Nittany Liars

I’m not just a blogger mom.  I’m also an experienced Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor who has worked with MANY troubled and abused children. Before I had children, the stories of physical and sexual abuse and neglect broke my heart. I was shocked and so naive about how common it was for children to be the victims of sexual predators.  After I became a mother, I lost sleep on a regular basis fearing that I would be unable to protect my children from them. THEY SEEMED TO BE EVERYWHERE.

Sometimes I hate knowing what I know about the prevalence and severity of abuse suffered by children at the hands of pedophiles. What I know is burned into my brain and it has changed me forever.  In the seven years away from doing therapy, the images of suffering and scarred children and families faded a bit, but for some time, I was constantly worrying and wondering about every person I knew.  In time, I no longer because suspicious of everyone I met. I began to see the good in the world and to trust and be inspired by people.  Joe Paterno used to inspire me. Papa Joe seemed like one of the good guys. Now I suspect that he is not and based on his lack of character and poor display of moral judgment over the past 8 years, I suspect that he never was.

You read that right. I am suspicious of Joe Paterno. I’m not suspicious that he is a pedophile. Allegedly Jerry Sandusky is the pedophile. Allegedly Tim Curley and Gary Schultz knew that Sandusky had some “issues” and they knew in part because Papa Joe did what he was REQUIRED to do by informing them of these allegations made against Sandusky.  How completely out of character of him to be so average, to be satisfied with doing the bare minimum when he so famously said, “You have to perform at a consistently higher level than others. That is the mark of a true professional.” So much for practicing what you preach, huh Joe?

I’m still trying to wrap my head around this.  Joe Paterno, one of the most beloved, respected and successful coaches in the history of college football merely did what he was REQUIRED to do. This college football ICON who famously said, “Losing a game is heartbreaking. Losing your sense of excellence or worth is a tragedy.” I’m wondering if Joe knew that excellence off the field was expected of him and his colleagues. I’m wondering if he thought for even a moment that excellence is going above and beyond what is merely expected and being SUPERIOR.

Why am I focusing on Joe Paterno when clearly he is not the only one who ALLEGEDLY knew that kids were at possibly at risk of being taken advantage of by a possible sexual predator?  I’m focusing on him because this isn’t the first time that his behavior demonstrates a complete lack of excellence as both a professional, a leader and a mentor. Not long ago he deemed the attention and inquiry about the large number of Penn State athletes with criminal charges as a “witch hunt.”

I am focusing on Joe because he is a Hall of Fame college football coach, a well-respected philanthropist, a champion of education AND A FATHER OF FIVE CHILDREN! Would he tolerate this mediocre effort from others when it came to his own children? He is being accused of putting the Penn State brand before the safety of children. If that’s true, it means that he values his association and reputation of 62 years as a coach over his 85 years as a HUMAN BEING. I'm not just suspicious of this allegation against Coach Paterno.

Like I said, I know too much. I know what happens to children who suffer  abuse at the hands of people who are supposed to be responsible, respectable and trustworthy adults. They never fully recover from the fear, trauma and disappointment of being violated. Sitting with them and grieving with them as they replayed the horrible incidents, blaming themselves, feeling  dirty and guilty is something that has scarred my psyche forever and I wasn’t even the victim.

I’ve heard all kinds of terrible excuses by adults when it comes to their blatant disregard of the safety of children. I’ve heard a mother make excuses for a boyfriend who raped her 12 year old daughter, saying that she must have been flirting with him and dressed too sexy.  I don’t think any of the Penn State people can say their excuses are any less horrible. ANY excuse for not coming forward to protect a child or children in general is unacceptable.

I don’t think I’m alone saying that as much as I want to be surprised by the bad behavior of politicians, professional athletes and celebrities, I am not. It seems to be an acceptable part of the culture to engage in illegal, immoral and entitled behavior, but I expected more of Joe Paterno.   I also don’t think I’m alone in feeling disgusted and disappointed that despite his 62 years of talk about being a loyal, confident, successful champion, focused on excellence, Joe Paterno lacks these characteristics as a human being and he is a loser in the most important game of all; LIFE.

