Penn State riots for rape

students holding sign saying we loev joepaStarved for worthwhile causes for which they can take to the streets, the Youth of Today have chosen bravely, nay heroically, to take up that most honorable of riot-inciting aims: the defense and protection of an alleged enabler of serial sexual assault and child rape.

It’s hard to know where to start or what to say when faced with events like these.

I could talk about the chilling effect of massive, violent, and public shows of support on the willingness of victims and survivors of sexual assault to come forward with their stories.

Or I could quote my friend and fellow member of feminist group Permanent Wave Heidi Vanderlee, who wrote last night in an incredulous email about the rioting that “football is pretty much a religion at that school, which, ironically, makes this more similar to the abuse that happens in the Catholic Church than we could even realize .”

Or, I could quote the rioters themselves, via the New York Times, without further comment:

riots at penn state

““We got rowdy, and we got maced,” Jeff Heim, 19, said rubbing his red, teary eyes. “But make no mistake, the board started this riot by firing our coach. They tarnished a legend.”

“It’s not fair,” Mr. Muir said hurling a white ribbon. “The board is an embarrassment to our school and a disservice to the student population.”

Read this entire New York Times article about the riots that occurred at Penn State last night after Joe Paterno and Penn State President Graham Spanier were fired by the Board of Trustees and try to maintain a little faith in humanity. Go ahead, give it your best shot.

Brooklyn, NY

Lori Adelman is Executive Director of Partnerships at Feministing, where she enjoys creating and curating content on gender, race, class, technology, and the media. Lori is also an advocacy and communications professional specializing in sexual and reproductive rights and health, and currently works in the Global Division of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. A graduate of Harvard University, she lives in Brooklyn.

Lori Adelman is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Partnerships.

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  • lalareina

    I think this is wildly unfair to the students of Penn State. I know in circles like these there tends to be a knee jerk reaction to most things sport-related but I need the facts of EXACTLY what Paterno knew and when.

    • SamBarge

      Well, Paterno knew in 2004 that Sandusky was observed, by a graduate student, raping a 10 yr old boy in the showers. The grad student reported it to Paterno, who reported it to the President of the university and nothing was done. I assume Paterno noticed that Sandusky hadn’t been arrested and no police officers were hanging around…

      Personally, rioting over this issue – a football coach?! – is crazy. I don’t think it’s unfair to point out the callousness of these entitled students to the suffering of children who were raped while Paterno looked the other way.

      • feminister

        Paterno knew as early as 1998.

    • anyadnight

      I don’t think the “reaction” comes from sports. I think it comes from systematically-maintained serial rape. It is a fact that Paterno was aware of what was happening. How is this unfair to a group that cares more about a football coach’s legacy than rape victims? She used their own quotes!
      These facts were recorded in a grand jury indictment. Paterno admits he was told about the abuse, told no police officers. There is nothing “knee-jerk” here except for football fans jumping to defend a successful coach even when his actions contributed to years of rape and abuse on their campus; that’s the legacy they should be worried about. If Paterno wasn’t fired it would have communicated to abuse victims that Penn State puts its pride first.

  • Christine

    It is of course devastating and hard for these students to comprehend how this man they looked up to and who they considered to be a major part of their college experience could willingly hide the abuse of children, and I am sure that is part of where their anger is coming from. My hope is that these kids are just angry and upset by everything surrounding this tragedy. And that one day, with time and maturity, they’ll realize their anger shouldn’t be directed at the Board of directors for doing the right thing. And though I think most people can understand anger at the media for any number of reasons, hopefully they’ll realize the media didn’t cause this.

    Their anger should be directed first and foremost at Jim Sandusky, and then at the levels of hierarchy that hid his actions. And that includes Joe Paterno.

  • Andrew

    What happened? Did the Yale “no means yes, yes means anal” chanters suddenly transfer to Penn State?

  • Alexandra

    Looking for a little faith in humanity (or at least in students, not in the police)? Check out the stories about the UC Berkeley students who protested against tuition hikes and for public education and remained peaceful and unified in the face of completely unwarranted violence by the UC police.

