Reflections about ‘This Is Us’ on Super Bowl Sunday

I imagine the number of people watching This Is Us after tonight’s Super Bowl LII will be record breaking.

I will be among them.

SPOILER ALERT!!!

In fact, I specifically hooked up by cable box today for just that reason. Not because I want to see Jack Pearson die, though. Because personally, I’d love it if we were treated to a Bobby Ewing moment and another shower scene like the one in Dallas, where we learn the entire previous season was but a bad dream.

No, I want to see tonight’s epic show because I love, love, love This Is Us. It’s the only show I’ve watched faithfully (binging a few episodes here and there as I have time) since I saw the first episode in 2016.

And because the crock-pot fire that left us all dangling at the edge of a mountaintop is one of the best cliffhangers in TV history. (Second only to the Dallas shower scene.) And I’m a sucker for cliffhangers.

I also love good writing, and This Is Us offers some of the best and most realistic writing on TV. Coming from a family where addiction has reigned supreme for decades, where alcoholism was my father’s best friend, and where losing someone you love is more the norm than not, I can relate to Jack. To Rebecca. To each of their children.

The writing is poignant and powerful, and seamless. Living in West Virginia, where we lead the nation in fatal overdoses, whether from narcotic painkillers (opioids) or Heroin(e) or fentanyl, I’m no stranger to the emotional fallout from such loss. Neither are any of my friends and neighbors.

The writers have captured all the raw emotions: in Kevin’s battle with addiction and recovery, and with Kate’s, too. As well as in Randall’s fight with perfectionism and anxiety—problems which distort the lives of so many ACOA (Adult Children of Alcoholics).

Equally important, though, is how the show’s writers have traced the non-linear path of the adult Pearson children’s addictions. They have shown us that losing a parent is a difficult trauma to recover from. We carry those scars the rest of our lives. The wounds may eventually fade, but they forever mark us as different. Our lives are permanently delineated: before and after.

Loss changes us. Losing someone like a father, a sister, or a daughter does this irreversibly. For the last year, I’ve followed the travails of the Pearson family as I’ve lived through some of my own. Watching Jack and Rebecca’s touching love story, as triplets Kate, Kevin and Randall work through their heartache, has helped me to cope with my own losses.

Death cannot be undone. We cannot go back in time and begin exercising, or eating nutritious food, or being more moderate in all things, so our kidneys don’t give out from diabetes, or our hearts from cardiovascular disease. We can only start with today and change our habits now, in this moment.

Neither can we undo the damage we caused someone we love once they’re gone forever. Kevin confronted that during his recovery, and suffered immensely for it. For opting not to talk to his father on the phone the night of the fire. To make amends, to apologize for sharp words and cold actions.

Most of us would do things different, if we had the chance. Wouldn’t we? We wouldn’t be so quick to anger, so easy to offend, so determined to nurse a grudge. Not if we knew the true and irrevocable cost. Our vision would be less farsighted. We would see that most perceived wrongs are not personal affronts. It isn’t, in other words, all about us.

This Is Us has also given us a storyline where multiple births, adoption, and a biracial family is the norm—not the exception. In all these things and more, it teaches us important life lessons about love and tolerance and forgiveness—whether the person in need of forgiving shares our bed, our genes, or our history. Even if the person is the same one staring back at us from our bathroom mirror.

It offers us a look at what tragedy, triumph, and heartache look like, all torn from the pages of real life. People like you and me, who experience all these things.

Like me. After no word from her in more than a year, my missing daughter emailed me one month ago. I still don’t know where she is, but it was a relief just to learn she is alive. But that is all I know, for her email told me nothing other than that.

As my own story plays out, I find solace in knowing that I’m not alone. Other people have survived worse, and they’re still standing. Just like the Pearsons will, after Jack dies.

Loss can change us—but it doesn’t have to define us.

* * * * *


Dear Readers,

My seventh book, Shatter the Silence, a love story and the long-awaited sequel to my memoir was released May 2016. That’s on the heels of Tales of the Vintage Berry Wine Gang, a collection of my newspaper columns from 1988-91, which came out in April 2016.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

~Daleen

Steubenville Trial: Teaching Today’s Youth to Be Responsible Social Media Users

As the Steubenville Trial taking place less than two hours from my home winds up today or tomorrow, I’m in Hawai’i preparing for my upcoming speech. At this conference, held by the Institute on Violence, Abuse and Trauma, I’ll talk about the factors that led me to become a rape victim—-and the survival skills I learned along the way.

Such skills are something the unnamed Steubenville rape victim must continue to learn, as she tries to get through each day of the rest of her life. Especially today and the next few days, as Judge Thomas Lipps issues his ruling in the Jefferson County Juvenile Court case.

What makes this rape case different from many others is the use of cell phones and social media. If you haven’t heard by now—and I’m not sure how you could have missed it—the two teen football heroes took pictures of the girl as they digitally raped her. So did student onlookers. Then they posted them to the Web, so the world could watch what these two confused young men have apparently come to view as a group sport.

And apparently not a single student who snapped photos and then forwarded them to other friends or posted them on social media sites had enough moral fortitude to pause before hitting the send button. Or maybe just to stop and think: “Hey, wait a minute. This isn’t a game. It’s a crime. I should send this photo to the police, so they can come and rescue this poor girl.” (Because it’s obvious none of the partiers in that crowd tried to rescue her.) Or if the students did think that, they sure didn’t act on it.

It would seem they were more worried about peer pressure and how such a responsible action might affect their own popularity, than trying to be good citizens.

I first heard about sexting in 2007, while working at the Cumberland Times-News in Maryland. One day at the McDonald’s in Frostburg I was having coffee with a young mother who was distraught because her daughter, an inexperienced girl in her early teens, had received a pornographic text message. It showed a fellow male student’s genitals. That was my introduction to sexting, and I didn’t even know it. I did know it was a story—I just didn’t know how big a story it would have been, had this woman not been a personal friend. A year later, I learned more about this growing problem when I went to a press conference about teen dating abuse at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The two things—sexting and abuse—have since been linked in my mind.

I daresay the explosion in cell phone usage—especially in Appalachia (in which Steubenville is located), where technology has been slower to reach our teens, due to both poverty and access—means not many parents have taken the time to discuss cell phone protocol with their children. Or maybe they just expect their teens to know it’s morally wrong to take photos of a girl too drunk to consent to two boys putting their fingers in her vagina.

