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An independent report on Penn State’s handling of child sexual abuse allegations against Jerry Sandusky has been released, and it’s damning. The report, written by a team headed by former FBI Director Louis Freeh, finds that PSU’s top leaders engaged in a fourteen-year conspiracy to protect Sandusky from justice, a conspiracy that had beloved football coach Joe Paterno at its center.

Some excerpts from Louis Freeh’s remarks on the report, delivered just moments ago:

  • “Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State. The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized. “
  • “[Penn State President Graham] Spanier, [Vice President Gary] Schultz, [Coach Joe] Paterno and [Athletic Director Tim] Curley never demonstrated, through actions or words, any concern for the safety and well-being of Sandusky’s victims until after Sandusky’s arrest.”
  • Penn State leaders considered reporting Sandusky in 2001 but “changed the plan … after Mr. Curley consulted with Mr. Paterno … and decided not to make a report to the authorities.”
  • “Their failure to protect the February 9, 2001 child victim, or make attempts to identify him, created a dangerous situation for other unknown, unsuspecting young boys who were lured to the Penn State campus and football games by Sandusky and victimized repeatedly by him.”
  • “Further, they exposed this child to additional harm by alerting Sandusky, who was the only one who knew the child’s identity.”
  • Freeh rejects the four administrators’ stated reasons for failing to act, declaring that “it is more reasonable to conclude” that they “repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky’s child abuse from the authorities, the Board of Trustees, Penn State community, and the public at large … in order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity.”
  • “Although concern to treat the child abuser humanely was expressly stated, no such sentiments were ever expressed by them for Sandusky’s victims.”
  • Paterno was aware of an earlier “criminal investigation of Sandusky relating to suspected sexual misconduct with a young boy in a Penn State football locker room shower,” and indeed “followed it closely, but failed to take any action, even though Sandusky had been a key member of his coaching staff for almost 30 years, and had an office just steps away from Mr. Paterno’s.”
  • “Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley also failed to alert the Board of Trustees about the 1998 investigation or take any further action against Mr. Sandusky. None of them even spoke to Sandusky about his conduct.”
  • “In short, nothing was done and Sandusky was allowed to continue with impunity.”

It goes on like this for another page and a half, detailing what Freeh calls the group’s “callous and shocking disregard for child victims” of sexual abuse by their friend and colleague.

Freeh also notes that the Penn State Board of Trustees “failed in its duty to make reasonable inquiry into these serious matters and to demand action by the President” after they became aware of them via media reports in March 2011. In doing so, the board “failed to create an environment which held the University’s most senior leaders accountable to it,” allowing President Spanier to continue to stonewall them even as Sandusky, Curley, and Schultz were arrested in November of last year.

•          •          •

More details from the main body of the Freeh Report:

When Sandusky retired in 1999 — after top university officials were already aware of child sexual abuse allegations against him — he asked for and was granted a six-figure lump-sum payment above and beyond his substantial pension, a payment that several PSU officials said was unique in the recent history of the university. He was also granted emeritus status in violation of standard PSU policy on the awarding of that honor.

In addition to the unprecedented $168,000 payment and emeritus status, Sandusky requested while negotiating the terms of his retirement that he be given opportunities “to continue to work with young people through Penn State.” PSU granted this request, giving him and the youth group he worked with open access to the campus. In the next two years Sandusky would go on to sexually assault at least three more children on university property.

In 2001, following new evidence of child sexual abuse against Sandusky, PSU President Graham Spanier signed off on a proposal from his athletic director and head of campus police to “indicate” to Sandusky that “we feel there is a problem and we want to assist [him] to get professional help,” but not to provide their evidence to legal authorities. In a 2001 email, Spanier said that “the only downside for us” to this plan “is if the message isnʹt ‘heard’ and acted upon” — if Sandusky went on to sexually abuse other children — “and we then become vulnerable for not having reported it.” He called the decision not to inform police a “humane” and “reasonable” one.

The only action taken at the time was a March 2001 request that Sandusky no longer bring children to campus, a request he ignored — in August that year he committed another sexual assault on a child in the university’s showers.

“In the meantime, the Mobe held its own counter-inaugural event with a rally and speakers. Later that night they scheduled a counter-inaugural ball. One of the speakers was Marilyn Webb, representing the new women’s consciousness-raising groups. She had prepared a speech about the aspirations of women, demanding equality for women both in the movement and in the larger society. As Marilyn began her speech, dozens of men in the packed audience began to catcall and boo. When she continued, more men joined in and the din got louder. Some of them began to chant, ‘Take it off! Take it off!’ ‘Fuck her down a dark alley!’ Marilyn was stunned and hurt. Shulamith Firestone tried to continue with a second speech, but soon both women were forced to abandon the stage in the pandemonium…

“While the Mobe leadership — all men — were also upset by the attacks, they didn’t join Marilyn on the stage to back her up.”

—Cathy Wilkerson, SDS and Weather Underground activist, on the National Mobilization to End the War in Vietnam’s January 1969 protest of the Nixon inaugural.

Update | CK says he was unaware of the Tosh incident when he tweeted, a claim I find implausible. But he also says that the whole thing made him more aware of women’s experience of rape than he had been.

Louis CK is about a year older than me. He, like me, is a divorced joint-custody father of two. His daughters are each about a year older than mine, and like mine they go to pretty good New York City public schools. Like me he’s a bearded pasty Manhattanite who could stand to lose a few pounds. Like me he’s trying to be an anti-racist, anti-sexist, decent human being in the face of a hell of a lot of training to the contrary.

