Mass hysteria?

Earlier this week, Jerry Sandusky was scheduled to appear in court. He was to be confronted by his alleged victims who have decided to come out into the open, show their faces and go into vivid details of what they allege took place in the form of perpetrated sexual assault. One news reporter commented that Coach Sandusky would not know who his accusers were until he arrived at the courthouse. As it played out, the defense has chosen instead to enter a plea of “innocent” and go straight to trial. Many were surprised, many were disappointed. Most legal commentators felt it was the smartest move Mr. Sandusky’s legal team could have made. Ironically, in a press conference afterward, counsel for Mr. Sandusky glibly commented to the media that if someone believes Jerry Sandusky is guilty, they should call 1-800-REALITY. Turns out that is the phone number for a gay sex line, bringing offense to both straight and gay Americans. Not such a brilliant move, counselor! We will have to give you a “my bad” on that one.

A friend recently pointed out a past case to me, wherein a “victim” raised allegations against an entire group of young college men. It turned out the accusations were false, but unfortunately, damage was done to the school and the men. I do point out, though, that situation involved one accuser coming against a number of purported attackers. In Coach Sandusky’s situation, we have the flip side─there are many making accusations and only one accused of crimes. Maybe there is something to think upon there.

One thing concerns me, and I trust you will hear me out as I play devil’s advocate for a moment. Just as I raised this question during Casey Anthony’s trial, I feel compelled to raise it during the pretrial goings-on with Mr. Sandusky─what if he is innocent of the accusations? Now, in addition to allegations against Coach Sandusky/PennState, we have accusers rising up at Syracuse and the AAU (Amateur Athletic Union), bringing charges against leaders within those organizations.

You see, this is what concerns me most. Psychologists and other mental healthcare professionals are all too familiar with the concept of mass hysteria. It happens a lot with teenage girls (We’re sometimes just wired that way, as generations took turns screaming “aaahhhh” at Frank Sinatra, Elvis and now Justin Bieber, et al). It’s what they say happened back in the 60s the day I journeyed to the Tampa Theater to see the Beatles in “A Hard Day’s Night.” You could not hear anything coming from the screen─no music, no words, no dialogue─just young girls en masse, screaming at the top of their lungs, many weeping uncontrollably and yelling, “Paul, I love you!” That was the closest I came to mass hysteria, and being able to understand it. I didn’t like it. I wanted to hear the movie. I had paid good money to hear the movie and enjoy it, but most of the other teenage girls were going totally nuts around me over the four mop tops from England, making it impossible for me to enjoy the experience. Thus, as I comprehend it, mass hysteria is when a group or crowd jump onto a bandwagon with limited knowledge of where it might be taking them.

The down side of this is the possibilities and/or probabilities that if it all turns out to be untrue, then those of us who have truly endured molestation as children will have a much more difficult time being taken seriously. It will reinforce the silence of victims who are still afraid to speak out, as they think, “Who’s going to believe me? Who’s going to listen?” (Let me assure you all, there will be someone somewhere who truly cares and will always listen, having your best interest at heart. Never feel you must remain silent!)

I said in my last post about this topic that as a former victim I feel I may have a bit of experience in being able to identify the signs of true molestation. This Sandusky thing has a familiar odor. But, we must remember that he is innocent until proven guilty. He will be judged by a jury of his peers, when he is brought to trial. You can bank on the fact there will be State Attorneys out for blood, attorneys representing the victims and a very aggressive defense attorney representing Mr. Sandusky – all doing their jobs.

I just pray that the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth comes forward – without losing ground we have gained over the past years in making advances in the area of breaking the silence that has cloaked sexual molestation for generations.

Carolyn is an advocate for sexual/domestic violence and assault awareness, also focusing on child sexual abuse. She is a Life Direction & Empowerment Coach, working with victims and survivors of molestation, sexual assault, domestic violence or spousal abuse, and bringing training to organizations seeking to help victims. Hennecy spent much time during October 2011, which is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, with media doing radio and television interviews. See Carolyn’s interview with Gayle Guyardo of NBC Channel 8 News Today Early Morning Show and her featured segment on the ABC Action News Emmy Award winning “Taking Action Against Domestic Violence” at

  1. Green Lantern says:

    First of all thank you for a courageous post.

    From my reading the question the problem is that Sandusky was convicted long before any witness testified. A group think clearly sets in , particularly when certain allegations are made. This is a classic instance of moral panic.

    Whenever a person is accused we should ask certain basic questions:

    Do the accusers have anything to gain?
    Can the accusers supply specifics ? For example what day, what time ?
    Also, if these incidents did have an impact there should be evidence. For example how did this affect their grades, their relationships etc.

    Also, in the McQuery since this incident happened why did he appear with Sandusky at events for years after that?

    How does McQuery explain not only the inconsistency but the increasing precision of his recollection. First he testifies that he heard slapping sounds. Then before the grand jury he testifies he “saw” a rape.

    Is it believeable that he raped or molested 15 kids and none of them, not one told their mother, their father, the police, a counselor .

    Is there any physical evidence ?

    We could go on.

    The question is-aside from the testimony :Is there any corroborating evidence ?; Do they stand to gain ?, Are they not many inconsistencies? Why wait 15 years before telling a soul?

    Is there anything holding this up other than the presumption of guilt?

    • Carolyn S. Hennecy says:

      Thank you for sharing another side of the prism. As I mentioned on my television interview, which portion hit the cutting room floor, we must always bear in mind this is America and all accused are innocent until proven guilty. I have read and re-read your comments. They contain a good bit of food for thought. I would like to address one of your questions specifically: Is it believeable that he raped or molested 15 kids and none of them, not one told their mother, their father, the police, a counselor.

      I must reply by saying, “Absolutely.” Almost without exception children do not disclose when they are being molested or sexually abused. More than 80% of sexual assaults on children are by someone who they know, someone who has a 1-on-1 contact with them. Children are told, “I will kill you (or your parents, or your dog, or . . .) if you tell. . . . My perpetrator threatened me that “If you tell, you will be taken to a home where all bad girls who do this go, and you will never see your mommy or daddy ever again.” I was also told, “If you say anything, nobody is going to believe you. . . you will get into really bad trouble if you try to tell ANYBODY!”

      Or there may be a silent message, such as a smirk while they rip an arm or the head off your favorite doll. Many are under the misimpression that pedophiles and child sex abusers are strangers, homeless people lurking in dark alleys waiting for their prey. Far from the truth. Hopefully, this will help clarify why children will stow their demons into a closet and fail to disclose for many years, if ever at all. That is coming from someone who began being molested at the age of 7, tried to disclose at 15 only to be told we had to keep it quiet, and finally opened wide the door of the closet at the age of 56. Hopefully, this will cast a bit of light on the issues for those who do not understand the mechanics of child sexual abuse. There are those who were victims, those who were abusers and those who have thankfully never had to be involved with child sexual abuse.

      But, I would be remiss to remind the readers that everyone in this country should be considered innocent until proven guilty by a jury of their peers. The victims have relived the nightmares they say took place. Now we will hear Coach Sandusky’s defense.

  2. Hi Carolyn, there are also those of us who are closely related to someone who was sexually violated as a child of 8 and kept it to themselves for 29 years. We suffered just the same and didn’t know the reason why.

    • Carolyn S. Hennecy says:

      GREAT POINT! I can now look back and see how my emotional roller-coaster did not mean I was the only one on the ride being taken from one extreme to the other.

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