But apparently parents don’t realize this, and teens don’t know this. Or worse yet, they simply don’t care. That’s what the research indicates, anyway. In a 2012 study conducted by the psychology department at University of Utah, researchers surveyed 606 teens ages 14–18 about sexting. Their findings? Wikipedia reported almost “20 percent of the students said they had sent a sexually explicit image of themselves via cell phone, and nearly twice as many said that they had received a sexually explicit picture. Of those receiving such a picture, over 25 percent indicated that they had forwarded it to others.”

Now here’s where those students’ behavior becomes alarming: Among the ones who sent a sexually explicit picture, “over a third had done so despite believing that there could be serious legal and other consequences if they got caught.” The study found they even considered it acceptable.

What did the researchers conclude? “These results argue for educational efforts such as cell phone safety assemblies, awareness days, integration into class curriculum and teacher training, designed to raise awareness about the potential consequences of sexting among young people.” (I’m guessing they focused on schools taking the lead in this area because they realized the study result showed that parents weren’t doing so.)

I’m 49 and I’ve never taken a sexually explicit picture of myself—much less sent it to someone else. Nor have I received such a photo via a text or even an email. (Not that being 49 means you aren’t apt to do stupid things like this. We have numerous high-profile cases of sports heroes and celebrities who have done just that. Some of them are even older than me.) But hopefully with age comes wisdom, and the ability to realize when a potentially stupid action might come back to haunt you. With a vengeance you never anticipated.

I’ve never sexted, and that’s probably because I grew up with rules. Those rules taught my generation that taking photos of another person’s private parts and then sharing said photo with 7 billion people was wrong. It just went without saying. Breaking the rules meant you suffered the consequences—which could have been a stern talk, a spanking or the loss of privileges.

I wonder how many Steubenville parents would have confiscated their teens’ cell phones, had the police not done it first. Because that’s the other issue here. No one’s really talking about it, but today’s youth are flirting with dangerous behavior that not just borders on the criminal—it is criminal. And their parents are either too distracted to care, or too busy to enact and then enforce the discipline that should automatically accompany a teen’s wayward actions.

* * * *

My next book, Guilt by Matrimony, about the murder of Aspen socialite, Nancy Pfister, comes out November 17. My memoir, Sister of Silence, is about surviving domestic violence and how journalism helped free me; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, now in ebook format, is about the life of Preston County native, Eloise Morgan Milne; The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese (a New York Times bestseller, with coauthor Geoff Fuller) and Pretty Little Killers (also with Fuller), released July 8, 2014, and featured in the August 18 issue of People Magazine.

You can find these books either online or in print at a bookstore near you, at BenBella Books, Nellie Bly Books, Amazon, on iTunes and Barnes and Noble.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

~Daleen

Editor’s Note: Daleen Berry is a New York Times best-selling author and a recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She has won several other awards, for investigative journalism and her weekly newspaper columns, and her memoir, Sister of Silence, placed first in the West Virginia Writers’ Competition. Ms. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. To read an excerpt of her memoir, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Ms. Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”

From the Voices of the Victims: ‘Who Would Believe a Kid?’

Although the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse trial “will, for a brief moment capture the attention of the eyes of the world,” according to Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda
Kelly, there are bigger stakes to be had.

The foremost stake is the fear of child sex abuse victims themselves, that no one will believe them—and the opportunity each and every one of us has to help raise awareness by becoming more educated about this type of crime. To do that, we must first educate ourselves.

“We have to continue to focus on child sexual abuse and to shine a bright light in those dark, dark places, where the Jerry Sanduskys of the world lurk, places which definitely exist in our society,” Kelly said.

At 10 p.m. Friday, a jury of Sandusky’s peers gave those victims a resounding answer in unequivocal terms, by finding him guilty of 45 out of 48 criminal counts of child sex abuse.

During the press conference held afterward, Kelly said, “The answer to that question is, ‘We here in Bellefonte, Pa., would believe a kid,” from where she stood on a courthouse lawn packed with people just before 11 p.m. Friday.

During the coming weeks and months, let’s do our best to keep the attention focused not just on the trial, but on awareness about what types of children are more susceptible to molesters, and who molesters are themselves.

In the meantime, I’ve highlighted some of the AG’s words below. They speak volumes about this case and these victims. I’ve chosen to put Kelly’s comments about the victims in bold since they are, after all, at the heart of this case.

“These (law enforcement) men and women along with many others have worked tirelessly for the last few years, to bring these charges to light, to bring this case to court, and to see the day that this defendant, a serial child predator who committed horrific acts upon his victims, causing lifelong and life-changing consequences for all of them, has been held accountable for his crimes.

To all the young men, the victims in this case, who came forward to bravely testify in this trial and to finally put a stop to the crimes that have been committed by this defendant. They’ve shown great strength and courage during this investigation, candidly and sometimes chillingly, telling their stories not only to the jury and a packed courtroom . . . but also to the entire world. It was incredibly difficult for some of them to unearth long-buried memories of the shocking abuse they suffered at the hands of this defendant and most of us cannot fully comprehend what they endured when testifying in that packed courtroom.

This trial was not something they sought but rather, something that forced them to face the demons of their past and to reveal what happened to them and their childhood when they met Jerry Sandusky. We hope that our search for justice in this case will help them and other victims who perhaps have been watching from afar and perhaps nearby, as this case unfolded.

One of the recurring themes of this testimony which came from the voices of the victims themselves in this case was, ‘Who would believe a kid?’ and the answer to that question is, ‘We here in Bellefonte, Pa., would believe a kid.’ And I think I speak not only for my own agency but for law enforcement across the country when I say, ‘We would believe a kid.’

And as reflected by this verdict that we’ve all just heard, a jury here in Bellefonte, Pa., most definitely would and did believe a kid. Although we know the scars these victims bear can’t be erased by the events in a courtroom, we hope that the outcome (helps).”

Kelly also offered praise to the media:

“Your work, your work, too, has carried this story, and the lessons that go hand in hand with it, far beyond the borders of Centre County.”

