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Wolf writes: "Victims sense when everyone is in on protecting an abuser. They suffer three times over: first, the abuse itself; then, the betrayal of trust; and finally, the denial of the reality of their experience. It is that knowing act of suppression that makes such conspiracies criminal."

Portrait, author and activist Naomi Wolf, 10/19/11. (photo: Guardian UK)
Portrait, author and activist Naomi Wolf, 10/19/11. (photo: Guardian UK)

Was There a Conspiracy to Cover Up Sandusky's Sex Abuse?

By Naomi Wolf, Guardian UK

07 July 12


Society prefers to think of its Jerry Sanduskys as lone predators. In reality, they can only exist because of a culture of collusion.

onspiracy theorists are pretty much always treated as if they are insane. The notion that powerful people might secretly conspire to conceal evidence or direct an outcome - at the expense of the powerless - is often portrayed by mainstream culture and media as entirely irrational.

Indeed, there are crazy conspiracy theories out there (global warming is a hoax, anyone?). But sometimes, real conspiracies do take shape and those in power do collude to direct outcomes in secret. Nowhere is this more true than in the case of sexual abusers in elite institutions.

Recently, a slew of such elite institutions - from Yale University to the United States military (which we explored in our discussion of The Invisible War) - have been exposed as having become aware of systematic sexual abuse, and having suppressed evidence of it.

On 22 June of this year, Jerry Sandusky, an assistant football coach at Penn State University, was found guilty of abusing ten boys over the course of a decade and a half. At first, the Sandusky case at Penn State seemed like that of a lone abuser. Now, it seems to be turning into a story of extensive and shockingly high-level coverup of the known rape of children. A new trove of emails from 2001, read by a firsthand source to a CNN reporter last week, suggest that 15 young lives were not just ruined because Sandusky abused vulnerable boys for over 15 years, but were ruined, too, because powerful men around Sandusky knew exactly what he was doing - and colluded in detail with one another not to stop it.

In CNN's report on "disturbing emails" from principals around the 2001 Penn State abuse incidents, which were read to the reporter by a source who had access to them, a profoundly alarming pattern is clear. The emails show a whistleblower doing the right thing: in February 2001, graduate assistant Mike McQueary advised head coach Joe Paterno that he had seen what he believed to be Sandusky sexually interacting with a boy in a shower in the locker room. McQueary testified in the Sandusky trial that he saw Sandusky sexually assaulting the child.

Two administrators, Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, authority figures on campus - the only ones who could have gone to authorities - allegedly discussed a firsthand report of Sandusky abusing a ten-year-old child in a shower. They nearly decided to alert the police - or child protection officials - then allegedly agreed not to do so.

Schultz and Curley now assert that McQueary disclosed having witnessed merely "inappropriate conduct": "horsing around". Schultz and Curley both deny the allegations against them that they mishandled the original complaint and later lied to a grand jury investigation about it; they have asked a judge to dismiss the charges.

The alleged scenario, though, is familiar: institutional sympathy and leniency for a reported predator at the expense of the victim. The email trail also implicates Penn State's former president, Graham Spanier. Allegedly responding to the purported plan of Schultz and Curley to downgrade the incident and not report it to the Department of Welfare (which investigates child sexual abuse cases). Spanier reportedly writes that this approach is "acceptable" and "humane and reasonable", but worries that "the only downside for us is if the message [to Sandusky] isn't 'heard' and acted upon, and we then become vulnerable for not having reported it."

These alleged exchanges reproduce precisely the classic reactions to revelations of sexual abuse in groups ranging from families, to churches, to colleges. No one says, "We have a firsthand witness of the molestation of a child! And it's plausible because the police already investigated this guy for a similar reported incident. He has constant, unsupervised access to children: we need to report this guy at once and alert everyone responsible for their wellbeing!"

Instead, there is a collusive and immediate distancing of responsibility. There is - again, classically also - a collusive minimization of harm to the child; the abstraction of the child to an insignificant cipher ("the subject"); and finally, there is the joint agreement to extend the peculiar empathy patriarchy always seems to find at the prospect of a respected white man facing any public shame or discomfort. Better to sacrifice the victim's welfare and hide the affair from the scrutiny of justice, than endure the intolerable prospect of a high-status and trusted white man's secret sexual vices being exposed.

