HARRISBURG - Joe Paterno's widow said Wednesday that she and her husband were ignorant about sexual predators like Jerry Sandusky and did not realize that the former Penn State assistant football coach was abusing the boys he met through a children's charity that he founded.
"We have been unaware of how a predator behaves," Sue Paterno said at a program celebrating Child Abuse Awareness Month in Pennsylvania. "In many cases, we unknowingly helped him 'groom' his victims while we thought we were helping a child achieve self-esteem and find a better life."
Mrs. Paterno said she was horrified when she learned the truth about Sandusky after his arrest in November 2011.
Her husband, a College Football Hall of Fame coach who led the Penn State's Nittany Lions for 46 years, died in January 2012 at 85.
"The last 17 months have been filled with disbelief, horror, the pain of loss, sleepless nights, praying for the victims and for peace of mind for those who unwittingly were too naive to recognize the signs of abuse," she said.
Jay Paterno, one of the couple's five children, also spoke at the breakfast gathering sponsored by the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance.
The group's executive director, Angela Liddle, acknowledged that some members questioned the choice of the Paternos as speakers, but she defended the decision and described the family as "good folks."
An internal probe led by former FBI director Louis Freeh and completed in July accused Joe Paterno and three former Penn State administrators of covering up an abuse allegation about Sandusky more than a decade ago in an attempt to shield the university from bad publicity.