07/23/2012 07:06 pm ET Updated Sep 22, 2012

A Penn State Graduate Mourns


Watching the Penn State scandal unfold has been emotionally overwhelming. As a recent graduate, I have been horrified while feeling everything from anger to pain to depression. As the NCAA handed down unprecedented penalties to Penn State University's athletic program, these emotions continued to swirl.

While at Penn State, I thought of Joe Paterno as I think of my own grandfather. He was someone I looked up to, someone I respected, someone I trusted, someone who I knew would do right when confronted with the choice. Unlike some from the national media, I do not revel in his downfall; I am saddened by it. He was a respected man who lived his life in a way that I revered... I still think of him warmly as I remember passing his small home as I rode my bicycle to class. To us, the people of Happy Valley, JoePa was more than a coach. He was a man who stood for winning respectably, a person who stood for doing the right thing. I think that is why I continue to have trouble with the reports and the cover-up.

Louis Freeh's report says that Paterno and others "repeatedly concealed critical facts" about the child sex-abuse scandal. How? Why? What happened that football became so important at an educational institution? I don't understand. It is absolutely unacceptable that this happened!

For those of us who have been abused or are close to someone who has been abused, we realize that sexual abuse can change a life and can follow a victim to adulthood and beyond. The horror of the abuse can overwhelm and haunt. It can cause feelings of powerlessness, depression, and hopelessness. These feelings of insecurity can follow a victim for a lifetime.

How can the abuse of a minor not be more important than football? How can otherwise smart and informed people choose to put a program above children, the reputation of a man above his victims and the future of a school above the people it is supposed to help? But rather than dwelling on the past and drowning in anger and sorrow, I hope we seize this opportunity to wholeheartedly fight child abuse. I have struggled with losing an idol, but there is no grey area in the matter of reporting known child abuse.

Yet as I write this, I hope that those who have pointed fingers as JoePa will take the time to look at their own lives. It is easy to see Penn State's faults, but how many of us judge Paterno while putting our careers above our children, our materialistic "needs" over the long-term sustainability of our environment, and our own comfort over the comfort of billions who live in poverty all over the world -- but my frustration with hypocrisy of the media is a subject for a different day.

Today, the people of Penn State should take the time to grieve with those who were hurt by Sandusky and to understand that the punishment is harsh but warranted.