 

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  • You are sooo right, for someone who is so demanding of excellence and going the extra mile he couldn't have stretched less to the inch than he did on potentially helping victims who couldn't have had a better voice supporting them.

    And by bare minimum, I mean the literal EXACT guidelines that the rules state a coach or authority figure should follow when suspicion of that magnitude is reported.

    For a second I was saying maybe his age was a factor, but then again this was almost ten years ago that he was allegedly told about the incident.

    Either way its despicable and makes college sports look even more atrocious.

  • In reply to Curtis Shaw Flagg:

    thanks for the feedback, friend. it is truly disappointing that someone so focused on being great set such a mediocre standard. guess making half million a year can make anyone feel better about anything.

  • Excellent, excellent piece. I enjoy seeing this side of you!!

  • In reply to erago:

    thank you for saying that. truly. xo

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    In reply to erago:

    I've only been reading these Moms blogs for a couple of weeks, but I agree that I'm relieved to hear this side of you, Nicole. I LOVED your PMS Kitty blog, but others seemed more ranting. This was truly an educated, sincere, serious piece of commentary.
    Thank you.
    Julie

  • Thank God I don't know the details of the stories that you've heard. Otherwise I might be even more insanely paranoid about someone preying on my kid. The statistics for disabled females being abused are astronomical. It makes me physically ill to think that after I'm dead and gone my daughter's fate might rest in the hands of authority figures like the ones in this case who did NOTHING to stop it.

  • In reply to autismarmymom:

    and you just addressed my biggest worry as a mom of a special needs child. i just cannot breathe sometimes.

  • Excellent job speaking as a true advocate for the innocent victims who deserve more than they received from the powers that be. Good work, Nik, and thanks for your strong, brave voice.

  • In reply to Carrie Goldman:

    thank you friend. i feel the same about you. such a little lady you are, yet such a strong voice. xo

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    Excellent. I follow the page on FB but had not read your blog before. You hit every moral point spot on. Great piece.

  • In reply to Patty D:

    welcome to my passion, patty. writing. so glad you are here and thanks for the feedback. xo

  • I am simply sick to my stomach over this. I am also angry with the grad student who witnessed a rape in progress. He reported it but didn't attempt to stop it. I just can't imagine walking away from a 10 being brutally attacked. Before I had my boys I was a huge fan of all things Law and Order...today I can hardly sit through any episode dealing with child abuse. I can only imagine what therapists who are parents go through. May all the victims and their families find some healing peace.

  • In reply to BridgetPapa:

    they never find peace. that's my point. it's just so tragic. thanks for taking the time to comment.xo

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    In reply to BridgetPapa:

    I can't understand how you, as an adult male, could walk in on a man sodomizing a 10 year old boy and not run over and start beating the s**t out of him. Or at the very least, scream bloody murder!!!! He just turned, walked away and called his dad asking what to do???? Does this man lack any common sense? When you see an adult raping a child, you have to ask for advice on what to do??? In my opinion, that grad assistant is the most culpable of the bunch, next to the perpetrator himself.

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    In reply to Cindy Cipoletti:

    I agree completely.I am an extremely overprotective father of three girls and one boy,and i would have beaten Sandusky mercilessly if i had happened upon the victim 2 scene.My question is how can it take over 11 years for this parasite to be arrested ?

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    I can only speak from experience, but as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and a mom, I thought about this very issue from the day my firstborn came into my life. I was hyper-vigilant, after his brother arrived too. My imagination, if I didn't purposely try and control it, would have me suspecting everyone and anyone.

    I never ever considered my child would be abused by another child, and that is exactly what happened. He was five and the other child was ten. Thankfully we had had so many "talks" that he came to me right away for help, and healing has taken place over many years now... but yeah, I understood the paranoia, I guess I should have just cast my net a little wider.

    I hate to leave such a downer comment and don't suggest "paranoid parenting" but I read this blog post and I felt compelled to share.

