Each day it is taking a stronger stomach to read the accounts coming from the Sandusky trial.
Testimony on Thursday included three more accusers, including a young man who claimed the 68-year-old Sandusky raped him as a teen guest in Sandusky's basement.
That witness, now 18, told jurors his abuse began with fondling and forced oral sex and led to several instances of rape in Sandusky's State College home, where he spent more than 100 nights and where his muffled screams went unanswered by Sandusky's wife, Dottie, who was upstairs.
He said he figured the basement must be soundproof.
Or Dotties is a really, really , really sound sleeper.
Yes, I know, this person's testimony remains just that - testimony, that is to say, evidence, in a trial where no verdict has been reached as of yet. I will say, the defense's position, judging from their opening statements, seems weak: these victims are just in it for the money and yes, he showered with young boys but, hey, it's sports, and anyone involved in sports knows little horseplay goes on in the shower room, right? As or what one victim described as "creepy" love letters from Sandusky? It's just attention-seeking, due to Sandusky's Histrionic Personality Disorder.
Because Jerry - the "tickle monster" - is all about the drama, and nothing else.
The more I hear about cases of the sexual abuse of minors, the more I see silence as the repeating factor that allows such evil to be perpetrated. I can excuse the silence of the victims - they have been traumatized and, at the time of that trauma, they are minors. We might like to think of kids as being smarter than they are but there is a reason why we do not let a minor enter a contract or marry or enlist in the armed services, saying that they lack legal capacity. And so it takes even more for a child to say, "I have been abused."
"Who would believe kids?" he said.
And who wouldn't believe that a child wouldn't believe their preadtors' threats that they will never see their family again, or they will be hurt, or a myriad of terrible things if they told.
The problem does not lie with the silence of the victim. The problem lies with those who know or suspect.
Sadly, this was a frequent scene in the sexual scandal of the Catholic Church. The problem priest was found out and instead of removing the threat, the problem was transferred, usually into yet another situation that would allow him to prey on children. I have great respect for my faith and my Church, but I will not shy away from criticizing those who dirty Mother Church - and her children - with their malfeasance and nonfeasance. As an attorney, I have taken depositions, I have defended depositions, and I have read others' deposition transcripts; my bullshit-o-meter spiked when I read the deposition of Bishop Tod Brown. That enrages me, when someone who could stop it lets it happen.
And what about those who suspect? I admit, I have a hard time believing someone like Dottie Sandusky can be so naive. Did she trade her sense of compassion for financial security? Yes, I understand her husband had a charity for kids going - he loved children, after all, and I believe the charity did, in fact, help may in less fortunate situations. But this last victim, who is only 18 and had this happen within the last few years, spent 100 nights in her basement. Did she ever talk to him? His parents?
It is true that assistant coach Mike McQueary told Joe Paterno and others at Penn State what he had seen ten years ago. They, in turn, did nothing.
The following day, after conferring with his father, McQueary reported what he saw to Joe Paterno, the team's revered coach. Paterno then waited another day to speak to the athletic director. The athletic director then talked to a superior, who relayed the incident to university president Graham Spanier. The allegation lost severity with each retelling. An act initially described as man-on-boy intercourse had become horseplay that made a witness "uncomfortable."
McQueary does not fit the defense's alibi. If anything, his role in this has likely killed his career and is in a position with everything to lose and nothing to gain, except, perhaps, the ability to sleep better at night.
I am fortunate in that I have never been a victim of sexual abuse. However, reading these stories hits me hard. A friend once told me and my husband that he had been repeatedly raped in his childhood by his own father. One of three children, his father had arranged for his brothers to share a bedroom, but for him to have his own. He had health issues as a child, and his fragility made him prey. When he told me this as an adult in his 40's, I was amazed to hear that he had never said anything to his mother or his brothers. I asked if his mother suspected anything, he said that is why he never said anything to her - he was afraid she would admit she had and he would hate her; he said he chose to think she did not, since she was "off doing her own thing" at the time. As for his brothers, he said he never wanted to ask them for fear that they too were molested, and would blame him for not saying anything, a fear that he said was increased when he finally left the family home to attend a boarding school and came home on a visit to find his younger brother angry at him for "abandoning" him. Did anyone know? His father was abusive and so perhaps his mother "chose" to remain silent with what she suspected or knew for fear of being hurt herself. Or maybe the horror was too much, for the entire family, and so some weird, unspoken tacit agreement was to just . . . be quiet. This person suffered and I have no doubt that he continues to do so based upon this. I still hurts me to know he was a victim; I pray he was his father's only one.
Silence strengthens this kind of sexual abuse. We have done a lot in schools and churches to instruct children on what type of behavior is okay and what is not, and who can be trusted and who cannot be. We have identified members of our community - teachers, police, clergy, even photo developers - as mandated reporters who can file reports of suspected child abuse with civil immunity. But the problem still exists because of the weakness of people to stand up and say something. A child is struggling - they've become withdrawn, they are overly shy, they are bed wetting, they are stuttering. Rather than say, this is not normal for a child this age, you treat the symptoms as the problem - whether naively or intentionally because you are afraid to face what may actually be the problem. At the same time, the behavior of the adult is known or suspected - sometimes there is that gut feeling and other times you know because they tell you.
But the math is flawed. An impartial spectator can look at this and put 2 and 2 together to make 4. Unfortunately, it is the silence that cancels out the hope for the victim.
Updated: after posting this, I went to Zumba and heard this song. I offer it to the victims.