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Abuse Victim Offers Unique Insight to Sandusky Scandal
Abuse victim offers unique insight to Sandusky scandal
By Frank Otto, email@example.com
Posted: 07/24/12 12:01
When speaking about the Jerry Sandusky case, a lot of people have said what the victims of child sex abuse want or deserve.
It’s been a sort of home base, a safe zone for the beginning or end of any statement about the scandal. The desires and feelings of the victims are taken as a given. When Penn State University’s acting president Rodney Erickson gave the OK to remove the Joe Paterno statue outside of Beaver Stadium, he said it was done because if it stood, it would be a “recurring wound to the multitude of victims across the nation and beyond who have been victims of child abuse.”
But at least one local man who would know disagrees with that.
“I was crushed to see that they made the decision to remove the statue of Joe Paterno,” Will said. “The Paterno family made a statement that removing the statue does nothing to help the victims. Truer words were never spoken.” Will is a Penn State grad. Will also said he was sexually abused by a family friend when he was 10 years old.
Unlike the victims in the Sandusky case, Will, whose name has been changed by The Mercury to protect his identity, never publicly accused his abuser. And Will says the way the Sandusky scandal at Penn State is being handled points to why he hasn’t.
“This entire situation is much deeper than the average person can comprehend,” Will said through emails with The Mercury. “There are 10 direct victims that we know of and each of them will have different perspectives.”
The “main reason” why Will never came forward even 40 years after his abuse, was “the thought of the collateral damage that I might inflict,” he said.
“My family was close to the perpetrator’s family and remains so to this day,” Will said. “The rest of the family are lovely people who I value in my life beyond compare.”
Erin Slight, the client services supervisor at the Victim Services Center of Montgomery County, said the fear of “collateral damage” is common to many of the victims she sees.
“There’s the worry that, ‘If I’m open about this, if I let this horrible secret out, will it affect me and my relationships?’” she said. “There’s always the worry of (people) not believing and not being supported.”
Slight said such feelings tend to arise when the victim and the abuser are either family or close friends, a parallel she said could be drawn to the “family” atmosphere of Penn State’s culture.
“There’s always a fear they won’t be believed,” said Abbie Newman, executive director of Mission Kids, the child advocacy center of Montgomery County. “And if they are believed, what happens to the dynamics if they break up?”
Will said he has the “utmost respect” for the victims that came forward against Sandusky and praised their courage. But, from his perspective, if he were one of them, he’d “be so discouraged and likely depressed at this point.”
Slight said the way things were covered and the focus of support on some parties could have caused some anxiety in some of the victims.
“I think, certainly, there were definitely some media outlets that re-victimized these (people, speculating) ‘Were they out for the money?’” Slight said. “I feel like the shift in focus was definitely not on these victims. Absolutely, that could be discouraging. The way the media was all over this story could be scary for these victims.”
However, Slight was quick to point out that not everyone feels the same way.
“You can’t really peg one feeling to all victims,” she said.
As such, what Will may see as the type of collateral damage he tried to avoid as a child, other victims may see as exposing the faults of the system that failed them.
“I think other victims may feel this is great,” Slight said. “The other parties that were involved may not have acted out but were certainly involved.”
In Will’s eyes, however, Sandusky is being let off the hook.
“There is one villain in this situation — that is Jerry Sandusky,” he said. “And although he was found guilty and hopefully will remain in prison for the rest of his life, the press and those managing the issue seem to keep letting him silently walk into the sunset while they choose to persecute those who supposedly could have stopped the abuse.”
“The situation just continues to add more and more victims to Jerry Sandusky’s actions,” Will said. “Although they have not physically been violated by Jerry, there are his latest victims. Even from a prison cell, he continues to ruin lives.”
The NCAA sanctions handed down add to those victims, according to Will.
Newman said she wasn’t sure what more could be done to Sandusky since he was found guilty on most charges and will likely die in prison. But she said the reaction to the crimes could possibly provide some comfort to victims.
“I would hope (victims) would be able to see the outrage that the community is feeling that it would allow something like this,” she said. “Look at is as empowering and the dialogue has been raised about child abuse.”
Ultimately, Will said the Penn State situation affirmed for him that he did “the right thing” in not publicly confronting his abuser. He acknowledged the abuser could have gone on to victimize others, but “I didn’t really come to terms with it for many years after the fact.”
Both Slight and Newman said neither of their agencies prompt anyone to come forward, that it remains a strict personal issue.
“Some people may find they need to go to the police or some may need to go to a parent or a paramour and some people don’t feel they have that option,” Slight said. “We want to help them get the day-to-day (healing). Whatever that means for the victim, that’s our job.”
“I think that is something each victim has to deal with individually because of the concern so many victims have in how they will be believed,” Newman said, before adding, “Do we in the field of child abuse prevention hope someone will come forward and prevent it? Yes.”
Will said his situation will be with him as long as he lives. He expects the same for the Sandusky victims, especially after the “hysteria” at Penn State.
“This will be with them forever,” he said.
The toll-free hotline number for Montgomery County’s Victim Services Center is 1-888-521-0983. The number for Mission Kids is 484-687-2990. Anyone that needs help is welcome to contact either organization.
Follow Frank Otto on Twitter @fottojourno