As I watched the testimony during the Jerry Sandusky trial unfold over the last week, I am reminded of the pain and suffering I endured during the years of my abuse and the court proceedings that followed it.
During the Sandusky trial proceedings, I was struck by a quote from victim #3 during his testimony. “He made me feel like I was part of something, like a family,” he said. “He gave me things that I had never had before…I loved him.” For many of the Jerry Sandusky’s victims, this trial is difficult because not only were they brutally abused; it was at the hands of someone they loved. Ninety percent of abuse cases are done by someone the child knows loves and trusts and this case is no exception.
Sandusky targeted children from a lower socioeconomic status who grew up in homes without a father. The kids looked to him as a father figure, a great male role model in their lives. I know how conflicting it can be to know that a person you trust is hurting you. My own mother’s intermittent presence in my life is what made me so vulnerable to the abuse I received from my female nanny.
I also know firsthand how scary and difficult it is to stand up in court and tell your story. I was sexually abused at the hands of my family’s nanny for six years in my own home. I was the same age as these victims when the abuse occurred and I testified in front of my abuser at the same age that many of the victims now are. I was the same age that many of them are now when I began to heal.
Healing after sexual abuse begins when a victim starts to speak about the truth. While my healing process began many years ago, I am still working every day to be a thriving survivor. I understand that these victims have a long path to healing ahead of them. Recovery is very much taken four steps forward, with two steps back. There are good days and there are bad days, but in the end you are able to spring forward and rise above the pain and suffering.
It is shown among the victims in this trial the effect that years of repression can have on your life. Victim #10 acknowledged to the court that he spent 2 years in prison after a robbery and involvement with drugs and alcohol. He is an example of how repression of your abuse can lead to a life of bad choices. It is so important for victims to receive counseling and share their story so they can rise above the abuse.
As difficult as it is to testify against an abuser, especially one who you once deeply cared for, you are a better person for it. Though it’s an emotionally trying experience, telling the truth will bring these survivors of child sexual abuse a sense of empowerment over their lives.
We will likely never know how many boys Jerry Sandusky abused. We will never know their names, their faces or their stories. But the eight men who have taken the stand and told the truth, for all of us to hear, are giving a voice to the voiceless. They stood up for the victims that couldn’t stand on their own.
Now it is our duty, as a community of survivors, to show them they are not alone. To all of the victims of this trial, and all victims of sexual abuse who have talked about their abuse or not yet disclosed: you are loved. You are cared for. There are people in your community who have experienced the same hurt that you have. We are survivors, and we are ready to support you!