Posts Tagged ‘Jerry Sandusky’

PhotobucketFor 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

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Creepy basement (c) HekatekrisI heard on the radio yesterday that more alleged victims of Jerry Sandusky have come forward. According to this article, the New York Times reported that about 10 more alleged victims have come forward (which is consistent with what I heard on the radio) but that the Pennsylvania State Police have not confirmed the number. The police are interviewing these new accusers.

For anyone who doesn’t understand why other people step forward once an abuser has been accused, the reason is that the victims are now more likely to be believed. Even when someone is sexually abused by a “nobody,” the victim risks not being believed. Nobody wants to believe that abuse happens, and the victim is the one who gets interrogated first – not only by the police but by family and friends of both the victim and the abuser.

When and where did it happen? How many times? What exactly did he do to you? Did you tell anyone when it happened? Why not? Why are you telling now? Are you sure it happened? You say this happened over a decade ago – Are you sure this really happened? I believe you believe it happened, but have you considered that you might have mental health issues? Are you sure you didn’t just dream this?

These are questions faced by any child abuse survivor who speaks out in adulthood, even when the abuser is not a celebrity. Imagine what it must be like for boys – many of whom were lured in through a charity reaching out to disadvantaged children – to stand up against a local hero. Heck, a “football god” to many! Who would have believed them?

Also, how many of these boys grew up believing that they were Sandusky’s only victims? How many believed there was something fundamentally “wrong” with them, explaining why they were abused? Once the silence has been shattered, many victims have the courage to step forward publicly and say, “It happened to me, too.”

These young men stepping forward are not doing it for five minutes of fame. They are finding the courage to stand up against the person who took away their innocence. As more victims come forward, it will be more difficult to deny the truth of what happened regardless of how powerful or famous the abuser is.

I hope that all of Sandusky’s victims are getting therapy to help them heal, and I hope that receiving public validation that the abuse DID happen helps them along their healing journeys.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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For those of you who aren’t sports fans, you might not have heard about the child sexual abuse scandal that is rocking Penn State. You can read the complete details here.

In a nutshell, Jerry Sandusky was a football legend as a coach at Penn State. He has been charged with 40 counts of sexually abusing boys. Here’s the really sick part – He had access to these boys because he established a foundation called Second Mile to reach out to needy children.

I was stricken by the testimony of janitor James “Jim” Calhoun, who walked in on Jerry Sandusky alleged performing a sexual act on a boy in the shower:

“Jim said he ‘fought in the Korean war … seen people with their guts blown out, arms dismembered … I just witnessed something in there I’ll never forget,’ ” the testimony states.

In the early stages of healing from child abuse, I had a difficult time seeing my child abuse as a big deal. I could complete understand how seeing “people with their guts blown out, arms dismembered” would be traumatizing, but I couldn’t view my child abuse in the same way. I was truly shocked when my therapist told me that I had a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD was a diagnosis for soldiers who had experienced trauma, not for children who endured abuse that “wasn’t that bad” because “others had it worse.”

I wasn’t able to view my PTSD as “serious” until reading Judith Herman’s book, Trauma and Recovery. What was groundbreaking for me was her approach – The same PTSD that I experienced from child abuse is the same PTSD that soldiers experience after combat. It’s a disorder – a real disorder that explained many of my symptoms.

For some reason, I could understand PTSD better by applying it to a soldier than to myself. There was no question in my mind that someone who had “seen people with their guts blown out, arms dismembered” would understandably develop PTSD. I was able to view my disorder without a layer of shame.

I find it validating that this war veteran was that traumatized by seeing a child being abused and that he puts the trauma of child abuse on the same level as what he saw in Korea. Child abuse really is a “big deal,” even though we child abuse survivors often have a difficult time believing it.

Image credit: Amazon.com

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