Friday, June 29, 2012

What the Sandusky Verdict Means to Child Sexual Abuse Victims

What the Sandusky Verdict Means to Child Sexual Abuse Victims
By Mai Fernandez Thursday, June 28, 2012

While testifying about the abuse he had experienced, one of Jerry Sandusky’s victims was asked why he had never reported the crime. “Who would believe kids?” he asked. Sandusky is an “important guy.” So like his fellow witnesses—and so many other child sexual abuse victims—he didn’t tell a soul.

Sandusky’s 45-count conviction represents a watershed for all victims of child sexual abuse.

Sandusky’s victims—whose pained, halting, and strikingly similar testimony led to the conviction—described how pedophiles prey on children who trust and look up to them. The jury believed those victims, and they can now begin healing and rebuilding their lives.

The conviction frees them from the troublesome media label “alleged victims,” which reflected the judge’s stated view that there were no victims until a conviction was achieved. As state and federal law confirm, there ARE victims prior to conviction in a particular case, and they have rights in the criminal justice system.

As victims exercised their rights in this case, their suffering was recognized and their accounts of Sandusky’s grievous crimes were validated....

The Sandusky case, as well as the Catholic Church child sex abuse scandal, has suggested the true scope of child sexual abuse. Studies show that 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys are victims of sexual abuse, and an estimated 78,188 cases of reported child sexual abuse occurred in 2003.

Yet we know that the vast majority of these crimes are not reported; the numbers don’t begin to reflect the actual prevalence of child sexual abuse.

The Sandusky case also exposed the methods by which predators establish power over children’s lives. They systematically “groom” their victims, often showering them and their families with gifts and special favors, such as football tickets, access to star players, and camping trips. Sandusky preyed on children served by Second Mile, the charity he founded to help disadvantaged youth. Like so many predators, Sandusky built a reputation as a benefactor—rather than a destroyer—of youth.

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