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Paterno family speaks out against child abuse

By John Craven, Reporter, JCraven@wfmz.com
Published On: Apr 10 2013 07:42:06 AM CDT
Updated On: Apr 10 2013 07:47:13 PM CDT

Paterno Family Speaks at Child Abuse Event

HARRISBURG, Pa. -

For the first time in months, Joe Paterno's family spoke publicly on Wednesday.

They spoke to the state's largest child abuse prevention group in Harrisburg, but the move is drawing plenty of controversy.

"The last 17 months have been filled with disbelief, horror, the pain of loss, sleepless nights, praying for the victims," said Paterno's widow, Sue.

Sue Paterno and her son, Jay, spoke before the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance. The group's director acknowledged the family was a controversial choice, after the Jerry Sandusky scandal and the lingering questions about whether the legendary late coach did enough to stop it.

"I know my presence here, and the presence of our family here, is not without controversy. I am not naive," said Jay Paterno, "but I'm not here to press the case for my father."

The FSA's director answered critics.

"Obviously, there are people who say the Paternos are not the right people to speak out against child abuse, and my response to that is a very strong, 'Who are wrong people to speak out about child abuse?'" said FSA director Angela Liddle.

Sue Paterno told the crowd of child advocates and state lawmakers that she and her family were blind to the signs pointing to Sandusky's abuse of young boys.

"In many cases, we unknowingly helped him groom his victims, while we thought we were helping a child achieve self-esteem," she said.

"I worked with Jerry Sandusky for several years," added Jay Paterno. "My own children were around him at youth soccer games. I didn't see anything."

Advocates want state lawmakers to require more people to report suspected abuse directly to child welfare authorities. Liddle would not say if that should include college sports coaches.

"I'm going to let that work through its process legislatively," she said.

At the time an assistant told Paterno about seeing Sandusky showering with a young boy in a Penn State locker room, Paterno was only legally required to report the incident to his superiors, which he did.

"According to our state law, Joe Paterno followed the law," said Liddle.

Read Sue Paterno's remarks here.