  • Brüno

    ALLEGED rapist. Nobody sees a problem with the mop out in the street demanding conviction, well until Duke Lacrosse, but that lesson is fading fast. How is it any more wrong to be out in support for somone of whom you have made your mind up, that he really didnt do it, than being out in support for a guilt verdict, when you made your mind up that he did really do it?

    Either you live with the fact that the sword can cut both ways or you demand that both sides stay put, till after the case, not just the ones you agree with.

    • Jenn

      Paterno is not the police, right? Nobody is saying that what he did wrong was to fail to lock someone up or fail to demand that someone be prosecuted for rape. What he did wrong is that he did not alert the police that they should investigate the situation to find out the truth. Paterno’s and others’ inaction blocked an investigation into the truth. That’s what he did wrong. Saying that doesn’t require a premature assumption that the accused is actually guilty. This is not the counterpart of the Duke case.

    • feminister

      Have you even read the grand jury’s report? Those allegations have already become an indictment from the grand jury, and Sandusky will be convicted without a doubt.

      *Extreme Trigger Warning*

    • natasha

      What do you have a problem with? There’s nothing to object to in this post, as far as I can see. They never disputed that Sandusky was an alleged rapist, so what reason do you have to put alleged in all caps, as if it’s a correction? Unless i’m missing something, the outrage over the whole incident is the fact that police were never notified about the alleged crime in the first place by the college. Not contacting the police about the alleged sexual abuse was a crime in and of itself, regardless of whether the original allegation actually happened or not. The university had an obligation to protect these kids, and actually do something about it. How can you say both sides stay put until after the case, when this side is simply trying to get a case done in the first place? That doesn’t make someone automatically make up their mind about Sandusky’s guilt or innocence, it makes them want to see an actual investigation and trial.

  • Marion Fyshe

    While I am unsure of the developments in the case against Sandusky, the whole Paterno fiasco seems too steam from the fact that he did nothing to stop what he knew/thought to be abuse. Whether or not Sandusky is innocent was not something that should have been decided by Paterno himself but, rather, a court of law. Such strong accusations warrant an investigation.

    I’m glad there are blogs like this one and the one I’ve posted below to help restore my broken faith in humanity. At least some people care more about rape then football. Even those who, like myself, love football.

  • Celeste

    As a student (who happens not to go to Penn State) I am particularly appalled by these riots as a reflection of “Youth of Today.” These rioters’ actions undermine legitimate student protests and turn student activism into a joke in the rest of the nation’s eyes. Why would a country or school administration or public listen to students after they tipped over a news van to defend someone who assisted a serial child molester? Their actions are causing the public to question the validity of student voices, but I hope we can remember that these Penn State students are not all of the “Youth of Today.”

  • Rachael

    Penn State, across its many campuses, has 96,000 students. Please don’t generalize our student body. The violent, knee-jerk response to Joe Paterno’s termination does not accurately represent how the majority of PSU students feel. Most of us are deeply saddened by and ashamed of Jerry Sandusky’s crimes and our administration’s cover-up. There was is a candle light vigil scheduled for tomorrow night. We’ll see if it gets any media coverage.

  • Courtney

    This whole thing is so heartbreaking. I mean I understand Paterno was a legendary coach and I don’t want to judge everybody at Penn State for rioting but it’s difficult not to when I have to deal with facebook friends outraged simply because he got fired. I don’t know all the facts but I do know Sandusky had supposedly been doing this for a while, that somebody witnessed it and told Paterno in 2009, and that nothing happened. Also this was supposed to be Paterno’s last year so my guess (and I might be completely wrong) is that they were waiting it out so he wouldn’t get fired. Again, that’s just conjecture.

    Seeing the riots on TV made me really upset. I understand that the students at Penn State are probably devastated but it seems like no one has paid any attention to the real victims of this tragedy and are simply sad that a legendary football coach is gone. Situations like this are incredibly difficult – when a guy who has been somebody’s hero for so long turns out to allegedly be an enabler of a child molester, things get a little crazy.

