In the moments immediately following my live broadcast late last November I made a silent promise to myself that I would not make any further public comment about that mess (for lack of a better word that fully encompassed the news that was coming out of State College, PA the previous week). No blogging, tweeting, Facebooking, and certainly no further radio broadcasts. Not because I didn’t have very strong opinions. Quite the contrary. However, I knew from years of personal experience and years of education in psychology and counseling, that my “strong opinions” forged out of my own childhood sexual abuse were the very thing that caused all hopes of any objectivity toward the Sandusky situation to go flying out of the closest window. I don’t live far from Pittsburgh, PA and the local news as well as the national news was thick with the daily developments. I actually did an admirable job at keeping my promise to myself, only slipping for the first time last week when, in my frustration over the judge allowing the defense to introduce testimony that Sandusky has the psychological disorder Histrionic Personality Disorder, I post this on Facebook:
“What Bugs Bunny would look like if he were human….and a pedophile.”
The overwhelming response was from friends who were ticked that I had insulted Bugs Bunny. My point being was that, in my opinion, this man indeed has a psychological disorder. It’s called Pedophilia.
After my Facebook outburst I once again committed to sit and watch the proceedings in silence. That lasted about a day when I came to the realization that it is people who sat in silence-people who saw but turned a blind eye-that allowed this alleged abuse to continue for years and claim undoubtedly more victims than the “Sandusky 8” who are putting themselves and those who love them through a living Hell by reliving a pain so deep and multifaceted. A pain that has shaped and will continue to shape every one of their days for the rest of their lives.
For me, it was the summer of 1976. I was getting ready to turn 10 years old that September. My family and I lived in a townhouse/apartment complex in the small town in rural West Virginia where I was born. I was a tomboy-all pigtails and dirt-and loved spending dawn to dusk playing outside everyday, trying to master the skateboard I got the previous Christmas.There was a nice, friendly, elderly man who lived in one of the bottom apartments next to our town home who would always wave and say “Hello” as he carried his groceries in from his car. I can still see that car. It was a 4 door olive green sedan. One day after he had been to the grocery store he was sitting on his front porch and called me over and presented a big bag of Brachs Candy which was sold in bulk at our local grocery. He asked me if I would like some, and I of course eagerly said “Yes!” As I was exploring all the goodies in the white bag with it’s trademark pink and purple stripes around the center, something so strange happened. This man reached down the front of my tank top and began rubbing my chest.
I was brought up to not question my elders and I just remember feeling afraid so I grabbed a few pieces of candy, and said “thank you” over my shoulder as I ran back toward my house.
As time went by he became more and more insistent that I “come visit him” on his porch or as he sat in his car and he would always give me candy and rub my private parts and attempted to expose himself to me. At 9 1/2 I didn’t know I was being molested. I didn’t even know what that meant, but even at that young age I instinctively knew that something was very, very wrong and found it upsetting on the deepest of levels. I can’t remember if he told me not to tell anyone, but I was too ashamed to. I wish I could tell you why I went back each time he called me over, but I don’t really know for sure. I think I was afraid not to go because he might tell my parents something bad about me and I would get into trouble. He began to pressure me and he was old enough to be my grandfather. I tried to respect his wishes for “a visit” and hope and pray the next time would be different and he wouldn’t touch me. My prayers went unanswered.
Later that summer, he died. I remember seeing the ambulance in the parking lot and watching them wheel his body out covered with a white sheet. Everyone in the neighborhood was gathered around talking about what a tragedy it was that he died alone. I had such mixed emotions. Part of me was thankful he was gone and I wouldn’t have to endure the shame and anxiety of what I was feeling or any more “visits”. I was happy, angry, confused, and relieved all at the same time. I thought you were supposed to just feel really sad when someone died, weren’t you?
I told my mother what had happened. She got very angry with me and told me I shouldn’t have gone over to visit him in the first place and it wasn’t spoken of again. This kind of reaction is, unfortunately, so common in abuse cases. I call it “the second assault”. The victim suffers the initial physical/verbal/emotional/sexual assault and then (usually after much worry, sleepless nights, and paralyzing fear) finally reaches out for help only to be called a “liar”. I’ve found it is usually less a case of disbelief and more a case of not wanting, for whatever reason, to believe. I saw this very thing happen in the Sandusky case when Dottie Sandusky, wife of the Defendant, took the stand.
Showing up looking her most matronly in a light green sweater set, bespeckled with fluffy white hair (a la Mrs. Clause), the 69 year old looked like she would be much better suited to baking homemade cookies for children than testifying in a court proceeding about the severe sexual abuse of children. However, she had a job to do. She was there to hopefully help her husband of 45 years not spend the rest of his life in prison.
Unfortunately, she went on the attack when asked about the alleged victims. She described Victim one as ”clingy,” Victim nine as ”a charmer” and Victim four as ”very conniving, and he wanted his way and he didn’t listen a whole lot.” Please keep in mind that these children, like all of the other children involved in Sandusky’s “Second Mile” program, were underprivileged and often fatherless. How can an eight year old underprivileged boy be described as “clingy” or “conniving”? When 10 years later he is accusing your husband of unthinkable acts that took place in your own home – while you were there.
That knowledge would be a lot for anyone to process. If these allegations are true, then it basically means that the bulk of Dottie Sandusky’s life has been a lie. The man she thought she was married to for the last 45 years, their six children (all adopted), the “Second Mile” Foundation (based on the scripture Matthew 5:41: “And whosoever shall compel thee to go one mile, go with him two.”) she started with her husband in 1977, would be forever tainted. Her reality would no longer be reality. Dottie Sandusky is not only fighting to save her husband’s future, but she is fighting to save her and her family’s entire past.
This is why people time and time again take victims, even children, of salacious crimes and put them on trial. This is why we ask the rape victim what she was wearing at the time of attack as we somehow try to formulate a reason for the attack. After all, bad things only happen to bad people. Right? I mean, if it’s true that a man who was inducted into the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame in 1999 and received the 1993 NAACP Human Rights Award, the 1995 YMCA Service-To-Youth Award and the 1996 SGMA Heroes Award is discovered to have used the very organization for wayward boys based on Christian principles he and his wife founded, as a picking field for his victims for decades, then what does that say about us? What does that say about the “safety” of our own children or grandchildren?
There are a couple of important questions to ask of ourselves as we watch the Sandusky proceedings. Was this just another person who was very skilled at staying in our collective blind side? Or did we, and do we in many cases, choose to look away to somehow protect ourselves?
Eliska’s theory for living life is similar to the average buffet restaurant patron: “You have to try a little bit of everything to get your money’s worth”. Eliska has had a variety of careers that include radio personality, professional figure skater/coach, activist, artist, butcher, baker and candlestick maker. She is that eccentric (which we all know is politically correct for “bat-shit crazy”) woman in the grocery store comparing apples to oranges, singing Lady Gaga, and trying to figure out how to spell onomatopoeia all at the same time. She dances to the beat of her own drum (literally, she played the drums), and doesn’t care who watches. Eliska loves shoes, giving her unsolicited opinion, and her dachshund. Disclaimer: She tells it like it is. No sugar-coating. Except on her organic banana tartlets, of course. You can visit her at her blog and follow her most fleeting of thoughts onTwitter.