It is now nearly impossible to hear about Penn State without thinking of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Pennsylvanians in the town of State College would probably like to move on and to rebuild the once stellar reputation of a place nicknamed Happy Valley, but doing so will not be easy or quick.
Within the framework of the Sandusky sexual abuse scandal, there are other stories to be told. In fact, a new documentary that recently premiered at the Sundance Film Festival largely focuses on how the scandal impacted the town of State College and the families of those accused of wrongdoing.
Most documentaries these days have a clear political agenda, but “Happy Valley” seemingly takes a more balanced and nuanced position. According to news reports, the documentary was first shown to the wife and children of Joe Paterno as well as the lawyer representing many of Sandusky’s abuse victims. Surprisingly, all were satisfied with the film.
Those interviewed in the documentary include Joe Paterno’s widow and his two sons. Also interviewed are attorney Tom Kline and Matt Sandusky; one of Jerry Sandusky’s adopted children. Matt eventually came forward to reveal that he had also been sexually abused by Jerry Sandusky.
Hopefully, others who live in State College will also find the film to be fair and accurate. Perhaps the documentary will even help bring some closure to a community violently shaken by the allegations made against Sandusky and Paterno – two men who had long been revered.
For most Americans accustomed to the media’s short attention span, the Sandusky sexual abuse scandal is long over. But for Sandusky’s victims, the families of the two coaches and the residents of Happy Valley, the aftermath of this scandal will likely linger for years to come.
Source: Boston Globe, "‘Happy Valley’ explores Penn State sex-abuse scandal," Jessica Herndon, Jan. 23, 2014