    By the way, I also think it’s incredibly important to point out the similarities between this situation and all of the things that have been going on in the Catholic Church. People know about it, people even own up to it, but no one has really ever paid. The Church as a whole has never truly done anything about it. When a priest is found to be molesting boys, he gets a retreat to “rehabilitate.” This is so dissappointing for me because I grew up Catholic, and while I may not be involved in the Church currently, it still has an important place in my upbringing and people who I love and who are wonderful people are still devoted Catholics. It’s just a shame that this stuff has to happen and it so often just gets swept under the rug.

    • toongrrl

      Yes. I feel the same way especially about the Church, I still go to Mass but it hurts that people I hold dear go to the temple of repressive doctrine. I hope that the media would shine a light on the students that are outraged for the right reasons.
      Also Jon Stewart made that same point on The Daily Show

    • Robert

      I’m a big sports fan but don’t idolize anyone. If it’s proven that Paterno knew about all this then I have no respect for him. I think it’s funny (in a sad way) how he is so idolized there. I know college football is big in certain American cities but it pales in comparison to other sports on a global scale.

      The comparison to the Catholic Church is so accurate. My parents are Catholics but I don’t have a religion. My biggest problem with Catholics is that they do the opposite of what the bible says. I’m not saying the bible is true but if their religion is based on what the bible says why do they worship anyone other than “God”? It’s just stupid to me. Anyways, on the Colin Cowherd sports radio show an adult male called the show and talked about the effect on his life after being molested by Sandusky. He said those students wouldn’t be protesting if they got molested. This adult male sounded shaken after many years.

  • Nina

    I think there is a lot more to this story than we will probably ever know.

    What happened to the DA investigating Sandusky?

    A lot of people knew about what this guy was doing – what I want to know is, why didn’t ANYONE do anything. It’s one thing for the administration to cover things up, but entirely another for a DA to do it too. I am not undermining the heinousness of what Penn State did, just pointing out that the absurdity of this cover-up is escalating with each passing day (at least to me).

  • James

    Anyone who goes to Penn State should start looking at transferring ASAP. Honestly, I don’t see any employer in their right mind risking fostering harboring a culture that covers up sexual harassment by hiring a Penn State grad. I certainly know I won’t.

    Penn State needs to undergo some serious contrition after these displays. Like “dismantle the entire football program” contrition.

    • honeybee

      Couldn’t disagree more. Why would an employer judge the 100,000 students of Penn State b/c of something a coach did years ago? That makes no sense whatsoever.

      They already fired the coach which is more then most wanted, football will go on as usual going forward.

      You haven’t followed much of the world if you think your suggestions have any chance of happening. People have short attention spans, football trumps all to some, and it’s not even clear yet who to blame. This will be old news in no time.

  • Tiffany Henchenski

    I believe this article misses the mark completely. Students at Penn State, and I know because I currently am one, are beyond upset about the victims. That is first and foremost, sympathy for the victims can be felt all around the campus from donations for child abuse prevention to the candle light vigil that happened on Friday.

    But I can honestly say that I am not ashamed of the riots that happened here at PSU. If you read the grand jury report then you would know that Joe Paterno followed protocol. He reported it to his superior (Curley) and then reported again to the head of the police department…let me restate that, head of the police department, Gary Schultz. Curley and Schultz then called the graduate student (McQueary) who actually witnessed the rape in for a meeting. So an investigation of the matter seems to be happening. What else was Joe Paterno supposed to do at this point? The police were supposedly handling it.

    Joe Paterno followed protocol, he did not enable a child molester in anyway. He reported it to his superior and once more he reported it to the highest ranking police official. These facts seem to be missing from the article above and most of the other articles on the scandal. Instead of focusing on the ones who actually did cover up the scandal, Curley, Schultz, and Spanier the media targeted Joe Paterno, the only one who did in fact follow protocol. This heavy media emphasis on Joe Paterno, in PSU students’ eyes, put pressure on the Board of Trustees to fire him. It is not a coincident that a news van got tipped over instead of a normal van.

    The rioting was to show support for not just our football coach but for the one person who did what he was supposed to do when it came to reporting abuse. Yes, we do see Joe as our hero because he has earned that title from instilling success with honor in all facets of student life not just the football team. If we are upset about him getting fired let us be upset, we are entitled to our feelings and the actions we take.