SAPAKOFF COLUMN: Penn State, Citadel can be turning points in fight against child molestation
A year ago, Joe Paterno was preparing for another winning season and Penn State was the world’s classiest major college football program. Now, stained class is shattered into little pieces.
In this classic tragedy, reputation got so great that otherwise good men made horribly bad decisions to hide the evil within.
Jerry Sandusky is the convicted child molester, but Penn State and Paterno were enablers. So the statue came down Sunday and the NCAA came down hard with statutes Monday.
Of course, we have our own child molestation case involving an esteemed institution and a once-respected leader of boys. There are sharp contrasts between the Penn State/Sandusky case and convicted molester Skip ReVille’s summer camp role at The Citadel, his alma mater.
Similarities include far-reaching potential.
Penn State nationally and The Citadel locally can soar as powerful centers of change, turning points in the fight against child molestation. Sandusky and ReVille are going away, the scourge is not.
Mere major college football wins, we see, can be vacated at any time. We need lasting heroes.
Penn State, in appealing the NCAA’s harsh sanctions that punish football players instead of trustees, should offer to divert or pledge gobs of cash toward programs that fight child abuse, child porn and child trafficking.
“You know, we all think that discipline is punishment, how are we going to punish someone,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said last week at the SEC Media Days. “What I always try to think of is, you know, what do we want the outcome to be? If there’s some kind of way that we could create a win-win, and I don’t really know what that is, I just threw out a tax on every ticket at every athletic event and donate all the money to organizations that prevent child abuse, would be more of a win-win than worrying about punishing someone.”
Pardon the coach’s obsession with winning, but that’s a start. Penn State can go beyond. Endow an entire new non-profit. Add a Child Molestation Prevention major.
Make a difference.
Same at The Citadel, which thankfully has decided to avoid embarrassment (and a bigger scandal) and allow an independent investigation to review its handling of a 2007 complaint involving ReVille in which a teen accused ReVille of watching porn and masturbating with young boys at a summer camp in 2002.
ReVille went on to a busy career as youth coach, teacher and Bible study leader. He was sentenced to 50 years in prison in June after pleading guilty to molesting 23 boys in the Charleston area.
The Citadel can pledge gobs of money toward child abuse prevention, counseling and awareness programs.
As early stories of ReVille’s ties to The Citadel broke last November, Citadel President John Rosa made sure to say the Penn State case was much different. Yes, Sandusky raped kids on campus and no administrator in The Citadel case doubles as an on-campus statue.
But Rosa admitted The Citadel had “lost public trust.”
Skip ReVille is the convicted child molester, but The Citadel might not fare well in a Louis Freeh-style independent report.
Eventually, The Citadel can regain trust.
Penn State can revive respect.
Meanwhile, folks in Charleston, State College and around the country can divert disgust into action without waiting for the contents of a report or appeal. We have plenty of anger out there, not enough volunteers.
Want to get involved?
Check out Darkness To Light (www.d2l.org), the Dee Norton Lowcountry Children’s Center (www.dnlcc.org), the South Carolina Volunteer Guardian Ad Litem program (www.oepp.sc.gov/gal/) and many other services helping the young people that have more needs than Penn State has vacated wins.
Reach Gene Sapakoff at 937-5593 or on Twitter @sapakoff