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Child Abuse Expert: ‘I Wish I Had Been Wrong’

(credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

(credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

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By Patrick Perion-

(Editor’s Note: Patrick has been a child abuse investigator since 1994 and has interviewed thousands of children about child abuse, child sexual abuse and neglect. Patrick is otherwise known as “Quad City Pat”, a frequent caller to the Boers & Bernstein Show.)

(CBS) With Thursday’s release of the Freeh Report on the Penn State child rape scandal there is closure for a number of people. As one of the people out in front of the case, there’s no small amount of vindication for me and many others like Dan  Bernstein and Terry Boers at 670 The Score, Dan Wetzel at Yahoo! Sports and Gregg Doyel at CBSSports.com.

In this case, however, I take no pleasure in being right. In fact quite the opposite, I wish I had been wrong.  Had I been wrong, it would have meant that at least 10 boys weren’t brutally raped and thrown away.  Had I been wrong a venerable football coach and institution wouldn’t have covered up such a heinous crime.  Had I been wrong, any number of “great men and citizens” would not be running around apologizing for the coach and the institution. Had I been wrong, a charity that was a harvesting ground of victims, would have been doing good works and truly helping those kids.

It was revealed in the Freeh report that Penn State, including Paterno, Curley, Schultz and Spanier, consistently put the fear of lawsuits and the image of Penn State in front of the needs of the children that Sandusky raped. Paterno has been outed as a liar, a manipulator and a man of no character or integrity. Curley, Schultz and Spanier are the quisling sycophants who did his bidding.

This entire sordid story of the cover up reminds me not so much of a Greek tragedy, but of a very modern American problem, organized crime.  The parallels are eerily similar.  At Penn State you had the godfather in Paterno who was viewed by many as a kind and benevolent man, giving time and money to charities and the arts.  John Gotti and Al Capone were patrons of the arts too. While Paterno’s capo’s weren’t killing people they were helping kill the childhood of young boys.

Even with the revelations today, some are still defending Paterno. Most of these people are former players such as Matt Millen who rhetorically asked, “Does one mistake outweigh 50 years of good?”  Yes, Matt, it does. This wasn’t one mistake, this was a massive cover-up.  Just because Paterno came off as a doddering old buffoon doesn’t mean that he was.

I’m reminded of a classic Saturday Night Live skit. Phil Hartman played a doddering Ronald Reagan to the cameras and as soon as the cameras were gone, he was the field general orchestrating Iran Contra. To me, Paterno was exactly the same. He was the organ grinder while he made the monkeys dance.

Lavar Arrington, another defender of Paterno, said that Paterno and Penn State had molded great men in  the forge of the football program.  Great men would have taken a stand against Penn State and Paterno. Calling both out as frauds would, to me, have been an indicator of greatness.

No, the only great men in this case are the victims who came forward, testified and won. They had the courage, the depth of character and fortitude to withstand horrific abuse and tell the world about it. If Penn State and Paterno had shown any of the character that was shown by Sandusky’s victims, this would have stopped in 1998, if not sooner.

As I mentioned before, there is closure for a great many people today. Unfortunately this isn’t the end of child rape, nor is the end of secrets. I wish I was wrong, but I know I’m not.

Patrick is a 1990 graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport IA. He’s been working in child welfare since 1988. Since 1994, he has been a child abuse investigator and has interviewed thousands of children about child abuse, child sexual abuse and neglect. He was certified in forensic interviewing of child sexual abuse victims in 1999 and received an advanced certification in 2001. He’s also been a trainer of forensic interviewing for child welfare professionals and law enforcement officials. On a personal note, he out kicked his coverage in marrying his wife Nicole and he has two wonderful daughters. Follow Patrick on Twitter @QuadCityPat and read his blog. He is not a spokesperson for his employer and his opinions are his own.