Right now, articles about the Sandusky trial are giving details from victims’ testimonies and the images are brutal, horrific, and overwhelmingly sad. Amidst all the shocking stories, that may be traumatizing much of America, there is one piece left out of all that I have read and that is what to do with people who sexually abuse. What becomes of them? What should happen to them?
Even in prison sexual abusers are killed. They are the pariahs of society and yet, they start out just like anyone else. Is a sexual abuser born with a label on them that says they will sexually abuse? No.
Someone hurts them first and then they hurt someone else.
Am I saying Sandusky was abused, poor guy, we should feel sorry for him and go easy? NO. There are consequences to actions and he has hurt many people because he never got help. Was he probably abused? Yes.
The fact is that this is a big case and we are hearing horrific details of the abuse and how he has abused many people, but sexual abusers walk around free every day, some of them have been caught, many have not. Those who have been caught may have their name on a registry somewhere, but they’re out and about and if they don’t get help and no one pays attention, they may continue to hurt others.
There have been allegations that ten boys were abused by Sandusky over fifteen years. Sadly, I bet that’s a low number. I would not be surprised if it was many more. Hopefully I’m wrong.
So, do all people who are sexually abused abuse others? Absolutely not. But it means that some will and they will often abuse more than one person. Like Sandusky.
Is it about sex? No- it’s about power. It may be that sexual desire and power have warped, but it’s not solely about sex because it is non-consensual. It is about being able to take something from someone without their permission.
We know it is non-consensual for one sole reason, a child/minor cannot consent to sex. There is no such thing as non-consensual sex, essentially it is rape.
Sandusky used children’s innocence, trust, and fear to prey upon them. He has not only tricked child after child, but he has also tricked the entire society.
When everyone thought he was a good man who was a coach and a founder of a charity, no one questioned his actions as possibly abusive and harmful of children. Sexual abusers often work to create their worlds so no one will suspect them and they can keep abusing. In the Sandusky case, people saw a few things, kind of said things here and there, nothing happened- Until Now.
An upstanding citizen suddenly found out to be an abuser? Unfortunately there have been and are many abusers out in the world who seem to be upstanding normal citizens. They may even seem better than normal, they may be business owners, heads of towns, coaches. Sexual Abusers do not wear labels that identify them, nor do they say they are sexual abusers, they look for whatever way possible to keep abusing.
Abusers find children they can have access to who probably won’t tell or have no one to tell or no one to listen. They find children who need someone to care about them. They may be loving and sweet to a child but also sexually abuse them, which causes extreme confusion for victims. They might give gifts or play games. They may be violent and threaten a child or tell the child they will hurt their family.
The Sandusky case is a good one for learning about sexual abuse because Sandusky did all of these things. The thing is access- do they have access to a child who often doesn’t have someone paying attention? This is not to blame caregivers, it is to say that sexual abusers will trick the adults too- in order to be able to get to the child.
Note to Society-
*We all must be aware of sexual abuse and what to do if we see it or see signs of it.
*We must understand that it is NOT the victim’s fault and the victim had no say so about whether or not it happened.
*We must not be afraid or embarrassed to describe sexual acts an adult forces upon a minor, this includes the watching of pornography or forcing a minor to see an adult naked
*We must risk ourselves (embarrassment, threats, or simply being wrong) by reporting suspicions of the sexual abuse of children.
*We must speak about the whereabouts of sexual abusers, not to exclude or ostracize them from society, but to keep children safe.
*We must be guardians of children and support parents being parents unless the parents are the ones who are abusing their children.
So, what happens when there is a sexual abuser? Well, at this point the hopeful outcome is that men like Sandusky are locked up for a long time. He can’t be trusted to act appropriately on his own, so the law must help him. Locking him up at this point seems necessary. But it’s a late outcome. He has already abused countless victims.
Sandusky needed therapy and some sort of rehabilitation long ago. Society has got to speak out against abuse, to push for therapy for those who have been abused, to see therapy as normal, helpful, and necessary, and to see therapy as normal for men.
We can’t lock everyone who sexually abuses children up. Actually, we could, I guess, if we could find them all, but we don’t. So, what now?
This society- all of us- must look for signs of sexual abuse, must work to protect children from it and make it something absolutely intolerable. We must look for ways to help victims of it stop the cycle and we must help perpetrators of it, stop abusing others.
What do you think can be done? Talk to others. Begin the conversation.