Friday’s verdict in the Jerry Sandusky case has lead to several articles talking about “closure” and “healing.” However, the only person with any degree of closure in this case is Jerry Sandusky. He will serve the rest of his life behind bars. It is likely that his resources are now so limited that he will not even be the focus of any future civil cases.
In other words, you can now completely forget about Jerry Sandusky. As Lester Munson on ESPN.com wrote, “The verdict Friday evening will not produce closure, and it will not produce healing. If it does anything that is positive, it tells us that the legal system has concluded the most important part of its work on Sandusky. That’s it.”
However, we cannot forget about the survivors of this case, and the alleged role that Penn State, and many administrators, took in allowing those atrocities to happen. Howard Bryant of ESPN.com has a very good piece on Penn State’s shame in this case.
The trial and conviction of Jerry Sandusky was, in many ways, the easy part of the story. In the coming years (it will not be quick), we will be hearing about many of the following:
1) The Louis Freeh Investigation – Note to Penn State Board of Trustees – you better be prepared to fully release this report to the public, full transparency is expected. (Besides, Sara Ganim from the Harrisburg Patriot-News will surely end up with a copy in her hands.)
2) A combination of financial settlements by Penn State, and new victims coming forward. Penn State has already indicated a desire to resolve the civil suits, and new victims are already making themselves know. The nature of sexual abuse is that it is often repressed, and many victims may wait several years before coming forward.
3) As a full understanding of what was known (and by whom), it is likely that individuals will also be named in civil suits. This is particularly notable for The Second Mile. Several very wealthy individuals were involved in the leadership of that organization. Their good intentions may not help if they are found to have failed to act to protect.
4) Perhaps most notable to those of use who work in Higher Education, the criminal trials of Tim Curley and Gary Schultz on perjury and obstruction of justice. It is worth reading about the conviction of Msgr. William J. Lynn, of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, on charges related to a cover up of the sexual abuse issues in the Catholic Church for some context. It is also worth noting that those cases have been going on for over ten years. Closure is not coming soon to Penn State.
There are also folks making calls for the NCAA to get involved in addressing “institutional control” within the football program. I would agree with Matt Hinton from CBSSports.com, and urge the NCAA to stay out of it. It is beyond their scope of enforcement.
It is also important that those of us who work with fraternities and sororities understand the lessons from this case. If it wasn’t clear before, we should all understand now, the importance of addressing and properly reporting any and all cases of potential harm. In our world, that may include hazing, excessive alcohol consumption, and yes, sexual abuse and harassment. We do have a responsibility to protect our students from potential harm. Between this situation, and the death of Robert Champion at Florida A&M, we cannot claim ignorance about this responsibility.
By the way, the “Jerry Sandusky Case” is over, it is now the “Penn State Case.”