  • In reply to Sherrilynn:

    you are not a downer, sherrilynn. NOT. it is common for young people to become predators. some of the tactics are unbelieveable. i was shocked when i heard some of them. in all the years i worked with children, i never got used to hearing the stories and was constantly surprised at how tricky predators can be. teenagers, adults.....makes no difference.

    much love to you and continued healing for you and your son. xo

  • In reply to Nicole Knepper:

    As a child, I was also sexually abused by a older boy in my neighborhood (I was in the 1st and 2nd grade). In 1990, when my 21 year old daughter was born, I suddenly became so overprotective. She was 2 years old before I even let her spend the night with my own mother. In 1997 I had my son and realized that I needed to protect him just as much as my daughter. I have always been over the top with protecting them and who they were allowed to be around (sleepovers at friends' houses, etc.) and only lately, have I been able to explain to them why. I can sympathize with Sherrilynn about our shared "paranoia" but it has lifted a tremendous burden from me to be able to explain to my children why I acted like I did when they were younger. It is impossible for me to understand WHY these adults acted the way they did in this case. WHY did Joe not do more when he himself has preached about holding yourself to a higher moral character? The 28 year old graduate assistant that witnessed Sandusky and the 10 year old in the shower area in 2002 is NOW the receivers' coach for PSU. How many more kids have been scarred because they did nothing over the past 10 years? All to protect the PSU/Paterno name? No sin is greater or less than another sin. The adults that knew ANYTHING, including Joe, are as guilty as Sandusky. I can't even describe how SICK this makes me. Physically. Sick. Thank you Nik for your forum for us to be able to talk about these things. As usual, you are dead on point! My prayers go out to the victims and their families.

  • New to your blog-found it from a friend, who, like me is a long time Child Protective Services Social Worker- I know from whence you speak. The Penn State thing is wrong on so many levels and is the thing that causes me the burn out in this profession- it is not the clients, the suffering, the poverty, the abuse- It is the unethical administrations that suck the life blood out of us with their poor decisions and faulty practice, policy and research.
    When it comes to the kids, and the adults, this is what has saved me- Abuse is NOT who they are- I don't call them victims anymore- that defines them by what was done to them- They are good people, kids, beings that had someone do an act(s) TO them. They are NOT the act. I don't see them as broken, because inside, and it is often our job to help them find it again, is where they have always been good and safe and whole. That never changes. That is where my soul connects to them, to all people, and that is what I always need to remember.

  • In reply to baltogal:

    i hear you. i almost quit more than once. i was too overwhelmed. luckily i had good support and supervision. there is so much healing and the process is one that i cherish being a part of. glad you are part of us now. the mwdas crowd of imperfect parents just trying to do our best and making sure we keep kids safe is a huge part of that.

    love to you, sister (or brother) in healing. hang in there. xo

  • Once again I thank you Nicole for bringing tears to my eyes. To often people do the bare minimum or think that someone else will do the right thing. As a long ago victim of sexual abuse, I thank you for not taking the easy way out and just reading about the issue/ But showing the courage to address the underlying issue of abuse in that it is so often covered up by others. This makes the abused feel abused again as they have been treated as unimportant. As always great writing. Once again thanks, while your humor always amuses and entertains, when you share you heart, it makes me believe in humanity. All the best Vickie

  • In reply to Vickiesb:

    thank you for reading and i can only hope that you continue to heal. i know that it is a never ending process and that you grieve for what was taken from you. i will keep writing and keep swinging my bitch for you. i promise. xo

  • This is a great story. And I in large part agree with you. Like you said, any excuse for not coming forward to protect a child or children in general is unacceptable. Well said, and could not be truer. However, I am not so quick to call Paterno a loser. This story has really only been public knowledge since Sandusky was indicted on Nov. 4th. The general public is way too quick to jump to conclusions about who’s to blame after four days of headlines.
    Now, I may sound like I’m defending Paterno or others in this case, but I’m not. I just don’t feel comfortable making this a story about Paterno because it’s the easy thing to do. Of all the headlines and pictures in the paper why is Paterno, not Sandusky, who is a loser, featured on the front page ESPN, SI, and USA Today?
    Again, I love the story, and I in most part share your thoughts and feelings toward the issue. I’m just not ready to label Paterno a failure and loser at life. Not yet.

