The Most Important Legacy of Joe Paterno

Sometimes the world moves in mysterious yet tragic and incredible ways. The story out of Penn State is an example. My wish as a Clinical Psychologist and an advocate for victims of sexual abuse is that Joe Paterno recognizes the unique and powerful moment in time that has been thrust upon him right here, right now. Joe Paterno must realize he has been given an opportunity to make real change around the issue of child sexual abuse. With his reputation and media power his most important legacy just might be to shine a bright light around this repugnant and horrible issue.

More important than any football game record or his reputation in college sports, would be his actions right now. If he can be brave enough to rise and do the right thing and carry the torch for all childhood victims of sex crimes to actually lead the charge and implore his followers to redirect their sadness and frustration around his departure toward something far more meaningful than the loss of a head football coach, he would make an indelible mark on history. I challenge him to come out and say Penn State did the correct thing in firing him and anyone who was neglectful or complicit in sweeping under the rug, the charges of child sexual assault against his former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.

So Mr. Paterno, I ask you directly, “Are you now strong enough to stand up and face the reality of what you turned away from and be the change agent our society desperately needs? Can you even at 82 years of age let go of your own ego and man up?

Mr. Paterno, the vulnerable kids need your powerful voice for their often ignored and silenced voices to finally be heard. Don’t let the footnote of your legacy be marred by the shame of ignorance and embarrassment of your avoidance of this highly organized and manipulative sexual predator named Jerry Sandusky. Let your life’s story go out in a blaze of glory around all those violated, manipulated and forgotten victims. Let your legacy end with something like this-

At the end of his life Joe Paterno’s heir apparent Jerry Sandusky was found out to be a child sexual predator of the worst kind. He was fired because of his turning a blind eye to the obvious questions and concerns that should have been addressed. A weaker man could have been taken down in shame and humiliation for lack of action but Joe Paterno was found to be not just a coach for kids but the voice they needed to pull the cover off the scourge of sexual predators on our society. Joe Paterno’s advocacy around sexual predator laws changed the worldview on this issue. Sentencing laws were finally changed to reflect the heinous and compulsive nature of this violent crime against the most innocent of victims. So child sexual predators were once and for all staying behind bars to never rape another child again. Joe Paterno became a real hero in November 2011.

So I am pleading for you to speak Joe! Guide those that look to you to be forces of action and change, and not contributors to abuse and neglect. Empower all of us to never turn away and to pursue our concerns when it comes to our children.

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