That unceasing coverage resulted “in the raising of the consciousness of your readers . . . and listeners and an increased awareness by the public of the monstrous acts that can be committed by sexual predators like the defendant in this case. Who live among us, who may appear to be pillars of the community, coaching legends, sports icons, and charitable executives extraordinaire but who calculatingly and with meticulous planning, mercilessly prey upon the most vulnerable members of our society.

They carefully select their victims. In this case, as you know, underprivileged kids, kids from broken homes, foster homes, one-parent families, and many of them having other issues, like learning, behavioral and emotional problems to deal with, as well. And all of them in their time of need, turned to The Second Mile.”

Among the many important lessons learned from this case is this one: “We cannot let the national focus on child sexual abuse fade after cameras turned off,” she said.

Finally, Kelly spoke to victims everywhere, when she encouraged victims of any sex crime to go to any law enforcement agency, to “seek the support and assistance you need. They will believe you.”

* * * *

Daleen can be reached at daleen.berry@gmail.com.

Editor’s note: Daleen Berry is the first recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change, for her second book, Lethal Silence, to be published sometime in 2012. She has expertise in overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment, and wrote about Wanda Toppins’ murder in her book, after reporting on the case in 1991 when she worked for The Preston County Journal. Wanda was another Preston County woman who died needlessly, and who Berry wrote about in Sister of Silence.

To read the Sister of Silence e-book (or any other e-book), download a free app from Amazon for your phone, tablet or computer.
Berry’s an award-winning author, editor and journalist who speaks at conferences around the country. Berry was one of two keynote speakers addressing a national audience at “The Many Faces of Domestic Violence,” the 18th Annual Conference of the Association of Batterers’ Intervention Programs on March 1, 2012, in Anaheim, Calif. She recently spoke to social workers from all over the country at the “Hope for the Future: Ending Domestic Violence in Families” conference at the University of California, Berkeley.

Her memoir (paperback and as an e-book) can be found at bookstores everywhere, or ordered online. To read the first chapter free, please go to Goodreads. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”

If you want to read dozens of other five-star reviews, check out this title on Amazon. To view the Sister of Silence book trailer, go to her VintageBerryWine Youtube channel. For a mock up of the SOS t-shirt readers are demanding, check out Berry’s Facebook page.

Sandusky: The Verdict that Rang Out Around the World

At least eight young men and children everywhere slept easier last night, knowing that a clarion call has gone out following the verdict in the historic sex abuse trial of Jerry Sandusky.

Found guilty of 45 out of 48 counts of the criminal carges Judge John Cleland told the jury they could consider during deliberations, Sandusky was led away in handcuffs last night as an unprecedented number of families stood cheering on the Centre County Courthouse lawn.

I spoke with one father there, who came out with his wife and sons. Unfortunately, I can’t use his name, because he works with Juror No. 4, who was also the jury foreman. But this father of three, whose sons are six, 11 and 14, said the foreman is a computer engineer whose first name is Mark. “He’s a good guy, very intelligent and deeply thoughtful,” this dad said.

Because of that, he said he knew the jury would deliberate in a systematic fashion, sifting carefully through all of the evidence.

Which they did, for more than 20 hours. This father said “justice was served, probably a little late.” He then summed up why Sandusky was able to molest so many children for so long. “When someone is put on a pedestal just for having a skill, this is what happens,” he said.

It’s one thing to attend a trial as a member of the media. It’s another matter to attend as a survivor of just such a predator. Justice for Victims 1-10 means justice for me and many, many other survivors of sex abuse whose abuser will never see the inside of a courtroom or face 442 years in a prison cell.

So yes, I was ecstatic at last night’s verdict, and happy that for the first time since this story broke, the smile was wiped from Sandusky’s face. (I was so happy I didn’t even take time to turn around and congratulate the only victim—that I know of) who was in the courtroom to hear the verdict.

But I watched him from where I sat, as the foreman read it. Because I couldn’t see his face, I had to ask one of the many trial sketch artists there, who did see, what his facial features revealed. She said he was sobbing.

What I saw was the arm of the woman who sat beside him, and how she touched him as Sandusky was declared guilty. It was as if she was saying, “Look what you accomplished! You brought this horrible man down. You stopped him.”

By the time media began filing back into the courtroom earlier that evening, around 8:30 p.m., a nervous energy was palpable, as rumblings that something was underway were barely beginning. But aisles in the middle of the courtroom had been cleared and the buzz continued to grow, so that by the time Dottie Sandusky walked into the courtroom at 9:45 p.m., that buzz was a dull roar.

It had been present since the beginning, no doubt. I wouldn’t know, since I only arrived Wednesday. (I covered the early days of this case, and knew I had to drive to Bellefonte to see and hear the trial’s outcome for myself. As if foreshadowing the jury’s verdict, as I headed for the courthouse Wednesday morning, I passed the Rockview State Correctional Institution. I had to stop and take a photo, and ponder Sandusky’s possible future there.)

I entered the courtroom for the first time Thursday, for closing arguments, and that’s when I heard it: the sound of keyboards clattering all around the room. Every time something of any import happened, journalists put their fingers to keyboards and began typing.

By last night, the clicking sounds had grown to a dull roar, and every keystroke seemed to signal impending action.

9:45 p.m.—Dottie Sandusky, flanked by family members, enters the courtroom from a door behind the judge’s bench.

9:50 p.m.—The defendant, wearing a rust-colored corduroy blazer, enters with his counsel from a different door behind the bench.

9:52 p.m.—A voice announces, “All rise, court is in session.”

9:53 p.m.—Judge Cleland speaks: “Good evening. Be seated.”

10:09 p.m.—Sandusky, confirmed sex offender, is led away, and leaves the courtroom through the door his wife entered just minutes earlier.

My notes have gaps and so don’t reflect the time the seven female and five male jurors began filing in, or when the grey-haired foreman, dressed in a blue checkered button-down shirt, stood to read the verdict. It was after Judge Cleland gave the media very clear instructions about what not to do in his courtroom—or risk facing the consequences for breaking his rules.

I was more interested in seeing if any of the jurors looked in Sandusky’s direction, which one can guess might reveal the verdict. Two jurors did: one was a tall and clean-shaven young man, probably the youngest juror and the same age as some of Sandusky’s victims. The other was a woman with black hair who could have been the mother of one of the victims.