What is especially heartbreaking about the victims in this case is that these children, who were enrolled in Sandusky's Second Mile charity, were already vulnerable: they had no parents to confide in or to defend them, no adults around who would have been safe to speak to. That is the nature of a successful conspiracy: a watertight, 360-degree plot with no escape for its ensnared victims. That would have been these kids' reality.

One victim described at the Sandusky trial how, when Sandusky would abuse him in a basement, he knew Mrs Sandusky was on the floor above watching TV - but knew there was no point in going to her. That child would have picked up - as kids and victims in general do in a collusive coverup situation - that there would be no point in going to the Penn State authorities or other responsible adults.

Victims sense when everyone is in on protecting an abuser. They suffer three times over: first, the abuse itself; then, the betrayal of trust; and finally, the denial of the reality of their experience. It is that knowing act of suppression that makes such conspiracies criminal. your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+34 # Susan1989 2012-07-07 20:36
Protecting the white Christian male is what our political system is about and has been about since its founding. Unfortunately for this group, they will soon be very much in the minority and their over-inflated egos will receive a much-needed correction. The fact that so many children have been harmed by monsters like Sandusky (who was protected by those surrounding him) is an atrocity.
0 # thomachuck 2012-07-08 12:15
It is human nature to recoil from having eyewitnessed something like this and it is also natural to protect a loved authority figure from information that it has happened. There is a lot of conjecture in this article; people were protecting Joe Paterno and looking for a way to not have to come forward about it. You may call this nuance, but rather than organized collusion, people usually follow their noses on sexual misconduct: keep quiet because the victim surely will. Sad but I think true.
-2 # KittatinyHawk 2012-07-08 15:00
Joe did come forward....the School Board didnot want a scandal DUH that red head that ruined lives...why didn't he help the child, he could have protected many others, and perhaps gotten this taken care of without destroying families He was as guilty as Sandusky.
+6 # genierae 2012-07-08 13:15
The white male doesn't have to be Christian, many child molesters aren't religious. Yet they are still protected by those close to them, while the child is often demonized and shamed, with no one to take their part. In this society it's not taboo to molest a child, it's taboo to tell the truth about it.
0 # KittatinyHawk 2012-07-08 15:03
No child molester believes in anything. They know their actions are wrong, their guilt continues to drive them.

Victims think of themselves, those that come forward are made fools of. Many of us live with past abuse and molestation...d ue to fear or society and the Predators
+27 # Signor_Ferrari 2012-07-07 22:51
Curley and Schultz are not "the only ones who could have gone to authorities." They may have been the ones obligated by law to go to the authorities, but McQueary, Paterno, McQueary's dad, McQueary's friend, the janitor, the other janitors ALL could have gone to tha authorities. Whether the "authorities" would have responded depends whether they were running for governor at the time.
-2 # KittatinyHawk 2012-07-08 15:05
McQueary is as guilty as all the others sure but he is more guilty than Sandusky since he saw, heard and left the scene instead of using his cell phone or any office phone to call for help, then go and save the kid.
School Board is responsible for not bringing Actions immediately but then what about the dinero and perks.
+25 # Trismegistus 2012-07-07 22:52
It seems appropriate to convene a federal grand jury in order to investigate the possibility that local and state authorities were aware of reports of Sandusky's criminal activity. It seems likely that the authorities conspired to obstruct justice by ignoring evidence provided by witnesses such as Mike McQueary. The concerned public and the news media should lobby the federal prosecutor to investigate local and state officials.
-3 # KittatinyHawk 2012-07-08 15:08
McQueary should lose his job and benefits He could have called authorities, took pictures on his cell, and saved the kid but he chose not to. He chose to run to Joe P and blame him. I blame the School Board and the Authorities that should have followed the Rules regarding Molestation/rap e But McQ should not be allowed near kids...he allowed a child to be left with a man in a bad situation. If these people were being harassed then shame on their parents for not teaching them to scream...scream ...scream
+13 # nirmalandhas 2012-07-08 00:09
The extent to which males are sexually abused is still largely ignored...
+10 # Edith Ellen 2012-07-08 07:45
Nirmalandhas is correct in his statement that male sexual assault is still largely ignored (but so is female assault), but then it is easier to hide because of the societal views that "men should be men" -- otherwise take it and be quiet or the victim is the one who is a "sissy".

