Tim Green warns Penn State students against turning Jerry Sandusky into a verb.
The hair on the back of my neck stood tall when the sister of one of Jerry Sandusky’s victims, decrying, in an NPR interview, the lack of concern for the violated young boys, said that the term, “Sandusky-ed,” is being used throughout State College.
Roommate: “How was your Econ exam?
Student: “It sucked. I got sandusky-ed by the professor.”
Translation: “I got butt-fucked because I wasn’t prepared.”
Unfortunately, eight other guys got butt-fucked because they weren’t prepared; the problem is they were young innocent kids.
Word play is cheap, lowbrow humor, replete with opportunities for sexual double-entrendres. It trivializes what has been labeled the worst scandal in the history of college athletics, continuing the pattern of denial that permeates this entire saga. Annus horriblis is reduced to anus horriblis, compartmentalizing the felonies, ignoring the stain that has been indelibly cast on the reputation of Penn State and the legacy of Joe Paterno.
My own experience of childhood sexual abuse pales by comparison. It comprised a single incident. The predator was a stranger. For years, it ruined my life. I can only imagine the toll eight young men have paid with their scarred lives.
I was a pre-adolescent living in a lower-middle-class community in upstate New York. We were bussed to school with the caveat that participation in after-school activities meant you were responsible for your own return transportation. I was also the son of an alcoholic, mentally ill mother who was a stay-at-home parent, not by anyone’s preference, but because she couldn’t function in normal society. Picking up her children after school was not on her agenda—neither would it have entailed a safe bet to ride with her, had it been.
It was the Beaver Cleaver 50s, and kids hitchhiked without concern for where they were on the maturation curve. That afternoon, I stuck out my thumb and a truck emblazoned with “Parker’s Peony Farm” stopped. I scrambled up into the cab. It didn’t occur to me to feel unsafe. If it had, I probably would have been comforted by the implied endorsement of the local landscaper. Midway home, the driver turned on to a deserted country road and attempted to have his way with me. Finally I was able to navigate the shock and disbelief enough to start sobbing and screaming, gaining my escape. I raced down an abandoned railroad bed, turned the corner onto my street, never more in need of parenting, when I encountered what I desperately did not want to see: whenever my mother was on a drunken tirade, our otherwise formidable Norwegian Elkhound would cower against the back fence. And so it was that day.
I knew instinctively that I could not trust anyone enough to report what had just happened. I suppressed everything, so successfully that I didn’t think about the incident for decades. Then one night when I was attempting to come to terms with my wife’s request for a divorce, my abandonment issues had been so triggered that I sat up in bed and relived the entire experience in excruciating detail. It has now been 20 years since I faced the demon that nurtured so many struggles. It doesn’t own me today, but if I let my mind wander, I can still feel my assailant’s filthy hands, smell his sweat, and be repulsed by his beer gut. Those white jeans I was wearing that were all the rage? If I still owned them, I’d probably be role-playing Pilate, obsessed with getting the stains out.
The main takeaway, which haunts me to this day, is: “What if I had been able to go to the authorities? How many other kids might have been saved?” It’s not like they wouldn’t have been able to finger this guy. Likewise, how many of the young boys at Penn State might have been saved from the horrors that haunt them by responsible parties immediately going to the authorities?
To make a verb form out of the name “Sandusky,” moreover using it in a passive tense, implies an air of legitimacy and inevitability and ascribes an irreverent casualness to heinous crimes, as if they were every day events. Inviting the word into the school’s vernacular is the ultimate proof of the corruption extant in the Penn State culture.
The GMP on Penn State:
Paterno and Pedestals, Julie Gillis
When the Game Becomes Religion, Gary Percesepe
Male Lust Arrives in Happy Valley, Tom Matlack
Destroying a Young Boy’s Soul, Ken Solin
Power Is at the Core of Sexual Harassment, Mervyn Kaufman
Men, Monsters, and the Media, Nicole Johnson
Loyalty and Responsibility at Penn State, Andrew Smiler
Jerry Sandusky and Penn State: A Familiar Story, Sophia Sadinsky
I Failed, Rick Morris
—Photo Andy Colwell / AP