March 25, 2013
This morning, NBC News and TODAY show Executive Producer Don Nash have collaborated with independent filmmaker John Ziegler to air portions of prison interviews recorded by Ziegler with convicted child rapist Jerry Sandusky. Ziegler is seeking to profit by capitalizing on the controversy of the Sandusky scandal by producing and distributing a film. By airing these interviews, and capitalizing on the ensuing storm of controversy unleashed by this announcement, NBC has chosen to give national exposure for a second time to a child rapist whose indisputable guilt on over 40 counts of sexual abuse of children was unanimously agreed upon by a jury of his peers.
These interviews have no independent news value, and will publicize and quite likely provide additional funding to Ziegler’s independent project. It should be noted that members of the Paterno family have disavowed any connection to this project. Airing these clips will re-victimize some of the survivors of Sandusky’s crimes. It also serves as highly unethical (and possibly illegal) harassment by Sandusky of his victims. NBC’s decision to air these interviews places them in the role of abetting and assisting this harassment. Further, it serves to give credence to Ziegler, who has publicly proclaimed his doubts that Sandusky’s behavior constituted sexual abuse.
Despite repeated efforts on the part of many advocates, attorneys, and therapists NBC News and producers of the TODAY show have refused to give a moment of air-time to anyone who represents the interests of survivors of childhood sexual abuse. By making this decision, NBC NEWS and Ziegler are choosing to shamelessly profit while causing survivors of sexual abuse needless harm. To air clips of Sandusky speaking from jail without ensuring survivors are given a chance to respond violates one of the basic principles of journalism – that both sides of a story be given an opportunity have their views aired.
Survivors of sexual abuse struggle with shame, stigma, and are often shoved to the sidelines. It is the stories of survivors of sexual abuse that should be told in the wake of abuse scandals. Sexual abuse is a public epidemic, with more than 20% of the US population reporting having experienced some form of sexual abuse during their lifetimes. Survivors suffer from far higher rates of anxiety, depression, dysfunctional interpersonal relationships, heart disease, substance abuse, and suicide. However, time and again these facts and the survivors’ voices are marginalized and drowned out in the rush to give platforms for criminals and abusers to pronounce their innocence.
NBC News had an opportunity to promote healing by supporting survivors of abuse and using this time to share information that would help survivors heal. Instead they have needlessly harmed many survivors and placed more children at risk by giving attention to a controversial filmmaker of self-serving motives and a convicted child rapist.
Christopher Anderson, Executive Director, MaleSurvivor
Marci Hamilton, JD, Paul N. Verkuil, Chair of Public Law, Cardozo Law School
John Salveson, President
Tammy Lerner, Vice President
Foundation to Abolish Child Sex Abuse
Bryn Mawr, PA
Roger Canaff, President Board of Directors
End Violence Against Women, International