Unanswered Questions in Sandusky Trial: Where Are Victims 2 and 8?
After days of reading coverage from the Sandusky trial, I wasn’t sure there was anything left to be said. Now I know there is. Of the 10 alleged victims, two are missing. Didn’t a district attorney involved in this case also go missing in 2005?
Police haven’t been able to identify Victims 2 and 8, which means they haven’t found them. That might be because they’re dead. I certainly hope not, but that’s one possibility I haven’t seen much information about.
I don’t say this because of some screwball conspiracy theory that Ray Gricar, the missing DA, and Victims 2 and 8 have all been killed by someone in the Sandusky camp. Personally, I prefer facts over theories, such as this one: sexual abuse is a risk factor for suicide.
I don’t know that anyone knows or even keeps hard data on the number of suicides attempted or completed by victims of sexual abuse. But I do know there is much information about this problem from the organization Invisible Children—including the suicide note noted Princeton computer programmer Bill Zeller (and sex abuse victim) wrote just before he killed himself.
I also know suicide was a road I very nearly went down during my own sexual abuse, more than once. The first time was when I was 16; the last time, when I was in my mid-20‘s. And numerous times in between, including the time I came so close to taking my three daughters with me (and the son I was then carrying) that to this day, it almost takes my breath away when I think about it.
Many other people who were sexually abused as children or teens have nearly traveled that same road. For many others, the road came to a dead end after their own suicide attempts succeeded.
In 2007, suicide was the third leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 24. Victim 2, whom Mike McQueary testified he saw being raped in a Penn State shower room, probably would be about 21. Victim 8, seen in a similar situation by a university janitor, probably would be about 24.
Of course, the third leading cause of death only takes into account when suicide actually occurs. For every one of those suicides, though, there are 11 other unsuccessful attempts.
From the National Institute of Mental Health, where the above data was found, comes this dire warning:
“Most suicide attempts are expressions of extreme distress, not harmless bids for attention. A person who appears suicidal should not be left alone and needs immediate mental-health treatment.”
I don’t know where Victims 2 and 8 are, and I really hope they’ve gotten therapy and moved beyond what must have given new meaning to the term “terrible teens.” But right now, for all 10 of Sandusky’s victims, this warning is urgent. That’s because in the blinding glare of the public spotlight (even though the media isn’t revealing their identities) and under intense pressure due to defense witnesses like Dottie Sandusky, their own doubts and insecurities risk being deeper than before.
After news of the scandal broke, hundreds if not thousands of supporters provided no small show of support for the victims. Since the trial began, however, there has only been a handful of supporters inside the courtroom. One woman who has consistently been in court every day is Lisa “Pinky” Knauff-Shirk, a State College resident whose voice has spoken out in behalf of the Sandusky 10 ever since this story broke. Through Facebook, she has urged us, reminded us and chided us—when we have shown signs of wearing down or just plain giving up—that supporting the victims is the only thing that matters.
And she’s right. This trial may be about Sandusky’s innocence or guilt, but ultimately it’s about the men who took the stand, who wept, who broke down, who are so closed off emotionally they can’t tell their tale with any emotion at all.
This trial is also about what’s humane and what isn’t: I can think of few things less humane than in keeping secret the knowledge that a middle-aged sports authority figure had had numerous fingers pointed in his direction with bona fide claims of sexual abuse for a period of many years. Because that “humane” action came at the cost of more and more seriously wounded boys and men.
So when things like this happen, when even one child is sexually molested, we owe it to each other to think harder, more deeply, about the children whose lives are forever changed. To look beyond the big picture and see the small faces whose eyes will never again see the world in the same light.
Ultimately, that’s what’s really humane.
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Daleen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.