As I struggled to jot down the verdict for each of the 48 counts, I also tried to watch the sole victim in front of me, as well as Sandusky and his wife. As the foreman read the last count and delivered a guilty verdict, the young man bowed his head very briefly, as if in prayer, and took a deep breath. Exhaling, his shoulders dropped. It was as if in that single exhalation, all the tension in the courtroom evaporated. For him, though, I’m sure it was more about the relief he was feeling, at knowing his abuser was going to be spending the rest of his life behind bars.

Responses from people who heard the jury’s verdict varied, but I think it’s accurate to say they were just as relieved. As I filed out of the courtroom and down the stairs, I found myself behind the white courthouse pillars, in the glare of the spotlight and directly behind Lisa “Pinky” Shirk. She’s a local woman who’s urged ongoing support for the victims ever since the story broke. Her overwhelming fear throughout had been that Sandusky would get off.

As we reached the last step and she realized I was behind her, she turned around, hugged me, and then, overcome with emotion, she broke into tears. Clinging to me, she sobbed and sobbed, as long months of fear and frustration, and anger and despair for what the victims have gone through, flowed freely.

Shirk was one of many, many people on the courthouse lawn who couldn’t hide their emotions. Who had turned out in hopes of hearing just such a verdict. One such young woman was Rebecca Berry (curious coincidence, but no relation that I know of), who drove from Farmington, Conn., twice, to attend the proceedings.

That’s because Berry forgot her identification when she arrived at the trial two weeks ago. Without it, she couldn’t gain entry. Berry had to drive her “beat-up Crown Victoria” seven hours back home, go to the Department of Motor Vehicles so she could replace her lost license, and then drive back to Bellefonte. The two trips were more than 2,100 miles.

Berry, also a survivor of sexual abuse, couldn’t keep her emotion under control as each count was being read. So from the still courtroom, save for the foreman’s voice, many of us sitting there heard the sound of a choked sob. That was Berry.

“I started crying right there. It was when I heard the verdict for Victim No. 9 . . . he was such a baby and it was so brutal, what happened to him,” Berry said. “The Penn State case was very triggering to me as a survivor. I avoid these cases usually and I’m able to because I don’t really watch shows like Nancy Grace, but I couldn’t get away from Penn State. It was everywhere. It was hard to see the coverage. When I read about the victim who was bullied out of school, it upset me to the point I threw my laptop across the room. And broke it. It was infuriating to me,” Berry added.

Berry said she felt personally vindicated at the trial’s outcome.

After the verdict was announced and things had calmed down somewhat, authorities held a press conference. Attorney General Linda Kelly said the trial’s outcome shows that in Pennsylvania, “we believe the children.”

Kelly said she hopes the verdict will “help the voices of victims be heard and we can try to drive away the demons and the darkness and lift the veil of secrecy that allows predators to hide and operate in our midst.”

The AG then spoke specifically about society’s moral obligation to help prevent child sex abuse.

“This is a law enforcement issue and every police department and investigating agency across the country should take note of this case and ensure that every claim of child sexual abuse is addressed promptly and investigated thoroughly, with the understanding that where there’s one victim, there very likely are more,” Kelly said.

“This crime is unacceptable, as well as unconscionable and should not and cannot be tolerated,” she added.

“This is also a family issue, and hopefully parents across the country will learn from this case how important it is to be vigilant about your child’s personal interactions with others and o make sure your child is conscious of their own safety and they must report these types of incidents.

Children “really are, truly, our most valuable natural resource. And they should always be our priority. Every one of us has the responsibility to be aware of the possibility of this type of crime and to speak out if you know something troubling,” Kelly said.

* * * *

Daleen can be reached at daleen.berry@gmail.com.

Editor’s note: Daleen Berry is the first recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change, for her second book, Lethal Silence, to be published sometime in 2012. She has expertise in overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment, and wrote about Wanda Toppins’ murder in her book, after reporting on the case in 1991 when she worked for The Preston County Journal. Wanda was another Preston County woman who died needlessly, and who Berry wrote about in Sister of Silence.

To read the Sister of Silence e-book (or any other e-book), download a free app from Amazon for your phone, tablet or computer.

Berry’s an award-winning author, editor and journalist who speaks at conferences around the country. Berry was one of two keynote speakers addressing a national audience at “The Many Faces of Domestic Violence,” the 18th Annual Conference of the Association of Batterers’ Intervention Programs on March 1, 2012, in Anaheim, Calif. She recently spoke to social workers from all over the country at the “Hope for the Future: Ending Domestic Violence in Families” conference at the University of California, Berkeley.

Her memoir (paperback and as an e-book) can be found at bookstores everywhere, or ordered online. To read the first chapter free, please go to Goodreads. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”

If you want to read dozens of other five-star reviews, check out this title on Amazon. To view the Sister of Silence book trailer, go to her VintageBerryWine Youtube channel. For a mock up of the SOS t-shirt readers are demanding, check out Berry’s Facebook page.

Jury Deliberates: Will Sandusky Walk or Wear Stripes?

In a child sex abuse trial of historic proportions, where the victims have only been identified by number, I felt rather honored today to become a number myself. And even though I was “Public Member Number 21,” by the time I entered the courtroom, the only remaining seats were at the back of the room.

So I was unsure if I was seeing correctly, or if my eyes were playing tricks on me, when it appeared Jerry Sandusky was grinning as Prosecutor Joseph McGettigan recounted the last several days of testimony. I leaned over to my neighbor, a sports fan whose eyes see younger than mine, and asked if Sandusky was really grinning. “Yes,” he replied, adding that that was odd.

Odd, indeed, that as McGettigan described some very heinous sex acts Sandusky is said to have committed with boys as young as 10, the defendant would be grinning. Until today, I’d only heard of this legendary grin, smirk, smile, or whatever you want to call it. I’ve been hearing about it for months, as local residents who turned out for bond and other hearings discussed it on Facebook.

But today I saw it firsthand and let me tell you, it was creepy. I don’t care who you are, what your stature or how far up the ladder you are, it’s a sign of gross disrespect to grin as you’re being accused of molesting children. It’s especially troubling that Sandusky apparently sees nothing wrong with smiling so often, or so widely, during court proceedings and public appearances. But it’s a type of trouble I recognize: he’s also been described by onlookers as someone who seems immature, given he’s nearly 70 years old.

