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

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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.


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