Lessons From The Sandusky Trial

Editor’s note: State Senator Bill Diamond wrote and filed this column before a decision was handed down against former Penn State Coach Jerry Sandusky, who was found guilty on 45 charges.

By Senator Bill Diamond

The Jerry Sandusky case has garnered a lot of media attention over the last few weeks, and rightly so. The accusations against him are literally monstrous, and, if true, he will be remembered as one of the most truly evil people of our time.

I want to stress at the outset, however, that all the claims against him are still allegations at this point, and that he is innocent until proven guilty.

While I said that the media attention is warranted, I am somewhat disappointed by the direction the media has gone in its coverage of the case. They have, not surprisingly, focused on the more sensational aspects of the story. There are some real lessons that can be drawn from the case that can be used to protect our children.

There is a real pattern shown by the alleged victims. They were all from troubled backgrounds and broken families with no fathers or other strong male role models available. This makes them attractive to a predator in two ways. One, it makes them more vulnerable. They are genuinely grateful and appreciative when they are shown the sort of attention that the predator is lavishing upon them. The accusers in the Sandusky case were taken to sporting events, given gifts, fed, taken on trips, etc. Because this attention is not something these vulnerable kids are used to and because their background may have given them a skewed sense of what is “normal,” they will be more likely to go along with the abuse. And because they may want the good part of the relationship with the abuser to continue, they are more likely to let the abuse continue as well.

The other is that it makes them less likely to complain for fear that they won’t be believed. After all, their abuser is a pillar of the community. He is well respected and seemingly above suspicion. The victim is just a kid from a broken home, has had behavioral problems, and who may have had some minor scrapes with authority in the past. Why on earth would anybody believe them over their abuser?

The important lessons that I draw from this case are first, always listen to a child when they say they have been abused. False allegations are terrible, and it can be hard to clear one’s name, but most children don’t know enough to make a convincing accusation unless they are actually a victim. Victims will make tentative accusations and be disbelieved and told to keep quiet by the people they go to for help. This can discourage them from ever talking about their abuse again.

Another lesson is to be wary of people who seem “too good to be true.” There are saints out there, but there are monsters as well. If the person we are taking to be a saint is taking showers or engaging in other inappropriate activity with the kids he or she is “helping” then question them on it. People should not be given a pass just because they are doing good works.

As I write this, the fate of Jerry Sandusky is in the hands of the jury. Either he will be found to be a predator of great cunning or the victim of a great injustice.

Please contact me if you have any questions about this or have any problems with the state. You can call my office at the State House at 287-1515 or visit my website, www.mainesenate.org/diamond to send me an e-mail.

Senator Bill Diamond is a resident of Windham, and serves the District 12 communities of Casco, Frye Island, Raymond, Standish, Windham and Hollis.

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