And yet, there’s something strangely familiar about his weirdness: he reminds me of a man I was once married to. I was one of his many victims and I saw those facial expressions in him, at the most inappropriate times. He also never grew up, in that he remained emotionally stunted throughout our ten-year marriage.
It’s been awhile since I’ve covered a trial as serious as this one, but I don’t think I’m mistaken in believing that there were many things about this high-profile trial that seem off. To begin with, that Sandusky would be represented by an attorney whose own–well, how best to say this?–criminal past makes him the perfect person to represent someone who has legal issues involving underage minors.

Then there was the surreal feeling I got during Joe Amendola’s closing argument: it seemed to me he couldn’t decide which side he was working for–the prosecution, or the defense. For instance, Amendola tried to convince the jury there was no medical evidence that the victims sustained injuries during the sex acts they said happened. Then Amendola elaborated, telling the jury that one victim who claimed he’d been forced to have anal sex with Sandusky only complained to his mother of having a stomachache.
That is not, however, what was weird. “If Mr. Sandusky had anal sex with that child . . . that’s not where the pain would be coming from,” Amendola said.

I looked around, so I know I wasn’t the only person in the courtroom who thought Amendola’s attempt–whatever it was–landed like a dud.

Personally, from the perspective of someone who survived years of sexual abuse, I can tell you that no matter which part of your physical body is assulted, the stomach is probably one of the first places you’re going to feel your very real physiological pain. So in my mind, that argument just served to further strengthen the Commonwealth’s case.

Amendola said and did many things which could be construed as either out of touch with reality (another reason he and his client are well suited), incompetent, or just plain weird, that I’ve come to believe he suffers greatly from a serious bout of cognitive dissonance. That’s the term psychologists give to the conflict you experience when your mind knows one thing (for instance, Jerry Sandusky’s a great coach and role model), but it’s confronted with another (such as seeing Sandusky rape a boy in a shower). Since you can’t believe what you saw, you fail to take action (as in failing to call 911 when you see this horrible abuse in progress).

You might recognize my description as one from the Sandusky files, when Mike McQueary walked in on just such a scene. But in Amendola’s case, because he said such things such as, “He decides to become a pedophile at 50-years-old,” or, “If Jerry Sandusky did this, he should rot in jail the rest of his life,” or, my personal favorite, “Slammed should be the title of his next book,” not long after talking about the slapping sounds McQueary heard coming from the shower, I have a hunch why Amendola posited such things to jurors.

So here’s my two cents, for what it’s worth: Amendo had sex with a minor who was under his authority, even getting her pregnant, and now he’s representing a man charged with molesting underage boys. In some ways, so far as I can tell, there’s little difference between the two crimes–especially given that Judge John Cleland clearly outlined for the Sandusky jury that when there’s an age difference of four years or more, when a victim is 16 or younger, even if (or when) the victim consents to the sex act, it’s a crime for the adult to engage in it.

I believe Amendola, on some level, knows what Sandusky did was wrong, and he’s faced with a client who believes in his own innocence, but given the laws Amendola works with daily, he has to be experiencing some cognitive dissonance. Anyway, enough about Amendola.

McGettigan’s closing argument was brilliant! He not only blew holes in the conspiracy theory Amendola fabricated, but he managed to bring in the humanity of the victims, explaining to the jurors that the reason some of them didn’t testify well was because of their youth, or because they were forced to sit all day waiting to testify, and then the defense treated them like liars and “money grubbers.”

But it was his final, physical move that stole the show. With slow, deliberate steps, McGettigan moved across the courtroom until he was directly behind Sandusky. Once there, he told jurors they could help the victims whose childhoods had been “ravished,” and whose memories had been “destroyed.”

“He knows he did it and you know he did it, so find him guilty,” McGettigan said.

I strained to see Sandusky’s face, hoping that surprise move, those powerful words, finally would have wiped the smirk from his smiling face, but the prosecutor blocked my view of the man whose future the jury now debates, as it decides whether he’ll walk or wear prison stripes.

* * * *

Daleen can be reached at daleen.berry@gmail.com.

Editor’s note: Berry is the first recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change, for her second book, Lethal Silence, to be published sometime in 2012. She has expertise in overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment, and wrote about Wanda Toppins’ murder in her book, after reporting on the case in 1991 when she worked for The Preston County Journal. Wanda was another Preston County woman who died needlessly, and who Berry wrote about in Sister of Silence.

To read the Sister of Silence e-book (or any other e-book), download a free app from Amazon for your phone, tablet or computer.

Berry’s an award-winning author, editor and journalist who speaks at conferences around the country. Berry was one of two keynote speakers addressing a national audience at “The Many Faces of Domestic Violence,” the 18th Annual Conference of the Association of Batterers’ Intervention Programs on March 1, 2012, in Anaheim, Calif. She recently spoke to social workers from all over the country at the “Hope for the Future: Ending Domestic Violence in Families” conference at the University of California, Berkeley.

Her memoir (paperback and as an e-book) can be found at bookstores everywhere, or ordered online. To read the first chapter free, please go to Goodreads. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”

If you want to read dozens of other five-star reviews, check out this title on Amazon. To view the Sister of Silence book trailer, go to her VintageBerryWine Youtube channel. For a mock up of the SOS t-shirt readers are demanding, check out Berry’s Facebook page.

He probably won’t take it, but this is why Sandusky will receive a plea offer

When Jerry Sandusky waived his right to a preliminary hearing last Tuesday, I could only think of one good reason: plea deal. Which is one of the worst things that can happen to a case like this.

It’s also one of the best. Before I tell you what that is, let’s go back to Tuesday for a minute.

There are a few reasons to waive a prelim, but having more evidence released to the public is one of the biggest ones defendants take this step. Some people have speculated that was indeed the reason Sandusky waived his rights. Within seconds after that major announcement, came whispers of a plea deal. I’ve read so much about this case that I can’t remember where I read it, but I did see something about that myself.

It’s quite common for prosecutors to spare victims of sex crimes by offering up the defendant a plea bargain on a platter, since it saves victims from reliving their abuse all over again. But what follows is my take on why a plea deal might be struck in this particular case.

For the last six weeks, as the world has weighed in on the biggest U.S. sporting scandal ever—one that was about anything but sports—I’ve had a nagging thought in the back of my mind as I’ve listened and read about the Penn State sex abuse tragedy: What are people going to do when they learn the victims willingly took part in their own abuse?

