Jerry Sandusky has been convicted on 45 of 48 counts of sexual abuse. For his victims and many others this was a day for justice, but not necessarily healing. We should all remember the trial is over for this one defendant, but trials continue every day for many other defendants and their victims.
I sat sadly watching on Friday night as the crowd in almost a gleeful state awaited the official announcement. Should we be excited to hear a man was convicted on 45 of 48 counts of child abuse? Of course we should be thankful we have a system of justice that works, if and when offenders are caught, but what about the brave men who testified about their childhood experiences with Jerry Sandusky? They bared their souls, spoke openly about their childhood abuse, and yet much of the attention continues to focus on the person who caused the harm.
I would challenge all of us to think about what we can do to demonstrate our support for the victims in this case, and all cases. The community call-to-action should be to wrap our arms around them and show our support. There should be little attention around the conviction of a person who caused such harm. It is a news item, but not a celebration.
Very few, if any, individuals who sexually abuse children are completely wicked. They are individuals who as young children were held and nurtured by loved ones with great hopes for success, who began first grade with the limitless excitement of a new beginning, but somewhere down the road they made bad decisions and caused great harm to others.
Jerry Sandusky and others who abuse children should be held accountable for their actions, but I am not sure that vilifying them and calling them monsters will serve us very well in the long term. In my experience, many victims are interested in justice being served, but they are often interested in something else – a clear, sincere, and open apology where the offender accepts all responsibility for the sexual offending behavior both to the individuals harmed and the broader community. This has not happened in the Sandusky case, and I doubt it ever will.
Here are my three wishes for this case:
- The entire nation demonstrate our support for the victims in this case and all victims of past, current, and future abuse;
- Jerry Sandusky writes a thorough, sincere, and complete apology letter to the victims, community, and all others impacted by his actions; that he commit to changing his behavior in honor of those he has harmed; that he speak publicly about how he manipulated others so he could abuse these children and how the community can help protect its children from sexual abuse; and
- Adults across the country take ownership in preventing child sexual abuse by educating themselves and expecting schools, religious groups, youth-serving organizations, and businesses who come in contact with children to have policies and procedures in place to keep children safe in the first place.
The National Children’s Advocacy Center was the nation’s first CAC where the multidisciplinary investigation of child abuse is coordinated to improve our nation’s response to child abuse while also limiting any additional trauma to the child. Our mission is to model, promote, and deliver excellence in child abuse response and prevention through service, education, and leadership. There are now more than 850 CACs in the United States and similar programs operating in more than 15 countries throughout the world.
Chris Newlin, Executive Director
National Children’s Advocacy Center