As the sun rose on the African plains Saturday morning and I turned on my old internet machine, I found the news that I—and Penn State supporters around the world—have longed to hear for the past eight months.
Sandusky is going to jail.
A jury of Jerry Sandusky’s Centre County peers found him guilty on 45 counts of child sex abuse on Friday night, and while nothing can ever undo the heinous crimes that were done, this feels like a just and healthy first step towards healing. The perpetrator won’t hurt any more children; he’s finally going to be held accountable for his sins.
I read some sentiments saying that this verdict means nothing, that more parties should suffer for Sandusky’s crimes, the more penalties should be levied against the Penn State community. Outsiders are entitled to their opinions.
As someone with the Penn State community, I also have my opinions.
I am still upset about the Penn State administration’s response—the athletic director, the director of campus security, and the president. Their subordinates reported suspicious activities and potential crimes to them on a few occasions. They did not take sufficient action, and the public demands to know why.
I am still upset about law enforcement’s response (including Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett when he was Attorney General) to allegations in the late-nineties. They decided not to press charges against the then-defensive coordinator for Penn State. They did not take sufficient action, and the public demands to know why.
But I am relieved that the jury came back with a guilty verdict. Some painted the State College community as football-crazed idol worshippers who would rather win a meaningless game than forbid sodomy against innocent children. They scoffed that a Penn State jury would protect a former Penn State icon and that Sandusky would walk. They ignored our steady and constant outrage over Sandusky’s crimes, focusing instead on our disgust with the Board of Trustees’ management of the scandal and our mourning over the end of Joe Paterno’s career and life.
Hear this: the Penn State community is exultant that justice was served for Jerry Sandusky.
The healing is not complete. We do not have closure. We’ll never be totally healed or be able to put this sadness behind us, but this was an important first step in that direction.
The scandal doesn’t end here. In addition to the parties above who need to account for their knowledge of Sandusky’s behaviors, some will still ask for Penn State’s entire university to be crucified for one man’s sins.
I would simply ask them to consider a few facts. Most sexual predators are experts in subterfuge. Rarely is an offender caught in his first attempt—usually it’s many years and many victims later that mere hints of the truth emerge. Penn State players are devastated that their former coach hid this from them all along. LaVar Arrington wrote a regretful article for The Washngton Post last week wishing he’d done more. (Joe Paterno said the same thing before his death.)
Former PSU linebacker Andre Powell said after the verdict, “You wrestle with the fact someone you looked up to, respected, honored, is convicted of just horrible charges. It’s hard to balance and grasp that."
Former Penn State coach Dick Anderson stood by Sandusky in his trial, either in ignorance of the truth or in blind loyalty to his old friend. Sandusky’s wife Dottie—who testified on his behalf in the trial—either was lying to keep her husband out of jail, as many assume, or turned a blind eye to years of suspicion. It’s minutely possible that even she missed the hundreds of signs of misconduct through the years. The best of the best sexual predators can deceive even those closest to them.
The classic response of friends, family, and acquaintances in most cases of sexual abuse is, "How could I not have not known? How could I not have seen the signs? How could I have believed in this person?"
When you think of those within the Penn State community who knew Sandusky, remember this. When you think of those within the Penn State community who didn’t know Sandusky, remember that one despicable monster doesn’t represent the hundreds of thousands of us worldwide who obey laws, follow high moral standards, and make positive contributions to society and mankind across the globe.
When the sun sets on the African plain tonight, I will be relieved knowing that Jerry Sandusky will be incarcerated for the rest of his life. I will also continue praying that the victims can find some solace in this verdict.
While I’ll still be sick over the details of the past eight months, you should also know this: I won’t regret my allegiance to the larger Penn State community and its positive impact on the world around us.
Ryan Murphy is a regular contributor for Nittany Lions Den. His new book Ring The Bell: The Twenty-two Greatest Penn State Football Victories of Our Lives is availabe through Amazon and Father's Press.