That’s because I did the same thing, when I was their age. I was no different than the youngsters targeted by The Second Mile, who was started to help children who “need additional support and who would benefit from positive human contact.” Being reared in a single-parent, low-income household automatically qualifies one as “vulnerable,” or “disadvantaged”—the two other adjectives used to describe the alleged victims of Penn State coach and Second Mile founder Jerry Sandusky.

News of the scandal broke when the public learned of the former defensive coordinator’s arrest and molestation charges in early November. About the same time, the school’s vice president and its athletic director were charged with failing to report the suspected abuse, and for lying to the grand jury. The biggest news to come from this scandal, though, is the firing of Penn State’s legendary head coach Joe Paterno. In fact, other than details revealed in the grand jury transcript, news about the eight (and now nine) alleged victims has been predictably scant.

Paterno has captured the headlines more than anyone, save perhaps Mike McQueary, who told the grand jury he walked into a locker room and saw Sandusky raping a boy of 10. McQueary, now an assistant Penn State coach—but then a 28-year-old grad assistant—has since been placed on administrative leave and is believed to be in protective custody.

When it comes to disadvantaged homes, society probably understands that coming from one means the financial or familial perspective: resources are stretched thin, leaving the children on their own, or money isn’t plentiful, meaning basics like new tennis shoes are out of the question.

But I doubt it understands what being one of these youth means from an emotional aspect: having one parent in the home—as is true in 34-percent of households in this country—means the children don’t get as much attention, affection and love from that parent.

A man who knows more about this topic than most law enforcement officers put together is Ken Lanning. He wrote the foreword for my first book, Sister of Silence. Those seven pages are the analytical equivalent of my story, and provide an equally alarming eye-opener for parents who want to know how child molesters think, speak and act. They also provide insight into the mind of a child, explaining why children will return to their molester again and again, essentially becoming a willing participant in their own abuse.

This type of “acquaintance molestation” is what Lanning calls “the often forgotten piece in the puzzle of the sexual victimization of children.” He says it’s hard “for society and even professionals to face,” because people want to believe child molesters are ugly, evil strangers. They would rather believe that than the truth: It can be anyone “who has access to children.”

Lanning knows the biggest problem people have is believing the child’s role in all of this. “The idea that child victims could simply behave like human beings and respond to the attention and affection of offenders, by voluntarily and repeatedly returning to an offender, is a troubling one,” he said in the foreword.

Because this type of molester can spend a long time seducing first, the potential victim’s parents or caretakers, to gain their trust and confidence, and then, the intended victim, there’s no need for any force. That’s why Lanning says “an acquaintance molester who seduces his victims without violence can sometimes go unreported for thirty years or more.”

This is exactly what happened to Sandusky’s alleged victims, as shown in the grand jury testimony, and how my seduction occurred, as well. And when someone—a nice neighbor, a family friend, or a football coach—comes along and shows an interest in you, you immediately “get a life.” At 13, I was escorted to the Dairy Queen and the movies in a nice, shiny new vehicle; by the time I turned 16, he was buying me clothing and making my decisions for me.

And I loved it—every second of it. Well, except for the times when he convinced me that my repayment for his kindness should come in some form of sex. But those coerced occasions were quickly forgotten with a gift, a trip to the DQ or yet another truckload of wood he brought to help heat our home. He also knew he shouldn’t touch me, and kept promising me again and again, that he wouldn’t do it again. So I kept returning. To him, to what he could give me or do for me, and to the sex—which my body responded to and enjoyed—but which I could not get my mind to wrap around, try as I might.

Just as the targeted child or adolescent life in some ways changes for the better, so does the parent’s life: they finally have someone showing an interest in their offspring, and helping with the parenting workload. At least, that’s how it seems on the surface. I wrote about this in Lethal Silence, a book that looks at four families whose children died or were at risk of death, due to being victims of violence. (Due to be published as an e-book later this month.)

“When (Eddie) began helping our family, my mother was struggling with a shortage of several resources: time to properly instruct or even interact with her children, money for auto and home repairs, as well as a mate to help carry the load.

While Dad was overseas he sent little money home, forcing Mom to struggle just to get by. If she wasn’t trying to provide for her children on an almost nonexistent income, all while living in a dilapidated house that required constant work to ensure it was safe and warm, she was filling out paperwork so we could receive food stamps or heating oil. At first a single parent working two part-time jobs, after Dad returned home for a short visit a few times, Mom later became an overwhelmed pregnant mother who simply couldn’t be both parents to her growing family. She was a perfect mark for a twenty-year-old man who found girls of thirteen more sexually stimulating than young women his own age. It must have seemed like a blessing when the man who would eventually rape me offered to perform house repairs or provide free fuel and transportation.”

Lanning, who spent 30 years with the FBI and who has trained thousands of law enforcement officers and criminal justice professionals about child sexual abuse, said my story is both like all the others he’s investigated and yet equally unique. He also said it feels like he’s got a crystal ball, because he’s investigated so many of these cases that he already knows much of their outcome.

For example, one of the alleged victims has testified he voluntarily went to Sandusky’s home and had dinner after the abuse took place. Lanning said people automatically think, “if you were really victimized, you wouldn’t do it.” They also ask, “Why do these kids keep going back?” Lanning said.

This “absolutely happens all the time in these cases. Is it something that people understand? No, hardly anybody understands it,” Lanning said. That even includes the investigators charged with trying to bring such crimes to trial, he added.

These cases become even murkier when “the bad guys don’t cooperate and they don’t stay inside the lines” and do what society thinks he should, Lanning said. As an example, child molesters are usually divided into three groups: stranger, family member or acquaintance. Within those divisions, come others: age or gender, for instance. Mine liked girls of 13, while Sandusky allegedly favored boys of the same age, or slightly younger.

Now, though, comes the troubling news of allegations of abuse from one of Sandusky’s own grandsons: this boy is only five. “This case involves an acquaintance molester who befriends kids, grooms them and seduces them, showers them with attention and affection, gives status, privileges . . . and the primary reason to do that is to get children to cooperate in this activity so you don’t have to use knives, guns, weapons and threats,” Lanning said.

