight boys, and the abuse seems to have been ignored and/or covered up by Head Coach Joe Paterno, and other administration officials, I immediately felt rage and anger. As a mother of two pre-teen boys, I cannot imagine how anyone could witness such abuse, or hear about it firsthand, and then not act to help or avenge the victims.

Here are five things to think about in the wake of such a tragedy:

5. It’s not the first of its kind. From the beginning, the creeps at Penn State took their cues on how to handle this situation from the Catholic Church. When people are deified, whether in sports or religion, they believe they can do whatever they want.

Remember the Boston Red Sox and a similar scandal a few decades back? Donald Fitzpatrick, a clubhouse manager for the team, was charged with sexually abusing at least 12 young boys. When allegations surfaced, Tom Yawkey, Red Sox owner, protected Fitzpatrick and refused to get rid of him.

Arrogance and violence go hand in hand with organized sports, so when professional athletes are arrested for victimizing women and animals, is it any surprise that some of them hurt children as well?

When we take fallible human beings and bestow upon them a godlike status, let’s no longer pretend the consequences aren’t devastating. Men in sports, or a priest’s robe, are not deities. They are people, like everyone else, and the extraordinary power they are given does harm to everyone in their path.

And how about those students, rioting over Paterno’s firing? They weren’t angry about child rape. They weren’t angry that Paterno didn’t do much of anything to stop the abuse. They were angry that he was fired as a result.
Perhaps you need to live outside Happy Valley to know that a) Scrapple isn’t a food group and b) Paterno should have been arrested and charged with a crime for not going to the police.

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