A little over a week ago I was cooking dinner and having a conversation with my husband when his iPad’s news alert went off, saying, “Jury reaches a verdict in Sandusky trial!” After realizing the verdict hadn’t actually been announced, we turned on CNN and stood waiting, breathless.
The verdict came. Guilty on forty-five of forty-eight counts. I broke down.
I wasn’t sure how I would react to a guilty verdict. In an age where deals are struck and reductions in charges and sentences seem to be the norm, I played the pessimist, half expecting a dismissal. But a guilty verdict…
It wasn’t hard to imagine myself yelling at the TV, calling him every expletive I knew, starting over with as many combinations of those expletives I could think of. I pictured myself with an evil grin spreading across my face, practically giddy at the thought of him in prison with big scary men who will terrify him the way he terrified his young victims. It surprised me that I didn’t react that way at all.
There was a sense of relief, all the way to my core. All I could think was finally, a jury saw the traumatized children, not just the older teenagers and grown men the little boys had become. The victims were believed, despite the defense’s best efforts to rip their credibility to shreds. The jury refused to accept a the possibility of a personality disorder as an excuse for the defendant’s reprehensible behavior.
Peace washed over me knowing that millions of victims and survivors of childhood sexual abuse now have hope of justice and healing for themselves. Because of the courage of Sandusky’s survivors, abuse survivors all over the country have felt courageous enough to come forward, flooding the national hotline with a record number of calls.
A mixture of sorrow and validation hit me. Our society is finally waking up to something too many of us have known for far too long: heroes fall. It isn’t just the creepy old pervert lurking in the alleyway, offering candy to kids. People who sexually abuse children deliberately seek opportunities to be near them. To parents they are trustworthy, compassionate, kind, generous. The victims are groomed, confused, cajoled, coerced, threatened. And now we must face the reality that we are being duped by these monsters with two faces. We have all finally lost our innocence.
A few days after the verdict, a story broke that inmates at the corrections facility where Sandusky was being held serenaded him with lyrics from Pink Floyd’s The Wall. They taunted him with Hey, teacher! Leave those kids alone! People are celebrating. All over the internet there are blog posts and Facebook comments hoping he rots in hell, warning that prison is the last place a child sex abuser wants to be. They are angry that anyone could do such horrendous things to children. Such intense feelings are valid, warranted. I only hope they don’t grow to overshadow the deeper meaning of the verdict.
While you’re out and about on the internet or in the real world and someone makes fun of Jerry Sandusky, please pause and remind him or her of the serious nature of his crimes. Please remember the victims and their bravery, rather than the perpetrator’s depravity or his witnesses’ cowardice. Before you hit like or share on a Facebook picture intended as a joke about him, consider supporting the children he harmed, instead. The ego of someone who uses children for his own gratification is astronomical. Robbing him of attention (positive or negative) is the cruelest thing you can do. Don’t waste your energy – physical or mental – on someone like that. Focus, instead, on the survivors and their healing.
Sandusky faces a maximum of over 450 years in prison. I honestly don’t care what the sentence is. He’ll never be a free man, regardless of what it is. The victory for the survivors is being believed. Justice – however late – is justice.
May God bless and be with each of the survivors as they walk their own paths to healing.