By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm:
Sometimes you come across a document that challenges your view of basic human goodness. The stomach-churning Grand Jury Report relating to the Pennsylvania State football scandal is one such document. What stands out, based on the allegations, is just how many times former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was caught. In locker rooms, workout rooms, cars, and homes, the report points to continual revelations of abuse that led to minor and incomplete reactions. The responses of those making the discoveries appeared to be "not in my locker room..." or "not with my kid..." instead of "you are going to prison." If the facts end up bearing out that perception, then there is a great deal of blame to be shared by those around Mr. Sandusky.
The situation also raises the question, "What would I have done." We would all like to believe that, if we had clear evidence of child sexual abuse, we would have acted differently from the many witnesses in Happy Valley. We wouldn't have just told our supervisors, like then graduate assistant Mike McQueary, we would have told the police, then the media, and the world if no action was taken. Hopefully, that expectation is accurate in this case. But we also know that in many cases there is a tendency to idealize our expected behavior. In our own estimation, we always would have been more careful, more thorough, and shown greater foresight than others. That tendency to idealize has a direct effect on how jurors personalize abstract legal standards like the "reasonable person" and the "exercise of ordinary care." They start by asking, "WWID" or "What would I do?" And then they apply a little gloss to the answer.