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The stunning question we are all asking

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Greg Couch

Greg Couch has been a national columnist at AOL Fanhouse and The Sporting News and an award-winning columnist at the Chicago Sun-Times. He was featured twice in "Best American Sports Writing" and was recognized by the US Tennis Writers Association for best column writing and match coverage. He covers tennis on his personal blog. Follow him on Twitter.

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The story of each “Victim’’ as the grand jury report lists them, starts so unexpectedly, so innocently, so naively. And it ends so horrifically, so painfully, so frighteningly. And you can’t stop it.

Eight victims, according to the grand jury findings of fact. Eight horror stories of allegations surrounding former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky.

Like Victim 2. A Penn State graduate assistant coach shows up at the football locker room unexpectedly, and hears slapping noises from the shower. Here’s what the report said:

“As the graduate assistant put the sneakers in his locker, he looked into the shower. He saw a naked boy, Victim 2, whose age he estimated to be ten years old, with his hands up against the wall, being subjected to anal intercourse by a naked Sandusky.’’

The assistant fled in fear and confusion. Much the same way a janitor fled after allegedly witnessing Sandusky engaged in a sexual act in the showers with a “young boy” — Victim 8, later described in the report as being “between the ages of 11 and 13.”

They fled? They didn’t help the boys? They didn’t call the police?

To read this report is to be sickened, but also to wonder why no one did anything to help.

And while the graduate assistant and janitor don’t get a pass, they were reacting to an emotional and horrifying scene.

Joe Paterno was not. Penn State athletic director Tim Curley was not. Penn State’s senior VP of finances and business Gary Schultz was not. Penn State president Graham Spanier was not.

They were acting, if the grand jury is right, in the most cool, calculating, self-preserving way. Curley and Schultz were charged with perjury and failure to report for allegedly failing to alert police when they learned of the alleged facts pertaining to Victim 2 in a meeting with the graduate assistant. And late Sunday night, the two stepped down from their positions at Penn State.

According to the report, no one even asked the name of some of these boys.

If the report is right, Paterno, leader of men for the past half century, simply called his athletic director and passed on the information of the rape his graduate assistant described to him; like telling your boss on a co-worker who is stealing staples from the supply closet.

No, Paterno, and the other school officials, did nothing to help the boys, or to help any other boys in the future.

They actually told Sandusky that he couldn’t keep bringing boys from his charity onto the Penn State campus, into the football facilities, according to the grand jury findings.

Not that they told him to stop doing to those boys what is alleged.

Just stop doing it here.

If that claim is true, Paterno needs to resign right now, though he is not charged with any crime. And yes, he reported it to his boss. But it’s fair to expect more from him.

What is alleged is a crime that thrives in the dark, when people are looking the other way. It is a crime with the most vulnerable and defenseless victims. So any time someone knows anything, or even suspects, it demands someone with the courage to speak up.

Or boys keep getting hurt. With no one calling the police, Penn State football marched on. And so did Sandusky for more than nine years, dealing with young, needy boys for most of them.

They just let him.

Look, if what is alleged is true, it’s important that we all see what’s happening here. A guy starts a charity to help disadvantaged boys. The guy is a football coach at a program that has been hailed as one of the few doing good things for young men, helping them to grow in the right way. They play in a town people call Happy Valley.

There is no such thing as Happy Valley.

But to protect it, no one did anything. To protect a myth. To protect a football program. We’ve got to stop treating football as a religion.

Seven counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse. That’s what Sandusky was charged with Saturday morning when he was arrested. Also, eight counts of corruption of minors, eight counts of endangering the welfare of a child, seven counts of indecent assault and 10 other counts.

This should be personal to all of us, whether we have children or not.

For the past several weeks, I have taken my 12-year-old son out to play basketball nearly every day. Seventh-grade hoops tryouts are Monday, and this is a crash course for a super tall, super athletic kid who hasn’t played much basketball before, but suddenly wants to now.

You know what he said to me Saturday as we walked off the court? “If I don’t make the team, can we keep doing this?’’

He is the same age as some of these boys in the Sandusky scandal. The grand jury report talks about boys hiding in the closet.

It is simple trust. That might be the most important thing our kids can feel.

And while I’m railing on Sandusky and Paterno and officials here, our thoughts need to be on those boys right now. They looked up to Sandusky. They trusted him. They are defenseless. They needed help, and Sandusky was the one to provide it.

The charity he founded was called The Second Mile. And, according to the grand jury, it was “initially devoted to helping troubled young boys.

“It was within The Second Mile program that Sandusky found his alleged victims. . . . It grew into a charity dedicated to helping children with absent or dysfunctional families.’’

Its mission? “Help children who need additional support and would benefit from positive human interaction.’’

Twelve-year-old boys today are a lot stronger and smarter than my generation was at 12. They have seen more. But they are still children. They are still fighting so many of the same old emotional uncertainties, as their minds and bodies start working their way into adulthood. They are not equipped to handle it all.

We send them off to see coaches and teachers for guitar lessons, tennis lessons, theater club.

Paterno has spent 50 years pushing an image of righteousness. If he is really about more than just football, if all these years really meant something, then Paterno would have done more than just pass the reports on to his boss and wash his hands.

It was not just football players counting on him. Victims 1 through 8 were, too.

Tagged: Penn State

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