STATE COLLEGE, PA. -- Joe Paterno sat in a wheelchair at the family kitchen table where he has eaten, prayed and argued for more than a half-century. All around him family members were shouting at each other, yet he was whispering. His voice sounded like wind blowing across a field of winter stalks, rattling the husks. Lung cancer has robbed him of the breath to say all that he wants to about the scandal he still struggles to comprehend, and which ended his career as head football coach at Penn State University. The words come like gusts. "I wanted to build up, not break down," he said. Crowded around the table were his three voluble sons, Scott, Jay, David, daughter Mary Kay, and his wife of 50 years, Sue, all chattering at once. In the middle of the table a Lazy Susan loaded with trays of cornbread and mashed potatoes spun by, swirling fast as the arguments. "If you go hungry, it's your own fault," Paterno likes to say. But Paterno, 85, could not eat. He sipped Pepsi over crushed ice from a cup. Once, it would have been bourbon. His hand showed a tremor, and a wig replaced his once-fine head of black hair. Paterno's hope is that time will be his ally when it comes to judging what he built, versus what broke down. "I'm not 31 years old trying to prove something to anybody," he said. "I know where I am." This is where he is: wracked by radiation and chemotherapy, in a wheelchair with a broken pelvis, and "shocked and saddened" as he struggles to explain a breakdown of devastating proportions. Jerry Sandusky, his former assistant coach at Penn State from 1969 to 1999, is charged with more than 50 counts of sexually abusing young boys over a 15-year period. He maintains his innocence. If Sandusky is guilty, "I'm sick about it," Paterno said.
Tremont Sheldon Robinson Mahoney saw this article written by Susan Campbell of the Hartford Courant and thought it brought up an interesting point. She has written many articles on sexual abuse and different sexual abuse scandals. The article follows, but we thought it would be helpful to define a mandated reporter. Under Connecticut law, the following people are mandated reporters of suspected child abuse: doctors, nurses, medical examiners, dentists, dental hygienists, psychologists, coaches, school teachers, school principals, school guidance counselors, school paraprofessionals, social workers, police officers, juvenile or adult probation and /or parole officers, members of the clergy, pharmacists, physical therapists, optometrists, chiropractors, podiatrists,
Nearly every woman I know can recall one or more instances in which she was sexually assaulted, harassed, threatened, inappropriately touched or even raped. Yet few told anyone about it at the time, or reported it to the police. I have clear memories of three such episodes from my childhood, one of which involved a man who owned a store in my neighborhood. Not knowing at age 11 anything about reproduction (in 1952, expectant teachers had to take leave when they "showed"), I was terrified that I could become pregnant from having been forced to touch his penis. I had trouble sleeping, and I avoided the block where the store was. Yet, fearing that the assault was somehow my fault, I said nothing to my parents. Experts on sexual assault and rape report that even today, despite improvements in early sex education and widespread publicity about sexual assaults, the overwhelming majority of both felony and misdemeanor cases never come to public or legal attention.
When details of sexual abuse allegations against two prominent college assistants -- Penn State's Jerry Sandusky and Syracuse's Bernie Fine -- became public last month, the news hit sports like a thunderbolt. But sports as an environment for sexual abuse is hardly new. Experts say it has all the significant ingredients that can lead to such abuse: coaches have close relationships with children and unsupervised access to them, while holding a position of trust and authority that can often keep children from reporting the problems to their parents or other authority figures.
WASHINGTON -- A former National Hockey League player who rocked the Canadian sports world with sexual abuse accusations against a former coach is the marque witness at a congressional hearing Tuesday examining such abuse in the wake of the Penn State scandal. The story of Sheldon Kennedy, whose NHL career began in 1989 with the Detroit Red Wings, was back in the news last week after his former coach in junior hockey pleaded guilty to sexual assaults involving two other former players, including NHL star Theoren Fleury. The coach, Graham James, already served more than three years in prison for abusing other players he coached, including Kennedy. James was quietly pardoned for his crimes in 2007, leading to public outcry.
For almost two decades, lawyers at the Bridgeport firm of Tremont Sheldon Robinson Mahoney have taken seriously the complaints of child sexual abuse plaintiffs. The firm took on the Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport and Hartford's St. Francis Hospital, winning millions in damages. Now, the details of a long-running grand jury investigation have rocked Penn State University with a stunning child sexual abuse scandal. Public opinion and awareness has markedly changed since the late Paul Tremont, a founding partner, filed his first suits against pedophile priests in 1993. "It was a very unwelcoming climate for these kinds of cases," says partner Cynthia Robinson, who has focused her practice on child sexual abuse cases.
As the Penn State sexual assault scandal continues to unfold, the story takes place against a media and legal backdrop that has evolved considerably in light of previous sex abuse cases. Plaintiffs attorneys and legal experts who have worked with victims of sexual abuse note the sea change in the way such cases have been covered and litigated. And the changes in how the media and the public discuss these topics have had a significant impact on how judges and juries think and act. "Thirty years ago if you brought a case against a revered institution"--be it Penn State, the Catholic Church or the Boy Scouts, says trial attorney Raymond Boucher--"the jury would look at you with a jaundiced eye." Over the past three decades, the media, too, have become less jaundiced, says Boucher, a partner at Kiesel Boucher & Larson and the lead attorney for plaintiffs who brought clergy sexual abuse claims against the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles--which garnered one of the largest settlements of its kind with the church in 2007. Cindy Robinson's Connecticut firm, Tremont Sheldon Robinson Mahoney, was among the first to start litigating clergy