I have been writing and re-writing this post all week.
I started when the prosecution rested, then when the defense rested then again after closing arguments. Now the jury is out and Sandusky’s adopted son says he was also abused.
This case has been heartbreaking to watch unfold. The testimony alleged that this man molested, raped and betrayed the trust of young boys who were in his care, who looked up to him. His behavior fit what is known as the molester pattern of grooming a vulnerable kid, escalating touching and ensuring silence.
The defense was the same lame character witnesses who say things like “I know he didn’t do it because he is such a nice guy” that you get in any trial like this. As if one persons experience of the accused somehow invalidates the possibility of another persons experience. No one really know what people are capable of. Wait, I take that back. We DO know what people are capable of.
We have seen hundreds of Catholic clergy accused of child sex abuse. They of course have a better system for protecting abusers so it has been going on for more than the 15 years Sandusky is accused of. Right now the jury is hung on the Monsignor Lynn case, also a case in Pennsylvania, which is the first time a church higher up has been accused of child endangerment because he allowed pedophiles to stay in the ministry. Its not clear what the implications of this trial will be no matter what the verdict. The status quo cannot be acceptable, and yet sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy rose in 2011 by 15%.
I think part of what has kept me from writing about this again (I wrote about it back in November) is a pessimistic belief that nothing will change. These trials are awful for the vicitims because there is such a prevailing fear of pursuing false accusations. I know this is an innocent until proven guilty system, but what fuels that fear? Denial? If we pretend that this didn’t happen we don’t have to take responsibility for preventing or stopping it? The idea that anyone would put themselves through a public trial about being sodomized as a child because they thought they could make money off the story is beyond cynical to me, its more like insane.
I think more emphasis needs to be placed on teaching average people how to intervene if they think some abuse is happening and then convince them that they will be supported, as opposed to vilified or doubted, for reporting. We are not nice to whistle blowers in this country.
Whenever friends talk about the case they are outraged that McQueary went to his Dad and then reported to the Coach when he saw Sandusky in the shower molesting a boy. What was his better choice? If he called the police would they even show up? If they did would a report be filed or would Sandusky have talked his way out of it with the same defense used at the trial? Better there was an actual trail of people that he kept telling. It didn’t stop that act, and for that he will likely feel eternal shame, but it might be enough to put a predator in jail for life.
I think it is naive to assume that abuse reported is abuse stopped. Because of this trial (and all those Catholic clergy stories) do people now know how to intervene and make a child safe if they think there is sexual or other abuse happening? Do people know that child services should be called? Is it now clear if you should call 911 for child services or do you call the police and they call child services? It might be helpful if every online story about Sandusky ended with the National Child Abuse hot line 1-800-4-A-Child.
I hope someone learned something from all of this. Not feeling too optimistic at the moment.