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Jerry Sandusky case raised awareness of child sexual abuse

June 23, 2012|By Laura J. Nelson
  • The trial of Jerry Sandusky, shown leaving a Pennsylvania courthouse after being found guilty on 45 counts Friday night, has raised public awareness about child sex abuse.
The trial of Jerry Sandusky, shown leaving a Pennsylvania courthouse after… (Robb Carr / Getty Images )

Jerry Sandusky will likely spend the rest of his life in prison.

With Sandusky behind bars, advocates say, the focus should shift to victims — not only those who told their stories and faced Sandusky in the Centre County Courthouse, but of sexual abuse on a broader scale.

“We can't let the national focus that this case brought upon child sexual abuse [fade] after these cameras are turned off,” Pennsylvania Atty. Gen. Linda Kelly said at a televised news conference. “We have to continue to … shine a bright light in those dark, dark places.”

Kelly spoke late Friday night, not long after the jury in Bellefonte, Pa., convicted the former Penn State assistant football coach of 45 charges related to sexual assault — including grooming and abusing 10 boys over a 15-year period, in locker room showers, the basement of his home and hotel rooms on the road.

Preventing child sex abuse falls to four groups, Kelly said. Law enforcement must ensure that every claim of sex abuse is investigated thoroughly. Institutions should presume it’s their legal responsibility to prevent and report child abuse. Families should make sure children know what is and isn’t OK. And communities, she said, have it in their best interest to keep children safe and speak out when something seems wrong.

“This is a crime that thrives in darkness,” Kelly said. “It’s fed by fear and threats, shame and secrecy.”

Eight victims testified during the two-week trial. They were identified only by number.

The lawyers for Victims 3 and 7 came forward after the conviction, calling the jury’s ruling “a direct result of the victims’ inspiring courage” and a turning point for sexual abuse awareness.

Victim 3 testified that Sandusky got into bed with him and touched him inappropriately during sleepovers at the former coach's house. He didn’t tell Sandusky to stop because the Second Mile mentor made the then-teenager “feel like part of the family.” Sandusky cuddled him and took showers with him when he was 10 years old, Victim 7 said in court.

“Because of these brave men, the public now knows much more about the horrors of childhood sexual abuse, better understands the challenges survivors face, and more fully appreciates the importance of holding child sexual abuse offenders and all those who protect them accountable,” attorneys Justine Andronici and Andrew Shubin wrote in a statement.

Penn State released a statement that focused on the importance of helping guide Sandusky’s victims toward recovery, including a confidential counseling process and a new program that will compensate victims for claims related to Sandusky’s conduct.

“The legal process has spoken and we have tremendous respect for the men who came forward to tell their stories publicly,” the statement said. “No verdict can undo the pain and suffering caused by Mr. Sandusky, but we do hope this judgment helps the victims and their families along their path to healing.”

The university said it was committed “to being a constructive participant in building greater awareness of child sexual abuse and the practical steps that can be undertaken to prevent, report and respond to such abuse.”

Even before the Sandusky trial began, the case prompted lawmakers nationwide to call for laws that would require anyone witnessing child abuse to report it to a law enforcement or child protection agency.

Thirty-two states do not require all adults to report suspect child abuse or neglect. Many states only require people with regular contact with children, such as teachers, to report possible abuse.

ALSO:

Jerry Sandusky convicted of 45 sex abuse charges

Jerry Sandusky attorney says he is innocent, plans appeal

Monsignor convicted of child endangerment in priest abuse coverup

Follow Laura on Twitter. Email: laura.nelson@latimes.com

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