What If Sandusky’s Alleged Victims Had Been Girls?

Witnesses would have acted very differently

Among the many disturbing allegations at Penn State, the one I can’t get out of my mind is the scene in the shower in 2002. I’ve read a few different reports of the incident, but from what I can gather, then-grad assistant Mike McQueary went into the locker room, heard a “slapping sound,” looked into the shower and saw a 10-year-old boy being anally penetrated by Jerry Sandusky.

Let’s pause for a moment. Do you know any 10-year-old boys? Probably. But let’s say you don’t. How about the kid who played Rita’s son on Dexter? Or Jaden Smith in the movie he did with his dad a few years ago? I’m just trying to get you to think about it for a minute. Ten years old is tiny, frail, underdeveloped. Jerry Sandusky is a big guy. The child who was being raped was in agonizing pain, of that you can be sure. He was almost certainly terrified.

Mike McQueary saw the child was being sodomized, and he didn’t run in and stop Sandusky—which probably could have been effected simply by saying, “Stop!” He didn’t call the cops and say, “Oh my god! A child is being raped! Come quickly!” He quietly exited the showers, went home and called his dad.

I’ll bet if it had been a 10-year-old girl who was being sodomized, he wouldn’t have left. Because picture that. Little Elle Fanning. Or Abigail Breslin in Little Miss Sunshine. Or the little girl who plays Eva Longoria’s daughter on Desperate Housewives. It would have been a horrific sight, and I’ll bet McQueary’s male protective instincts would have kicked in, the way it kicks in for murderers in prison who beat the crap out of child molesters and rapists because while it’s one thing to murder someone, it’s quite another to violate a woman.

Who would leave a little girl behind to be raped? Pretty much no one. It’s inconceivable. So what happened with the boy? Was there some kind of repulsion that took hold of McQueary, something about a man and boy, some kind of homophobia-inflected disgust? Or do we imagine that, on some level, boys can take care of themselves and be strong? This is why so many male survivors of rape feel plagued by guilt: They’re ashamed to be victims because they don’t feel entitled to be vulnerable. This boy was vulnerable, and he needed a protector. Mike McQueary failed him.

I don’t know where this victim is, but I hope he has the courage to come forward. If I could speak to him, I’d say, “We support you, whoever you are. We stand with you. And this time, we won’t walk away.”