I love college sports. I won't go so far as to say I'm a big sports fanatic, but I love college sports, specifically college football. That love was sealed during my four years in Athens at the University of Georgia. There's nothing like game day in Athens. I love dressing up in red and black and cheering on the Dawgs. I have pride in the University, I have pride in Coach Mark Richt. I am proud to be a Dawg.
So when the news first hit about Jerry Sandusky, I knew that loyal Penn State fans and alumni would be wounded. They would feel betrayed by a man they trusted. The revelation that Sandusky had groomed and molested boy after young boy by using Penn State locker rooms, games, hotel rooms, etc. was even more shocking. But what may have been the biggest shock of all, is that so many people in power at Penn State made the conscious decision to not report and to cover up Sandusky's crimes.
The impact of their decision is both devastating and immeasurable. If you've read the Freeh Report, which is more than 260 pages long, you'll see where other molestations may have been prevented had those in power acted properly. But they didn't. For fear of harming the reputation of the school and the football program, they swept both the 1998 and 2001 reports under the rug. Those at Second Mile, the non-profit for youth started by Sandusky, considered the eye-witnessed sodomy of a young man in the shower by Sandusky a "non-incident".
I think by now, most people agree that the actions and inactions of those at the University were reprehensible. They knew or had reason to know that Sandusky was molesting young children, and they did nothing. By doing nothing, they provided, as the Freeh Report describes, the "very currency that enabled him to attract his victims."
Yet when the NCAA decision came down Monday morning, I was absolutely floored at the commentary I saw on news programs, read on Facebook and Twitter: "Did the NCAA go too far?"
My response? A resounding "No." The NCAA can't go far enough. No matter how much money Penn State is fined, those victims cannot be made whole. No matter how many wins of Paterno's are vacated, the memories of those boys in the shower stall will never be washed away. No matter how many bowl games aren't played, Sandusky's own son, adopted through his association with Second Mile, will likely never be able to trust again.
Just as the NCAA can't go "far enough," those at Penn State didn't do enough. The only person who went too far with his punishment was Jerry Sandusky. He imposed a life sentence on all the victims involved, and he marred the Penn State community for years to come.
While Penn State is getting much negative publicity regarding these vulgar and despicable crimes, sexual assault and molestation happens everywhere, including Southwest Georgia.
State legislation mandates certain professionals to report suspected or known cases of physical/sexual assault of children.
As for the rest of us, there is no legal mandate, just a human one. Children should never be abused and molested, but sadly, sometimes they are. If that happens, we have a responsibility as humans to provide them with a voice and remove them from their abusive situations.
To report, contact your local law enforcement agency, DFCS, or The Lily Pad Sexual Assault Center at (229) 435-0074.
Anyone at those agencies can help point you in the right direction, which will hopefully result in the child getting out of an abusive situation and the perpetrator being prosecuted accordingly.
Sandusky will never, in my opinion, get what he "deserves." There is no punishment severe enough, none that will undo what he has done. But we can make sure we do all we can to help children in our community get what they deserve, a life full of joy and love, free of abuse and neglect.
Karen Cohilas, chairperson of the Board of Directors of Lily Pad, a pharmaceutical sales representative and a former news anchor and reporter for WALB-TV. She is married to Chris Cohilas, an attorney with Watson Spence Law Firm, who previously served as the chief assistant district attorney in Dougherty County, prosecuting crimes against women and children. They live in Albany with their two children.