This leads to what’s called “compliant child victims,” like me, or like the Second Mile victims who are slowly coming forward in State College. But instead of asking why kids like us would become complicit in our own crimes, let’s instead start educating ourselves about child sexual abuse. That involves not passing on the same fairytales about what molesters, or victims, look like.

It also means realizing that stereotypes don’t fit when it comes to this type of crime: just as each and every fingerprint is different—so is each and every case of child sexual abuse.

 

Editor’s note: Berry is the executive director of Samantha’s Sanctuary, Inc., a new 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to helping empower abused women and their children. Berry’s TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013 at Connecticut College, is now live.

Berry is the first recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. Her memoir (paperback and as an e-book) can be found at bookstores everywhere, or ordered online. To read an excerpt, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”

“It Took Your Book for Me to Find Me”

If nothing else, I’m thrilled that the Penn State scandal has allowed other victims of child sexual abuse to break their silence. According to NPR, attorneys around the country are fielding phone calls from victims eager to report their abuse.

It’s about time.

Because breaking their own silence is the first step to healing from the horrible abuse they never should have suffered. I know this firsthand, because I’ve been speaking up about my experience with child sexual abuse and rape since 2003. I’ve encouraged other victims to speak up, and told audiences that it’s been a cathartic process for me to do so.

I’m sad it took something of this magnitude to wake up people, but I’m happy they’re now wide awake. I’m also furious that for many people, this story is only about Joe Paterno, a sports icon, or football, the country’s national pastime. For them, it’s not about the victims at all. But for me, the victims are the one and only thing this story is about.

Whenever I blog about child sexual abuse or post pertinent comments on social networking sites, I’m equally saddened when I come across yet another victim, who says their abuse has left them suspended in time. For you see, still trapped by the secret crimes from their past, they remain unable to move forward toward their future. Nor do they seem to know how to escape the deadly silence.

What’s clear to me is that part of their problem can be traced directly to the public’s response upon learning that Penn State, a public institution, kept allegations of child sexual abuse secret. When powerful men like Paterno and games like the one Penn State played last Saturday against Nebraska hog the headlines, why would a victim feel compelled to speak out?

Although the victims who remain suspended somewhere between their past and their present, and I experienced similar types of abuse, our healing progress is clearly not the same. And how could it be, when they lack the much-needed support to help them heal?

And yet, with enough help from the people around them, they can begin that incredible journey to a place of peace. They can close the pages to their past, experience their present, and begin making plans for their future. I know this because, surrounded by supportive people who loved me, that’s exactly what I did.

The first time someone told me I healed myself was at a 2005 child abuse conference I attended. That observation came from a psychologist who specialized in cognitive behavior. His words summarized his belief about what I had accomplished, based on what he knew about my (then unpublished) memoir, Sister of Silence.

I heard this again recently, when I met with the Bay Area therapist who is using my book with her own patients. I had to know why, of all the mental health literature out there, she chose my book to use in her work. “It provides a step-by-step guide to healing,” Dr. Jean Shimozaki said. “It shows your own path, how you healed yourself.”

Until 2005, I never thought about it like that. I’m still loath to, for I had many good people around, helping me to work on the issues of abuse I needed to overcome. Here’s the thing, though: I was deeply motivated to heal, for the sake of my children, and for the future of our family. I did not want the abuse I experienced to continue in each successive generation, as I know so often happens. So I worked very hard to look within, to see what changes I needed to make to become healthy, and to then do the work necessary to reach that goal.

Since then, I’ve come to realize it’s possible that those two mental health professionals were correct, for I had written in great detail about many of the abusive acts I experienced. I recorded the events themselves, from my perspective; I wrote about my abuser’s words and actions; and I painfully recounted those of my own. I wrote candidly about the part I had played—or thought I had played—in my own abuse. I wrote from the heart about how it felt at the time to be a victim.

As a result, those journals became valuable tools in my healing. First and foremost, they provided clarity, for I could compare what my abuser told me, with what I knew to be truth—and that helped me to stay grounded.

Second, as I tried to make sense of my life, I would search through the pages for accounts I thought I remembered—only to find that they had been recorded much differently than I recalled. If I even could recall them. In some cases, entire events had disappeared from my mind, only to come flooding back upon reading what I had written in those spiral notebooks.

Finally, over the years, I started to write Sister of Silence—as a way to help others not just understand—but to act differently. As I consulted those journals for research purposes, I began to process what had happened, and this helped with my personal healing.

I first spoke out in public about my abuse in 1999, to a small group of strangers in California. But I began speaking out publicly in earnest, in West Virginia in 2003. That was eight years ago. In the interim, I’ve freed myself from almost every painful memory I remember. It’s as if, by speaking out, I gave myself permission to let go of the burdens I’d carried around. They literally fell from my shoulders, disappearing into my past as easily as yesterday’s rainstorm disappears into the ground.

Apparently, that’s what also happening for many Sister of Silence readers. There is rarely a week that goes by, in which I don’t receive an email from someone who tells me they read my book—and see themselves in my story. Sometimes, I’m privileged to experience it in person—as happened at a recent book signing and, earlier, at the conference where I spoke in September. Social workers from all over the country were there, and they lined up to buy my book after I told them about my experience with abuse and survival.

Some of these professionals were older than I am, but they had never told anyone about their abuse—until that day, when they told me. Some of them had tears in their eyes. All of them were grateful that someone was willing to speak out, showing them the way to escape their own silence.

Most recently, I received an email from “Lana,” someone I haven’t seen since high school. I had no idea what her life was really life, all those years ago, any more than she had about mine. And yet, Lana’s email said she wished we had talked more, and opened up to each other back then. “It took your book for me to find me,” Lana said.

What that means to me personally is that I gave Lana permission to speak out. And perhaps to understand herself better. To forgive herself. To love herself. By writing about my own life, and my own story, she now realizes it’s safe to speak out about what happened to her. Because, you see, there really is safety in numbers. Especially when someone else feels free enough to do it in such a public fashion.

For today’s victims of child sexual abuse—be they Penn State victims or victims from anywhere around the country—to do the same, all they need is our collective permission to speak out. I invite Paterno to join me in giving them that permission. For Paterno, as Jeffrey W. Pollard, director of George Mason University counseling and psychological services suggested, could take the lead in granting that permission.

As Pollard says, Paterno can encourage the country to support “those who have been harmed, (which) often involves more courage than standing up to a blitzing all-American linebacker.” Since so many of us—especially Paterno—have done little else for these victims, surely he can do this.

