Today Judge John Cleland sentenced Jerry Sandusky to a prison term of 30-60 years, and declared him a sexually violent predator. Anything less would have been unconscionable to his victims who endured sexual assault at his hands, years of silent suffering, and the agony of telling their stories to a packed courtroom and the entire nation who was listening last June.
The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR) hopes this day brings some element of peace to all of Mr. Sandusky’s victims, and encourages them to continue their healing with the knowledge that they are believed and supported. We know that healing is a process that evolves and changes as time passes, and our network of rape crisis centers across Pennsylvania stands ready to assist all survivors of sexual abuse gain access to the support and assistance they and their families may need over time.
To the men who testified to Sandusky’s abuse, we hope your journeys are unencumbered by further legal proceedings related to this criminal case. Joe Amendola, defense attorney for Sandusky, has stated repeatedly that Sandusky plans to file appeals and hopes for a new trial. One of the stated reasons is that Amendola claims he did not have enough time to prepare for the trial, the same reason that was used and rejected by all levels of the Pennsylvania Courts in his failed attempts to delay the trial in June. Under Pennsylvania law, Sandusky has 10 days after sentencing to file a post-sentencing motion. Once the judge rules on those efforts, he would have one month to file an appeal to the Superior Court.
PCAR understands that Sandusky possesses a legal right to appeal the decision. But we also understand the adverse effect the appeals process often has on child sexual abuse victims.
They have already suffered through a traumatic childhood, a high-profile trial and sometimes harsh public opinion.
PCAR remains concerned about the impact the appeal process will have on the victims. An appeal would re-victimize these young men and others that have been abused, but have not yet come forward. It would send the message to victims that they are still not fully believed— that their voice is still questioned. We stand by the victims and thank them for enduring all of this to bring justice.
The intense public interest in this case has brought attention to child sexual abuse and the importance of adult involvement in prevention. We have learned from the many instances when Sandusky’s suspicious behavior raised red flags among bystanders who chose to ignore their own sixth sense that there was a problem. As a result, we have started discussions, programs and even task forces to help each other learn to prevent sexual abuse.
PCAR urges community members to continue to support the victims in the Sandusky case who have come forward, as well as all survivors of sexual abuse. We urge you to believe your child, friends and loved ones when they speak of abuse. Trust your gut and if you believe an adult may be harming a child, take action by reporting your suspicion to trained investigators such as PA’s ChildLine.
Unfortunately, this case is not unique. Children are being assaulted throughout the country by adults who employ the same tactics used by Sandusky to trick those around them into believing they are trustworthy.
We hope that the national outcry to this case empowers others to come forward and pursue their own paths to healing and justice. We also hope this case reminds all adults that they are responsible for protecting children, and they must learn to recognize offender behaviors, and report suspected abuse.