For those of you who haven’t heard yet, Jerry Sandusky was found guilty on 45 of the 48 charges of child sexual abuse filed against him involving the abuse of 10 boys. For those of you unfamiliar with the case (many of my readers do not live in the United States), Jerry Sandusky was a well-known assistant college football coach who founded a charity for disadvantaged children. Several of these children (who are now adults) accused him of sexually abusing them. A jury believed their accounts, and Sandusky will be sentenced to prison soon.
I am wondering how readers are reacting to this verdict. My initial reaction is relief that juries will listen to the accounts of child abuse survivors even years after the abuse happened. Most children do not tell at the time that the abuse is taking place, which has effectively given many child abusers a “free pass.” As long as children must tell immediately after the child abuse happened to be believed, justice will never prevail because most children are too frightened to tell at the time the child abuse is happening.
I am also relieved that, according to the new accounts I am reading online, the public is supportive of Sandusky’s victims as well as the verdict. Can you imagine how much more difficult this situation would be if the press turned on the victims? My guess is that the victims are feeling a whirlwind of emotions right now. I am relieved that they are not feeling the need to justify themselves to the press.
I am grateful for the publicity that this case has generated because the general public doesn’t want to believe that anyone famous or that anyone who is active in charities for children can be a child abuser. This case is forcing the general public to acknowledge that being famous does not ensure that a person is safe around children, and it is also breaking through the denial that someone who does good things on the surface cannot also do bad things to children one-on-one.
I have spoken with numerous child abuse survivors over the years through this blog, at isurvive, and in person. Those who were abused by people who were pillars of the community often have an extra hurdle to overcome because they have been told their whole lives about what wonderful people their abusers are. I have spoken with child abuse survivors who were abused by pastors and missionaries – people who have done an enormous amount of good publicly but who made a child’s life a living hell at the same time. This duality really messes with a child abuse survivor’s head.
The Jerry Sandusky trial will (hopefully) help child abuse survivors who were abused by public “heroes” push through the hurdles of being harmed by someone who is beloved publicly. An abuser is an abuser regardless of his or her public face.
Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt