The explosive scandal at Penn State that cost football coach Joe Paterno his job could turn into a long legal fight involving the alleged child sex abuse victims.
Attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who has represented hundreds of victims of sexual abuse by clergymen -- and who won millions of dollars in settlements with Boston's Roman Catholic archdiocese -- said on "The Early Show" more victims are bound to come forward in the Penn State case.
"This is the tip of the sexual abuse iceberg," he said. "You have children at a very young age reporting this, but the accounts state that children have come forward over the course of 15 years. They will be coming forward for decades. Individuals who have been sexually molested have coping skills that allow them to come forward when it's time. And individuals will come forward, and (by) then they are 40, 50, 60 years old, to report this abuse. Just recently, an 86-year-old man contacted me and said he'd been carrying around abuse for 80 years, and it was time to do something about it."
He added, "Once a victim comes forward, it empowers others to come forward. They feel encouraged, they feel empowered, and they feel as though they are not alone. Victims of sexual abuse feel alone. They feel like they are the only ones it happened to. They feel isolated, they feel embarrassed, they feel ashamed -- even though they shouldn't -- just like in the Catholic cases. But once one victim comes forward, they feel empowered."
Garabedian said victims of abuse should go to the police department to report the crimes.
He said, "Don't go to the university. It's a kangaroo court in and of itself. Go to the police department, go to your therapist. File civil claims if you can. But obviously, Penn State has failed in the biggest game of its life."
Jerry Sandusky, Paterno's onetime heir apparent, has been charged with molesting eight boys over 15 years. Now-former Athletic Director Tim Curley and now-former university Vice President Gary Schultz have been charged with perjury and failure to report the 2002 assault to police, as required by state law.
All three maintain their innocence.
"Early Show" co-anchor Rebecca Jarvis noted the grand jury report comes down to who knew what and when. She said, "Mike McQueary (whom the grand jury report says witnessed one of the acts between Sandusky and a boy) is one of the names that is coming out because of what he saw. Is he, in your view, criminally liable here?"
Garabedian said, "There is potential. I have to look behind the facts of the grand jury report. There is a potential. And that's why he's not speaking. He doesn't want to contradict anything he said in the grand jury report at this time."
As for the university, Garabedian said that, in firing those allegedly close to the situation, the institution is trying to control its image.
"It's spin control," he said. "... They want to look good. This is what institutions do in these sorts of cases. They distance themselves from all the participants, from all the supervisors who knew, from the perpetrator, and they act as though -- 'Well, we did the best we could. We got rid of everybody. And so let's move on with life. Maybe 10, 20, 30, 50 years down the line this will be fine."'
He added, "Penn State is talking about themselves and not talking about the victims. It's all about the victims. ... They have made it about themselves, just like the Catholic Church made it about themselves. (The victims are saying,) 'Why aren't they bringing us into the fold, why aren't they telling the truth, why aren't they having educational classes, why aren't they reaching out to us?' And they are not doing so because it's all about Penn State. And it's all about money and power. It's all about self-preservation for Penn State."