  • In reply to Keith Hoehne:

    keith...thanks for taking the time to comment. of course this blog is merely my opinion so that makes it even more important for people to voice theirs. we can agree to disagree and that's the cool part. to me, joepa is among the lowest of the low. he has demonstrated that his value system is inconsistent with what i would consider to be respectable. it hurts to feel this way. to be disappointed and to lost respect for him. i'm sad.

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    In reply to Keith Hoehne:

    Kieth,

    Sandusky is not just a sick bastard, he is a vile, evil creature. He created an enterprise disguised as a charity to hunt down and victimize already hurting children. And it appears he did it over and over again.

    Joepa is an absolute failure in living up to his own expectations. For decades we have heard his call to excellence. This is the man who once said "Losing a game is heartbreaking. Losing your sense of excellence or worth is a tragedy." Where was the sense of excellence to found in Sandusky once he knew what was going on? He gave that animal a pass for the sake of keeping the machine rolling. Honor would be standing up for the weak, instead he chose to look the other way. To do the minimum to keep things legal. Here is another Joepa quote: "Success without honor is an unseasoned dish; it will satisfy your hunger, but it won't taste good."

    Joe Paterno has no honor, no courage, and now he has no dignity. He is a failure by his own standards.

  • In reply to John Borkowski:

    Well said, John. I think Paterno's hypocrisy has disappointed and enraged a lot of people. We imagine what he could have (should have!) done differently, and are left with the knowledge that he is a sham by his own definition. It's a helpless thing to realize.

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    In reply to Keith Hoehne:

    The grad assistant informed Joe Pa of the abuse on Victim 2 On March 2,2002 .This is public record.

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    Very well written Nic.
    Sadly a subject very close to my tainted bones.It is only right to focus on the very attitude that allows this sickening behaviour to go on, that leaves a child open to abuse, that fails to protect.
    Child sexual abuse is a very common thing, the most damaging aspect, the thing that colours your life forever is the overwhelming feelings of helplessness and shame and guilt, and the fear.You never get over the fear.
    Every aspect of my life, the good and the bad, is overshadowed by my childhood experience, one of the most difficult feelings to deal with, to live with is the feeling that you were not worth protecting, that it was ok, that the abuse was allowed to continue.
    Nikki thank you, thank you for being a voice.

  • In reply to Charlotte UK:

    hi friend. thanks for writing. what you say about how every aspect of your life is touched by your abuse is what i think people NEED to know. nobody would defend paterno if they really realized just how wrong he was with his inaction. many people will always have the cloud of shame because of what the power base of penn state allowed on their watch.

    i hope you continue to heal. i do. love to you xo

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    Brilliant article! Thank you for writing this piece. The whole situation just sickens me. Shame on you, Joe Paterno. Is football that much of a "holy grail" to you that you would in some way, shape or form cover this up? Really?

    Honestly, it's just a reminder that it's never too early to start talking to your children about good touch vs. bad touch, who is allowed to touch you there, learning the right names for body parts, etc... My daughter is 3 and I've already started. Knowledge is the key and knowledge is power.

    I'm also highly dismayed that this whole debacle has been glossed over in my local media. Instead they choose to focus on the spectacle of the Duggars latest pregnancy. Massive, just massive eye-roll at the lack of attention to the Penn State tragedy here in our media market.

  • In reply to Fran:

    you are welcome for writing it. i'm too mad. agreed. it is NEVER too young to start teaching kids and it's so sad that we parents must always be so vigilant about predators. good for you momma for getting your girl started. i know it's hard.

  • go mama bear go! i am so behind you. such a great article and this whole thing is truly disappointing on so many levels. xo

  • In reply to Katy Maher:

    thanks fellow mama bear. xo

  • Have grown up in Penn State Country and knowing that at least one of the victims is from my hometown and could very well be the child of someone I know, this story breaks my heart. JoePa's children are the same ages as my brothers, sisters and myself. These boys could be his grandchildren. JoePa has always been looked up to like a football god and a man of indisputable moral character. I, too, am gravely disappointed that he did the bare minimum required of him in this case. He was surprised that no one followed up? In the 8-10 years since he reported it to his superiors, he never noticed his former assistant not being arrested???!! Wasn't that a clear clue that no one followed up and it was hushed up?

