Now that the trial is over and the coach has been sentenced, we must consider what we learned from Jerry Sandusky. The trial was extremely high profile. Many asked why Coach Sandusky chose not to testify in his own behalf. His lawyers insisted that not take place. Here’s a blonde take on that decision.
Just days (perhaps merely hours) before Jerry Sandusky was to take the stand, his adopted son informed the prosecution he, too, had been sexually abused by his own father. Coming forward at such a late time in the trial meant he could not testify for the prosecution. However, it DID mean that if Jerry Sandusky testified in his own behalf, then his son could be called as a rebuttal witness. That was the last thing the defense attorneys wanted to happen. It would be like handing the State a hammer and nails, giving them the ability to seal the coffin tightly shut on the case.
However, failure to hear testimony from the son or the defendant did not seem to sway the jury much. They heard the testimonies of the brave victims. Grown men who had to take the stand under oath, men who could be jailed if they perjured themselves, and yet they chose to relive the horrendous acts that had been perpetrated upon them during childhood. Mrs. Sandusky’s testimony held a bit of weight, I am sure, but evidently she did not present enough “I never saw or heard anything” to save her husband from the fate of a long prison sentence.
So, what we learned from Jerry Sandusky is important. Hopefully, we learned that victims of sexual abuse are not eager to disclose, and it takes a brave person to testify against their perpetrator. Hopefully, we learned from Jerry Sandusky that there should be more room made for compassion and understanding for victims who have been sexually assaulted, especially our children, even if they are now grown and it happened in their past.
As a former victim, now a survivor, of child sex abuse, I sincerely hope what we learned from Jerry Sandusky is that we must be more vigilant to protect our children. The statistics tell us that 80% of all children who are sexually abused are assaulted by someone they know, and most of those perpetrators have easy one-on-one access to the victim. It is usually someone they trust, often someone their parents trust with them. We learned from Jerry Sandusky that it is possible even the most beloved of coaches may assist in covering up deviant actions in an effort to protect their good friend, or their job. We may never know the full and complete story of everything that transpired during and after the acts took place and reports were made.
But hear me now – If you have or know of a child who comes to you and even hints they may be sexually abused, do not overreact, do not call them a liar, do not shame them. Whether or not you can find it within yourself to believe them, reassure them that you will do everything within your power to keep them safe.
You see, even though all those years ago my Mama told me we could not talk about what was happening to me, she strongly and sincerely reassured me she would do all she could to keep me safe and away from my molester from that point forward, and she did. Keeping the secret allowed the sore to continue to become infected, until as an adult I wrote Orange Blossom Wishes and finally spoke out, for myself. It would be 42 years after the molestation. I was interviewed by our local Fox News during the Sandusky trial, a mere 2-minute spot if you have time to view it. The reporter wanted to hear from a survivor of child sex abuse, someone who has been
through that tunnel of darkness and found her way to the light of freedom and emotional health. It was a long arduous journey, but I am living proof you can make it!
If you live in Florida and have reason to believe a child is being sexually abused, you are mandated by law to report it. If you refuse or fail, you could be brought up on charges. What we learned from Jerry Sandusky will hopefully wake this nation up to the innocence being lost every single day. A child in trauma will grow to be an adult in crisis. Believe me. I was one. There are still many hiding their deep, dark secrets. Maybe, just maybe we learned from Jerry Sandusky that it is OKAY to step up and out of the darkness, to speak out and disclose that you have been a victim of child sexual abuse. It’s okay.
Carolyn S. Hennecy recently received a certificate as Designated Victim Services Practitioner through completion of a 40-hour course conducted by the Office of the Attorney General of the State of Florida. She is recognized nationally as an expert survivor spokesperson on domestic/intimate partner abuse and violence, sexual assault and child molestation and abuse.