My eldest son was ten years old when he was sexually assaulted by, as he told me, a Gasgoyne, about 16yrs old, in small town Essex County while waiting to race me home. He always met me when I was finished teaching at the high school; less than three weeks before he committed suicide he asked me if I didn't remember him suddenly stopping the tradition he had established. I should have said 'yes'; instead I was truthful and said 'no'. He had been in therapy but I still didn't appreciate all the various pressures on him until it was too late.

The sexual assault on my ten year old firstborn led to many problems throughout his life. The final answer for his pain was suicide a few months before his fiftieth birthday.

I continue weeping.
-4 # nirmalandhas 2012-07-08 09:34
The fact that men are not supposed to have sex with men - especially in receptive mode - adds to the trauma.
+6 # genierae 2012-07-08 13:20
I'm so sorry, Edith Ellen, for your loss. So hard for a mother to bear, losing your beautiful son in this way.
0 # KittatinyHawk 2012-07-08 15:14
I am truly sorry for your loss.

As a victim we lived with it as we were afraid of consequences. But we told some friends while later, they put a beating on the guy. We never went to our bikes again without friends as they were in apt basement, where the incident happened by the 18 year old we were around 10 or 11.

I wish kids would come forward. I understand older you get the more unfriendly the authorities are, using sides of the coin. But there is no reason for child molestation today...Teach your children Facts and teach them to is the best defense.

We overlook many things, discount them in our busy lives. I cannot imagine the pain you live with. But hope you can turn it around, make awareness to others and the event will not have been without honoring your child and saving others.
+11 # RLF 2012-07-08 09:28
All becaause of the fake importance of the new 'Opiate of the masses' s.
+12 # CoyoteMan50 2012-07-08 11:10
I said from the very start that the 3 Penn State executives (Schulz, Spanier, et all) involved were afraid they's lose the corporate funding gravy train they were getting. Just like deer caught in the headlights they had to do damage control. Keep it quiet that is.

They could care less about the students or the reputation of the university.

They were simply afraid of losing corporate sponsorship money.
People: "Follow the money" and you find the criminals!
-3 # KittatinyHawk 2012-07-08 15:16
Amen McQuery is just as much to blame for leaving that child. he justified what Sandusky was doing.
+7 # Adoregon 2012-07-08 11:54
Smells [just] like the Catholic church to me.
0 # KittatinyHawk 2012-07-08 15:21
Really Kind of funny that you would have to bring that up. Seems lots of school masters in England were brought up on Charges of the same. Pedophile was never a sin it seemed in the Nation's Church.

Have never see UK be too keen on stopping it in other Nations/Countri es you once owned. In fact you outright ignored it for centuries.

There was numerous Rabbis caught, brought up on Charges. But Narrow Minded people only see what they want, so their world is very small and dirty.

I am a Catholic, I went to school for 12 years and never approached. I boarded at for awhile. Guess no one is perfect in any Faith... After all anyone who would give up being Married must be a pedophile. Why else would anyone want to teach, live in cloisters, actually do good work. What a joke! But considering mentality ....
+3 # charsjcca 2012-07-08 16:40
Recall that Barry Switzer created a scandal at my heart throb, the University of Oklahoma, and he stated that everybody who needed to know knew what was going on. That is the way college town operate. Happy Valley and Norman are the same, totally dominated by the football machine.
0 # Starheart 2012-07-09 00:23
What it all comes down to is that nobody cares, or wants to be bothered by rights violations whether it's a child being abused, people being tortured in a CIA prison or Homeland Security Agencies involved in repeated burglaries of American Activists.... The ACLU doesn't even want to be bothered by gross repeated, civil rights violations, in repeated burglaries of activists on Watch lists, and attorneys are too afraid to get involved either.
0 # billeeboy 2012-07-10 18:38
The sad truth is that people don't care much about children, despite all the verbiage of the Church and the "family" values of the right wingers.......

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