Bullies Force “Victim One” Out of School: Homophobia & the Penn State Scandal

Victim One, the first of the alleged victims of former Penn State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, has had to leave his school, Central Mountain High School, in the midst of his senior year. Bullying is the reason, a counselor said on Sunday: Mike Gillum, a psychologist who is helping Victim One and his family, said that the 17-year-old has received verbal threats and been the object of name-calling. He noted that “officials at Central Mountain High School in Clinton County weren’t providing guidance for fellow students, who were reacting badly about Joe Paterno’s firing and blaming the 17-year-old.”

Alleged victims have been turning to each other for support. Gillum says that Victim One has been heartened by seeing others encouraged by him to speak out too. Says Gillum,

“He feels good about that. That’s the one good that’s come of all this.”

When contacted, the school district where Victim One is a student, said that it would be “inappropriate” to comment.

To say that the scandal, in which Sandusky has been accused of sexually abusing eight boys starting in the 1990s, has caused the powerhouse university to take a hard look at itself is no understatement. English professor Michael Bérubé is the Paterno Family Professor in Literature and director of the Institute for the Arts and Humanities at Pennsylvania State University. In a recent New York Times op-ed, Bérubé describes the “bitter reckoning” the Penn State community of some 6,000 faculty members and 45,000 students who are “every bit as disgusted and horrified as you are” and the extent to which the fortunes and even the reputation of the university have become tied to Penn State football:

I have had but one substantial encounter with Mr. Paterno, a postgame dinner 10 years ago (the Paternos host 50 or 60 guests on such occasions) during which I talked to him about Virgil and “Moby-Dick” — which he said he had recently reread. He noted that Ahab is furious that the whale can descend to the depths while Ahab himself remains on the surface of things. Since then, I’ve spoken chiefly to Sue, who works with Special Olympics and is friendly to my 20-year-old son, Jamie, who has Down syndrome. I’ve let her know that I’ve used the Paterno Fund for arts and humanities programming and disability studies. In this debacle, there seems no reason to think of her with anything but compassion.

And yet there is a sense in which the Paternos’ academic legacy makes the scandal worse, or more complicated, insofar as their reputation for academic integrity was well earned. Because of that reputation, Penn State faculty members were permitted to feel less conflicted about the school’s football program than our counterparts elsewhere; we took pride in the fact that the school had never run afoul of the N.C.A.A. and that its football coach benched star players for missing class. Now we are in shock.

To what extent did not only Paterno, but the administrators running the university plus many other members of Penn State, stick to “the surface of things” without plumbing down into the depths of what was really going on in every corner of the university?

Is every program supported by the Paterno Fund, by the proceeds of the university’s football program, now as tainted by allegations of a scandal involving the sexual abuse of boys by a once esteemed assistant coach and in the very showers used by the university’s football team?

Writer Daniel Mendelsohn takes a hard look at the deep-running denial among Penn State officials and others. If assistant coach Michael McQueary had seen Sandusky abusing a girl instead of a boy, would anyone have had any hesitation about speaking up, about going to the police?

Writes Mendelsohn:

Mr. McQueary’s refusal to process the scene he described — his coach having sex with another male — was reflected in the reaction of the university itself, which can only be called denial. You see this in the squeamish treatment of the assaults as a series of inscrutable peccadilloes best discussed — and indulged — behind closed doors. (Penn State’s athletic director subsequently characterized Mr. Sandusky’s alleged act as “horsing around,” a term you suspect he would not have used to describe the rape of a 10-year-old girl.) Denial is there in the treatment of the victims as somehow untouchable, so fully tainted they couldn’t, or shouldn’t, be rescued. For Penn State officials, disgust at the perceived gay element seems to have outweighed the horror of the crimes themselves. (“Perceived,” because psychologists generally deny that pedophiles possess adult sexuality — something that can be described as “gay” or “straight” in the first place.)

The denial is hardly surprising. In a culture that increasingly accepts gay life, organized athletics, from middle school to the professional leagues, is the last redoubt of unapologetic anti-gay sentiment. Anecdotal and public evidence for this is dismayingly overwhelming. Most recently, Sean Avery, of the New York Rangers hockey team, has been ostracized and ridiculed merely for making a short video in support of New York’s same-sex marriage act. (Anti-gay slurs are such an ingrained part of Ranger fans’ cheering that some gay fans have stopped attending games.)

The NCAA plans to launch an investigation of Penn State in the wake of the revelation of the scandal. Penn State’s faculty senate has called for an independent review of the Sandusky scandal. Penn State University itself has promised a full investigation of the scandal; no one less than former FBI director Louis Freeh has been tapped to head the investigation. Freeh’s investigation will go back farther than 1975 and therefore extend over a much longer period than that covered by the grand jury report.

But will any of these investigations examine the issues Mendelssohn highlights, most of all the homophobia within the Penn State athletic program and among the university’s officials, the “vociferous antipathy to homosexuality” of not only male athletes but of college sports itself?

Previous Care2 Coverage

Penn State Sex Scandal: Tougher Laws About Child Abuse Necessary

More Potential Victims of Abuse at Penn State

Penn State Students Riot Over JoePa’s Firing



Photo by caitlinator


Jean W.
Jean Wall6 years ago

Heros and hero worshipers are in a narccisistic symbiosis. When this takes place between two individuals is is called a foile a duex. Hero worshipers do not take well to the humanizing of their heros and will tend to slay the messenger.
At the end of the day, everyone put their self interest over that of the victims , football programs are immensly lucrative for colleges, status and stature as well as career opportunities for players and coaches are immense....face it how many mailmen or waitresses or CPA have their name preceeded in print by "the legendary" ? This comes back to cultural status, the big fish and the little fish and what we truly value. The Second Mile was a sel made hunting ground for a career pedophile and everyone got duped by the "good guy reaching out to under privileged kids" .Sandusky ,like so many pedophiles engage in a type of moral calculus and tell themselves that their good deeds outweigh their depredations, or worse that the child was a willing partner and even assert that the child was the seducer.

Annmari Lundin
Annmari Lundin6 years ago

Sports. That's all that counts to some people. And hell fury on everyone that pushes their heroes off their pedestals! I despice people that cover up abuse. Specially school officials and other adults. Bullying a victim for speaking out about what happened to him is the lowest of the low. Bullies of all kinds need to get a good lecture in humility, respect and understanding. I hope none of the bullies are allowed to graduate before attending a full course in respect.

Holly Lawrence
Holly Lawrence6 years ago

Are we surprised???? Penn State still thinks they rule the roost - well, get ready for a fall!

Jean-Yves P.

All those who knew of the assaults and hid them are as guilty as the perp. It is unbelievable that one, or any, of the victims are being bullied for speaking out. They should be proud for speaking out and should be supported tenfold. God Bless each and everyone one of these boys. The schools should do everything they can to stop any bullying.

Jane Barton
Jane Barton6 years ago

Why aren't the victims, who are the innocent children RAPED by the pedophiles being PROTECTED by Penn State? Bullying the victim seems to be very sick and twisted..

Cathy C.
Cathy C6 years ago

Why can't we start a petition about Central Mountain High School?

Joe R.
Joe R6 years ago

The student body at Penn State says it wants to help the victims - well it's time to step up guys!!! Candlelight vigils just don't cut it! (Central Mountain High School needs to be sued.)

K s Goh
KS Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Quanta Kiran
Quanta Kiran6 years ago


Lyn B.
Lyn B6 years ago

How exactly did they get his name? The school should be held accountable and the bullies should be charged and punished.