While I did write about it early on, like many survivors of sexual violence, I have been keeping a distance from the proceedings surrounding the trial of Jerry Sandusky — the former Penn State defensive coordinator who was accused of sexually abusing multiple children over a span of years. The case turns my stomach. I literally vomited a little in my mouth the first time I heard about it on the news.
The more the case unwound — unraveling the tight knot of carefully kept secrets by so many people (again and again) over so many years — the more I felt unmoored by it. Something bound up inside me for decades was loose and flailing violently. As I have already confronted the demons of being molested — through professional counseling and decades of soul-searching and thoughtful, emotional journeying — I doubt it was merely the news of the acts themselves. While disturbed, I did not feel similarly… wild… by the news of Michael Jackson’s (alleged) actions, nor that of countless other headlines over the years.
No, somehow it is with the survivors of the Sandusky atrocities that I find a strange kinship. These battle lines are more familiar than most. And that’s why it’s taken me a bit more time to share my thoughts. I thought about not saying anything. But, that’s more silence. And silence connotes shame. And I am anything but ashamed for this victory.
But this is why I could barely breathe as I waited on Friday night for the announcement… would he be found guilty? I had this terrible fear that he wouldn’t. I couldn’t exhale until I knew there was some kind of justice for the kids like me. That somewhere, someone believed. Nobody believed me. (Some still don’t.) And I couldn’t face that again. If nobody believed Sandusky’s victims, it was like none of us could ever be believed. Ever. That there was no justice for kids like us. Like we aren’t worthy of justice.
And so, when they read that verdict on those steps — GUILTY — I wept hot tears, like I am right now as I write this today. My daughter was playing on the floor at my feet and I snatched her up and held her so tight. And I felt like the wildness inside me was finally calming down.
That justice was for all of us. We all won.
That justice was for all the kids who did say something but it didn’t stop. That justice was for all the kids, like me, who did have people who tried to help who were stopped by someone else because of pride and ego (their own personal Joe Paternos, if you will). Because I don’t know anything more goddamn despicable than that.
And, of course, this one is for all of us — no matter what your circumstance was. We all matter. We all deserve justice. And when any one of us gets it… WE WIN!
NO SHAME. NO SILENCE.