And he’s brilliant, so when he talks about his life and his worldview, he frequently says stuff I wish I’d said, or figured out before. Louis CK has stood on my television and told me true things about how I feel about being a parent that I didn’t know until he said them. He’s said serious things about serious things that I’ve repeated over and over.

And so I’m sad tonight, and pissed off.

If you don’t know the background, here it is:

Not long ago, on Tumblr, someone posted a note from a friend about how she’d inadvertently wandered into a Daniel Tosh standup show and how things got really creepy:

So Tosh then starts making some very generalizing, declarative statements about rape jokes always being funny, how can a rape joke not be funny, rape is hilarious, etc. I don’t know why he was so repetitive about it but I felt provoked because I, for one, DON’T find them funny and never have. So I didnt appreciate Daniel Tosh (or anyone!) telling me I should find them funny. So I yelled out, “Actually, rape jokes are never funny!”

I did it because, even though being “disruptive” is against my nature, I felt that sitting there and saying nothing, or leaving quietly, would have been against my values as a person and as a woman. I don’t sit there while someone tells me how I should feel about something as profound and damaging as rape.

After I called out to him, Tosh paused for a moment. Then, he says, “Wouldn’t it be funny if that girl got raped by like, 5 guys right now? Like right now? What if a bunch of guys just raped her…”

Yeah. So she left, obviously, and asked for a refund which she didn’t get, and then told the story to the friend who posted it. And then folks found out about it and reblogged it (or whatever the hell they do on Tumblr, I don’t know), and it got traction and eventually Tosh himself responded on Twitter:

“all the out of context misquotes aside, i’d like to sincerely apologize http://j.mp/PJ8bNs

That’s a non-apology, of course, since it doesn’t include any specific acknowledgment of wrongdoing. And it’s a particularly churlish non-apology since it accuses his accuser of unspecified sins. It’s bullshit, in short. But whatever, it’s Daniel Tosh, who was always an asshole. Why should today be any different?

And then Louis CK stepped in. Damn it.

Now, I should say that as righteous as CK has often been, he’s stumbled sometimes, as do we all. He’s made some moves I wouldn’t have made, said some things I wish he hadn’t. And he’s also said some things that I wasn’t sure how to take.

Specifically, he’s told some rape jokes. In each case, if I squinted, I could read them as rape culture jokes, jokes about how screwed up our society is when it comes to rape, jokes about how screwed up men are when it comes to sex and power and control. As a white guy, I don’t want to say white guys can’t make weird uncomfortable jokes about race and gender. Sometimes, in some contexts, we can and do. Sometimes in doing so we speak to important truths.

I’m not going to defend any specific joke tonight, and I’m not going to defend the general principle either. Maybe I’ve been wrong when I’ve done it in the past. I don’t know. What I do know is that I gave Louis CK too much credit for navigating those questions thoughtfully and consciously, because what Louis tweeted after Tosh tweeted his non-apology is this:

@danieltosh your show makes me laugh every time I watch it. And you have pretty eyes.

Dude. Come on.

Come on.

What we know about that night is that a woman says Daniel Tosh joked, after she called him on making rape jokes, that it’d be funny if a bunch in the guys in the audience raped her. How on earth is that funny? How on earth is that not fucked up?

I’m not going to say that Tosh was giving the guys in the audience a green light to rape that woman. But you can’t not say he was giving them the green light to screw with her. You can’t say he wasn’t sending them the message he thought it’d be funny if they made a bunch of jokes to her face, in a dark parking lot, about how they ought to rape her right there. You can’t say that if they did that, they’d have any reason to believe he’d think it wasn’t cool.

You know about jokes. You know far more than me about jokes. And that joke just isn’t okay.

An astounding story of police misconduct has been unfolding in Britain over the last year, as the press and the public have learned new details of the government’s decades-long infiltration of various political activist groups. Police officers, embedded in these organizations with false identities, are now known to have initiated sexual and romantic relationships with activists in order to gain information and establish their movement bona fides.

The latest such revelations are utterly mind-boggling:

In the mid-1980s married police officer Bob Lambert, deep undercover in the environmental and animal rights movements, engaged in at least two long-term sexual relationships with at least two activist women, one of whom became pregnant. Lambert was involved in the child’s life for two years before breaking ties with its mother, whom he never informed of his true identity.

And in another case an unnamed police officer deployed in a political group fathered a child with an activist, then disappeared from her life without warning when his assignment ended. Although he never re-initiated contact with either, he tracked them both through ongoing police reports on the woman, who remained under surveillance for her political activity.

Eight women duped into sexual relationships with undercover officers between 1987 and 201o are now bringing lawsuits against the London police force, charging that the officers’ acts were illegal and condoned by department higher-ups.

The sexual relationships were allegedly part of a larger pattern of misconduct in the undercover operations, which are also said to have involved officers listening in on conversations between activists and their lawyers and falsely testifying under their assumed identities at activists’ trials.

 

The trial of Dharun Ravi, who as a first-semester Rutgers student in the fall of 2010 allegedly drove his gay roommate to suicide with anti-gay harassment, may be televised on cable.

Ravi is said to have spied on Tyler Clementi twice via webcam while Clementi and another man hooked up in the two students’ dorm room, and to have livestreamed the feed online, encouraging his Twitter followers to tune in. Clementi sought help online and from his RA before committing suicide by jumping off the George Washington bridge a day later.

At a hearing on Friday, neither prosecutors nor defense attorneys raised objections to televising the trial, which is likely to begin in March. The judge in the case indicated that he would allow the broadcast to take place if the camera’s operation was unobtrusive within the courtroom.

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StudentActivism.net is the work of Angus Johnston, a historian and advocate of American student organizing.

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