Former Penn State President Drops His Own Child Abuse Bombshell

penn stateFormer Penn State president Graham Spanier dropped a shocker last night in his letter to the university's board of trustees: He said that as a person who "personally experienced massive and persistent abuse as a child," it would have been impossible for him to ignore reports of sex abuse on campus. Wait, what -- Spanier himself was a victim of abuse?

That's the last revealing detail I expected to hear. And I'm just not sure what to think of it. What kind of abuse was that? And would it really cause Spanier to act on reports of sexual abuse? Because when ex-FBI chief Louis Freeh investigated the scandal, he allegedly found that Spanier participated in the cover-up of abuse. Spanier has not been charged.


Here's Spanier's statement about how his own past abuse relates to the Penn State scandal.

It is unfathomable and illogical to think that a respected family sociologist and family therapist, someone who personally experienced massive and persistent abuse as a child, someone who devoted a significant portion of his career to the welfare of children and youth ... would have knowingly turned a blind eye to any report of child abuse or predatory sexual acts directed at children.

He also claims -- again -- that at no time did he hear of reports that "Jerry Sandusky was observed abusing a child or youth or engaged in a sexual act with a child or youth."

I don't want to downplay any pain Spanier may have experienced in his childhood. According to his lawyer, Peter Vaira, Spanier's father beat him regularly. He was not sexually abused, but he did have to have his nose straightened several times. I'm sorry he was abused, but I suspect the truth is a little murkier than the way Spanier tells it.

Who knows what he may have heard about Sandusky, for that matter. I think his denial seems very carefully worded. Maybe people tried to tell him, but in such a vague way that it gave Spanier just enough wiggle room to shrug off the reports. I can imagine him thinking, "Trouble with Jerry and some boys? Uh oh, can't look into that -- Penn State has too much to lose! It's probably nothing ..." And the rest is history.

Do you believe Spanier, or do you think he's hiding how much he really knew?


Image via Caitlinator/Flickr

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