Louis Freeh was commissioned by the Penn State Board of Trustees to investigate to what extent the late coach Joe Paterno and school administrators' were aware of Jerry Sandusky's sexual abuse of young people at Penn State. Freeh's report brings to the forefront statements that Paterno made to the grand jury stating that he was notified back in 2001 by former Penn State graduate assistant Mike McQueary that he observed Sandusky committing a sexual act with a minor in a locker room on Penn State grounds. After hearing McQueary's statement, Paterno advised him that he would take it from there. Although he reportedly did inform Penn State administrators of the situation, Paterno was highly criticized for failure to notify the state police that Sandusky was witnessed committing child sexual abuse. Freeh's report went on to state that Paterno knew for more than ten years that Sandsuky may have been a serial child predator and had been investigated back in 1998 for the same crimes. Highly critical of Penn State administrators and Paterno's failure to act and wanting answers, at one point Freeh requested an interview with the former football coach but was denied by Paterno's attorney. After Freeh's report was made public, attorneys and other experts hired by the Paterno family blasted Freeh for what they believe to be a biased report that paints Paterno in a bad light and does not take into consideration the entire situation at the time. Freeh countered by stating that his investigation was thorough and that he believes that the reason Sandusky was able to get away with victimizing children for his own sexual gratification for all those years was because Paterno and some of the most powerful high-ranking officials at Penn State turned a blind eye to Sandusky.
In response to the Freeh report, the Paterno family had their team of lawyers and experts develop their own report which was released on Sunday, February 10th stating that Paterno should not be blamed for the Sandusky debacle rather they encourage the public to understand Paterno's lack of understanding of a child sexual abuse. Believing he got a bad rap and his reputation besmirched, Paterno's family asked critics to take into account that the late coach felt remorse for not doing more to help Sandusky's victims and also to recognize that Paterno was not knowledgeable of how a sexual predator operates falling under the radar and out of suspicion. They say that Paterno might not have recognized that it is not just some dirty old man on the street touching young boys that it can also be and was in Sandusky's case a respected member of society affiliated with one of the largest universities on the East Coast. Nevertheless, Paterno's critics believe that he had the duty to act and even though Sandusky was a likeable guy to have an investigation launched especially since Sandusky committed some of these sexual acts on Penn State grounds.
Victims' advocates, Jennifer Storm, executive director of the Dauphin County Victim Witness Assistance Program and Tracy Cox from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, believe that all the Freeh report and Paterno family's counter report serve to do is to stir up talk about Sandusky putting the focus back on the predator and also bringing back to light Penn State and Paterno's lack of action failing the victims. In fact, these victim's advocates encourage the focus to be placed back on the victims to allow them to continue to heal and move forward in their lives. Tim Kline, who is the attorney for victim #5, stated that the Paterno family's report is clearly designed to repair Joe Paterno's broken image and to restore him back to a state of glory. Kline's opinion is that the report the Paterno's released does little to remove the tarnish that smeared his image right near the end of his life and to restore him to glory. Furthermore Kline said that there are indisputable facts about what Paterno did and said over ten years ago that cannot be refuted and ultimately do nothing to help the victims. Kline says that these reports are self-serving and the focus should be placed back on the victims.
The National Sexual Violence Center (NSVRC)stated in a Tweet that the Paterno and Freeh reports both "missed an opportunity to educate public on the identification of child sexual victimization". In an article published on January 30th, the NSVRC discuss the question many people want to know. Can a sex offender be rehabilitated? Research studies tend to conflict on this question. There are those who think that there is no rehabilitation that will help a sex offender to stop the behavior. There are others who believe early intervention programs that provide effective treatment to first time offenders shows promise in a reduction in recidivism. Despite that some therapeutic programs for sex offenders found about a 70% reduction in re-offending, strategies need to focus on preventing sexual offenders from acting on their impulses versus dealing with the after-effect in such cases such as Sandusky when children have already been victimized. With prison overcrowding an issue, finding ways to identify offenders before they act and later end up incarcerated is one way to make sure there are no new victims.
Whatever beef the Paterno family has the Freeh and his report, there is no changing the past. Sandsuky is incarcerated in state prison. Joe Paterno is deceased. Penn State will deal with the fall out from the scandal. And the victims will carry on and move forward in their lives. The Sandusky/Paterno/Penn State chapter is closed. It is time to think about the future and what steps can be taken to help child victims of sexual violence. There will be other sexual predators. Sandusky was not the first and certainly will not be the last. Child sexual abuse is preventable. Freeh talked about the positives that came out of the Sandusky case such as preventable measures Penn State has taken on to make sure that no other children are victimized by adults at the university. Prevent Child Abuse America says that the prevention of child abuse is everyone's problem and responsibility to fix. This advocacy organization encourage people to raise awareness of child abuse and educate the public especially lawmakers look at the research which helps to identify child abusers.They advocate for strengthening child abuse prevention programs and to shift the responsibility from the child to the adult. One of the first steps to make that happen is to report a suspected crime. There are ways to report suspected maltreatment and abuse anonymously through child help crisis hotlines. Individuals who work in certain professions such as social workers, teachers, physicians, mental health professionals, child care providers, coroners, police officers and others are required by law as mandated reporters to notify the authorities if a child is being neglected or abused. The outrage that critics still feel for Paterno and Penn State administrators goes back to their failure to act and turn a blind eye to what Sandusky was doing to his child victims. To protect their own reputations and/or reside in a state of ignorance, they did exactly what child abuse prevention advocates encourage people not to do place the responsibility of fixing the problem on the child and not the adult.