    It is with heavy heart, that I say shame on you JoePa, I expected more. You didn't get where you are today by putting forth a minimum effort.

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    The thought that my autistic son will some day be in the hands of people who really don't give a shit about him at the end of the day, who are supposed to have his best interests at heart, who will have far too many opportunities to take advantage of the sweetest hearted person I know because he can't fight back or defend himself from such things cripples me. It's the only reason I fear dying, because who will protect him then? Strangers who are overworked, underpaid, of questionable character and moral fiber? There is a special place in hell reserved for those who abuse or take advantage of those weaker than them, and for those who do nothing to stop it.

  • Nicole - once again your words have helped me, if only because they express what I'm feeling in my own heart. I am so very sad for Sandusky's victims and their families. I fear for what we might learn from victims who have yet to step forward, possibly even his own adopted kids. And I'm relieved that this predator is in custody. I'm relieved that his abettors have been indicted.

    But where is the relief for us regarding Joe Paterno's complete and utter hypocrisy? There is no excuse for standing by while a child is harmed. Ever. So the law will provide a loophole for Paterno to crawl through, but we all know him now for what he really is. It makes me shudder. ((xo))

  • If you're the head honcho, you take responsibility for what happens on your watch. Decency fail, integrity fail, life FAIL.

  • Exactly! Would the minimum be acceptable to him if it was HIS baby, HIS son, HIS g0dchild, HIS loved one?!
    Just awful.

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    there are so many words for paterno and sandusky popping into my head and most aren't quite appropriate in this forum. I weep for The Second Mile, sandusky's foundation to HELP at-risk kids. HELP. vomitrocious. Paterno sat back and didn't take it to the next level whne it was his absolute obligation to do so. Penn State essentially harbored criminals. May Paterno forever feel shame from this and may Sandusky be violated 83 ways daily while piranhas eat his feet daily. On a separate note, and to quote Valley Girl, I find you truly dazzlin' Nicole. It is unfortunate we aren't neighbors as you and I were without question cut from the same cloth. Keep doing what you do cuz it's goooood.

  • I SO AGREE HERE GIRL!!!!
    Paterno should not be able to "retire" at the end of the season. He should be FIRED TODAY!! Sorry folks, one who turns their cheek on whatever crime is committed deserves nothing but a special place in hell next to the criminal. (and a seat in the slammer!) HE HAD THE POWER TO STOP THIS and he didn't. BULLSHIT !!!!! These kids lives are ruined FOREVER. HURL!!!! I hate this subject and any excuse made to explain a sick mother f'r!!!

  • Great post Nicole. Before this week I had no idea who these people were. Sports in general are not on my radar and I find it difficult to understand their draw in our society. But, to me this story so clearly shows the relationship between abuse and power. The adoration of athletes and the close proximity coaches have to vulnerable young men and women plays right into the necessary power structure that leads to this level of betrayal. Why did it take 10 years to come to light? Why didn't those in power take care of this perpetrator and subject him to the proper course of legal action? Why didn't Papa Jo take a stand for what is moral and right? Money. The money that is generated by college sports--football in particular---is mind boggling and staggering. When the college experience costs as much as it does today, we as parents hold our collective breath and hope that our children will be safely returned to us at the end of 4 years. Universities across the board regularly under report statistics related to rape, sexual abuse and harassment, never mind those universities with reputations such as Penn State. Sad. But. True.