And if Paterno does, I believe he will joined by a groundswell of people who feel free to show their support, too. This can only lead to the profound effect of freeing even more victims from the shadows of silence, so they too can have a chance to fully heal from what must no longer be permitted to continue unabated against children as a secret crime.

Editor’s note: If you are a parent and want to protect your children, or if you’re a victim who has survived child sexual abuse, please go to Amazon and read the foreword of my book. The foreword alone is well worth your time. If, after reading that, you want to purchase SOS, you have several options: paperback or e-book, direct from Nellie Bly Books, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or even in many bookstores and libraries around the country. (That number is growing by the day. If you can’t find it in a bookstore or library near you, just ask them to order it. Libraries, especially, are finding they have a long waiting list for the book, if they only have one copy in distribution.)

Power, prestige and profits take priority over the plight of children

Children everywhere are still not safe tonight.

That’s because a pedophile was allowed to roam the halls of a sacred academic institution, while power and prestige took priority over the plight of the children who were sacrificed to the gods of profit.

Kind of reminds me of the ancient god Molech, to whom parents in Judean times sacrificed their live children on a fiery altar.
When an entire institution turns a blind eye to the plight of a child as young as 10, all for fear of reprisals, loss of power, prestige and—mostly—profits, is it really any different than those pagan worshippers of so long ago? Is it really any better? Should it be any more revered?

The Penn State scandal has left a distinctly bad taste in my mouth. Like most people, I’m sickened that a college football coach, a president, a finance director, and even the grad student who witnessed a small child being raped by a grown man—among other adults who were aware of Sandusky’s perverted behavior–would not report such a crime to law enforcement.

In fact, when I tried to take a nap today, I could not erase from my mind the picture of a bigger, older man holding a boy of just 10 captive, while raping him anally. Now, after reading the grand jury testimony, which includes details about how Sandusky “gave Victim 1 a number of gifts, including golf clubs, a computer, gym clothes, dress clothes and cash,” as well as “took him to restaurants, swimming at a hotel . . . and to church,” I’m reminded of the grooming I experienced as a young girl myself.

My molester didn’t create a charity whereby he could have access to “hundreds of boys, many of whom were vulnerable due to their social situations” and which was “dedicated to helping children with absent or dysfunctional families.” But he targeted girls from such families, who were equally vulnerable as Sandusky’s victims.

When I wrote Sister of Silence, I did so because I wanted to help people understand what this type of crime looks like. I wanted to help protect other children. I also wanted to alert parents as to how they can avoid having their children targeted by these molesters.

The only reason Ken Lanning even agreed to write the book’s foreword is because I describe exactly what it feels like to be among the majority of sexual abuse victimizations. That’s right: most children are sexually abused just like I was, and just like Sandusky’s victims.

How is that, exactly? Well, we were seduced or groomed, and we were complicit in our abuse. That means we took an active role, perhaps enjoying the gifts bestowed upon us, or returning to our abuser, because we craved the attention of a positive role model.

And Lanning, after spending 30 years as an FBI special agent, testifying at hundreds (if not more) of cases that involve child victims, and having written the manuals for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, says these cases are the norm.

So much for the big, bad stranger in a black trenchcoat lurking behind a tree. (Please see “Parents Beware: Misconceptions about the Natascha Kampusch case all too common.”) Most of them instead look like Sandusky: a grandfatherly type, with an easy smile and pleasant personality. That our society continues to hold tight to the myth of stranger-danger is a travesty that permits crimes like Sandusky’s to go unnoticed for 30 years. Lanning knows this is common, and he says so in my book’s foreword.

Sadly, sometimes even when parents are alert to the danger, as was Victim 6’s mother after her son returned from a stint with Sandusky and told her they showered together, when the accused is someone prestigious, an investigation into the crime at hand is only cursory.

Anyone in the law enforcement community with an ounce of commitment toward helping children should have known Sandusky’s admission of guilt went far deeper than simply apologizing for a mere shower, or a hug. “I understand. I was wrong. I wish I could get forgiveness. I know I won’t get it from you. I wish I were dead,” Sandusky told the boy’s mother.

Children have become a casualty in today’s social climate, where parents are too busy for their child’s own good, and where trusted family friends (or coaches or priests or scout leaders) become convenient stand-ins for an overworked or absent parent.

In the past, parents tried to silence their children upon learning of such crimes, usually from a fear of shame coming upon the family name. Today, we stand at a crossroads: society can choose to continue to deny that people like Sandusky wouldn’t hurt a child, or people like Paterno wouldn’t permit it, and it will just be business as usual.

For its part, Penn State needs to do anything and everything it can to show its moral compass has changed, and it will no longer conduct business as usual. From Cleveland school teacher Rick Shartzer comes this idea about how the institution can do that: “What you permit you promote! Joe Paterno needs to be fired, and if Penn State University doesn’t have the humanity and character to cancel this weeks game, then ESPN needs to step up and BLACKOUT the game.”

Shartzer got his first wish late last night. But Penn State, which should be held accountable for the huge culpability it has in this matter, due not just for its failure to report these crimes, but because it allowed Sandusky to operate his charity, The Second Mile, from the campus. Let’s see if Penn State has the guts to grant Shartzer’s second wish.

If it does cancel Saturday’s game, the college won’t redeem itself entirely. But it can show it has indeed learned something of lasting value from this tragedy. Especially where football is more like a modern-day Molech than a national pastime, and where the mindset is making money at all costs.

Or society—we the people—can remember the legacy we leave behind will cause future generations to judge us harshly, and condemn us for the ignorance, shame and cowardice we so often display, in cases like these.

I don’t know about you, but I choose the child. After all, didn’t Jesus say “the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these?” Seems like he had his priorities straight. It may be too late for Penn State to learn from him, but it isn’t for you and me. The lives of our children—who are, after all, society’s greatest asset—depend upon it.

 

Editor’s note: Berry is the executive director of Samantha’s Sanctuary, Inc., a new 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to helping empower abused women and their children. Berry’s TEDx talk, given April 13 at Connecticut College, is now live.

Berry is the first recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. Her memoir (paperback and as an e-book) can be found at bookstores everywhere, or ordered online. To read an excerpt, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”