As a parent of a victim of child sexual abuse, I am unfortunately familiar with the predatory details of the Jerry Sandusky scandal and the trial.
My daughter Lauren was sexually, emotionally and physically abused from 11 to 17 by our family nanny. When Lauren finally came out about the abuse I was shocked, angry and overwhelmingly distraught that I had not protected my child – my baby girl – from this awful trauma. Not only had I not protected her, I had brought the perpetrator into our home.
From this horrible experience, Lauren and I have worked to end child sexual abuse through our foundation, Lauren’s Kids since 2007. We have worked for the passage of laws to better protect children and to provide funding to help victims.
As a parent who has gone through the aftermath of sexual abuse and studied a lot about pedophile tactics, the allegations against Jerry Sandusky are a classic case of child sexual predator and pedophile grooming. The prosecution has done well in explaining the consistent and predictable grooming process that Jerry Sandusky employed – from building trust with his victims, to currying favor and control by buying them gifts and giving them access to the Penn State football program, and then forcing them to participate in sex acts and then remain quiet about it.
Jerry Sandusky groomed his victims so well that some of them have kept in touch with him as recently as two years ago. Many from the defense are asking why would they, in fact, do such a thing if it were true that Jerry Sandusky had sexually abused them. But that is how predators work. They manipulate children and control them by bribing, brainwashing, threatening, controlling and embarrassing them.
During testimony last week, it became clear that Jerry Sandusky would take his victims to Penn State football games or surprise them with extraordinary gifts as part of his M.O. and then force them to participate in sexual activities with him. His victims thought that it was the price they had to pay in order to be made to feel special. Sandusky was the father figure that his victims had never had, and they didn’t want to lose the perks he added to their lives. All part of the control they create. Victim #7 said during testimony, ”I didn’t want to upset Mr. Sandusky in any way.”
Sandusky’s victims were pleasers, and he knew it and it was much the way Lauren was, i.e. a pleaser. He exploited the children’s desire to maintain a good relationship with him and used that knowledge to take advantage of them sexually. Sandusky’s accusers acknowledge that he gave them things they never had. As an expert in this field now, I can tell you that is exactly what predators do and rely on.
Unfortunately, many people think that it is ‘all over’ when the victims get their day in court. But that is the furthest thing from the truth. The victims have a long road of recovery ahead of them, and my heart goes out to them and their families. Predators often get the benefit of the doubt because of the statue of limitations, but there is no statue of limitations for victims.