Thursday, June 14, 2012

Sandusky's Victims Were in Plain Sight

Two things can be said of virtually anyone you meet: Either they have been a victim of sexual abuse or they know someone who's been a victim, although they might be unaware of the latter. Many people would be like former Penn State linebacker LaVar Arrington, who was shocked to discover an acquaintance among Jerry Sandusky's alleged victims. Arrington was mentioned multiple times by the witness identified as Victim No. 4 as Sandusky's trial got under way this week.
"My sadness and disappointment are growing as I realize that I knew this young man fairly well but didn't grasp the full extent of what he was going through," Arrington wrote in his Washington Post column. "So it's mind-blowing to realize that a kid I took an active interest in during my time at school was suffering right in front of me and I had no idea that the pain allegedly came from someone in my own football program."
Prosecutors state that Sandusky, a former Penn State defensive coordinator, sexually assaulted 10 boys from 1995 to 2008. Testimony thus far from the alleged victims -- now ranging in age from 18 to 28 -- has been graphic and heartbreaking.
Victim No. 1 broke down in tears and sobbed while describing his ordeal. He told of multiple instances in which Sandusky kissed him, fondled him or engaged in oral sex with him. The 18-year-old said that he eventually went to a school guidance counselor, who didn't believe him and thought that reporting Sandusky to authorities would be unwise.
"They said we needed to think about it and [Sandusky] has a heart of gold and he wouldn't do something like that," Victim No. 1 said. "So they didn't believe me."
I imagine that guidance counselor feels a lot worse than Arrington. It's one thing to be clueless about why a youngster might be acting out. But to be in a position of authority and discount a youngster's allegation is almost criminal.
Stepping forward with such painful admissions is hard enough for a child. Which is probably why children do so reluctantly (if at all), often after the abuse has gone on for a while.
There could be victims in your midst without your ever knowing, as Arrington painfully found out. Sports and other youth-related activities are much more careful in monitoring who works with them nowadays, but we must try to be much more perceptive toward our youths.
The victims are in plain sight, which makes it incumbent on us to improve our vision.
Deron Snyder's Loose Ball column appears regularly on The Root. Follow him on Twitter and reach him at BlackDoor Ventures, Inc.

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