13 Jul 2012

US college officials blamed after sex abuse

9:55 pm on 13 July 2012

A report into child sexual abuse at Penn State University has blamed the most senior officials at the university for not protecting victims or speeding up reporting of alleged abuses.

Launching his report, former FBI Director Louis Freeh said there was a "total disregard" for the safety and welfare of victims of sex abuser and assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, the BBC reports.

They never demonstrated "any concern for the safety of Sandusky's victims until after Sandusky's arrest", Mr Freeh said.

He also singled out legendary football coach Joe Paterno - who died last year - suggesting his involvement had slowed down the reporting of a 2001 abuse.

"The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps... to protect the children who Sandusky victimised," said Mr Freeh.

Sandusky, who worked on Paterno's nationally lauded football team, was convicted of 45 counts of child sexual abuse in a trial in June.

Life sentence

He is expected to serve a life sentence, the BBC reports.

Louis Freeh's report laid much blame in the hands of four of Penn State's "most powerful people": Mr Paterno and university President Graham Spanier, Vice-President Gary Schultz, and athletic director Tim Curley.

The four men knew that Sandusky was under investigation by university police for allegations of child sex abuse on campus as early as 1998.

Sandusky retired from the university a year later, gaining emeritus status, which allowed him unfettered access to campus buildings.

Three years after the first allegations, the report found that officials did not take any action to identify a victim seen being abused by Sandusky in the Penn State showers in 2001.

In fact, Mr Curley informed Sandusky that another coach, Mike McQueary, had reported seeing the incident. That move further endangered the victim, Mr Freeh concluded.

According to emails uncovered by the report, Mr Curley, Mr Schultz and Mr Spanier had initially planned to report the incident to child welfare services, but decided against it.

Instead, offering Sandusky professional help and telling him "guests" were not permitted to use campus facilities was deemed a "more humane and upfront way to handle this", as Mr Schultz wrote in an email.

"Although concern to treat the child abuser humanely was expressly stated, no such sentiments were ever expressed by them for Sandusky's victims," Mr Freeh said in prepared remarks on Thursday.

The report also faults the university's board of trustees for failing to press Mr Spanier for details about the 2011 grand jury investigation of Sandusky.