  • This story "broke" while I was in Pittsburgh, teaching at conference for adults who work with homeless and at risk youth. My presentation topic? Keeping kids safe in your care - how to protect children from sexual abuse and your job as a mandatory reporter. I breaks my heart that adults just "give up" or "turn their head" when something clearing is wrong. Horribly wrong. Criminally WRONG. There are classic red flags to watch out for.. but walking in on someone sodomizing a child is watching a rape in action and deserves nothing less than a call to 911. It is easy to get angry, post comments about how horrible this is.. then simply return to our lives once again. I can only hope, encourage and plead with everyone who has children in their lives, to take a moment to read about how we can all better protect children. There are classes adults can take, I have free prevention tips on my website as well as free safety rules for kids. All of this takes 10 minutes of your time.. but can help protect a child for their lifetime. www.savvyparentssafekids.com

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    I'm so glad to finally read a version of this tragedy. FINALLY. Someone says what others are thinking ... and you've said with words that actually made me "feel" it.

    I have a little boy with severe special needs and lives with physical disabilities. Every day, when I leave him with his nurse, I PRAY that she's one of the good ones. She's been with us for awhile, and she seems "normal". On the other hand, so did everyone you just mentioned above. My biggest fear is that my son will outlive me and be put in harms way, with no way of communicating what happened.

  • I read your post this morning and disagree with your opinion of Joe Paterno. I have no affiliation with Penn State, Joe P. or anyone involved with the matter.

    It seems quick and irresponsible of you to paint coach Paterno as someone with 'blatant disregard of the safety of children' who did not 'come forward to protect a child'.

    After only a few days of news reports we have very few facts about how this matter was presented to Paterno and what he was told by administrators after he reported it. It seems to me he did the right thing. He put it in the hands of the adminstrators that could and should have properly investigated the claims and taken action. Was action taken? Was it investigated? What was Paterno told after reporting it? Do we even know these facts at this point?

    I can't help but feel that your opinion of Joe Paterno is formed more by your own past experiences/emotions than the little known facts regarding Joe P. in this case.

    In my opinion, there is nothing clinical about your assessment of Joe Paterno.

  • In reply to ChrisW:

    I hope you are kidding.

  • In reply to ChrisW:

    thanks for your comments, chris. you are damn right my professional experiences influence my opinion. have YOU ever sat with a teenage boy crying and SORE from having his ass tore open by a child molester?

    this blog is my opinion. my opinion is that he should have done more. i clearly stated that above. my belief is that he set a standard of excellence, going above and beyond and role modeling. it is my opinion that he was much too busy enjoying his own life, success and reputation to give a second thought to what he SHOULD have thought about. this is my opinion.

    i certainly appreciate yours though, even though i disagree with it. we can agree to disagree. interestingly you are in the minority here AND in the mainstream media. even the die hard sport guys agree that joepa should have done more.

  • In reply to ChrisW:

    PATERNO HIMSELF SAYS HE SHOULD HAVE DONE MORE. FACT! Have you read the Grand Jury FINDINGS OF FACT? If not, I suggest you read it. Then get back to us. I feel so sorry for you ppl who think Jerry Sandusky is the only guilty person in this situation. There is a chain of events that started the moment McQueary saw that child being sodomized in the Penn State locker room and Joe Paterno is one of the links in that chain that chose to sweep it under the rug with no regard as to what happened to the child. FACT. Don't you think that if Paterno had contacted the child's family, offered support to the victim, we would know about that by now? We don't BECAUSE IT DIDN'T HAPPEN.

  • Excellent post. This is my first comment here, but I have been glued to my freakin' computer for almost a day. My husband is a Penn State alum and we lived in Happy Valley from 1996-2000. This is inexcusable.

    I have blogged about it (twice) in the last day at www.iasoupmama.com

  • I just came upon your post--you do such a great job of cutting to the heart of a matter! Thank you for your thoughts. I am really paranoid about child molesters--just like you said, they seem to be everywhere. What advice can you give to other parents? I don't want to be the kind of mom who never lets my kid go anywhere alone. How do you balance giving your kids freedom while protecting them from the weirdos? What if the folks who "seem" normal are the perps? UGH!

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    http://tominpaine.blogspot.com/2011/11/upon-further-review-joe-paterno-rose-to.html?spref=fb

    lets see...can you admit that you are wrong? yes...i do mean can...

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