Jerry Sandusky, who lives next to an elementary school, has denied all sexual molestation and sodomy charges against him. During a phone interview, he reported to Bob Costas that he was just a jock who liked to “horse around with kids” in the locker room. Penn State will be spending millions of dollars in time, energy, manpower, investigations, and therapy for the multitude of victims / survivors who will eventually come forward. Why?
Because there’s more at the door. More information to uncover, day by day. More people will be found culpable. And years from now, memories will emerge which must be honored, & families will ultimately understand why their son’s or father’s behavior was somewhat confusing.
This reminds me of a woman I worked with several years ago. For purposes of confidentiality, all names and several minor facts of the case have been changed.
Marsha, 42 yrs., was a staff administrator, married, with two children. Her husband worked in a construction company. One daughter was in 8th grade, while a son was attending the local junior college with a part-time job.
Marsha was referred to me by her employee assistance program, due to “some things that seemed to be coming up” between Marsha and her four siblings, always around Christmas time, which caused her to become “depressed.” They used to spend the holidays together, but since the ‘boys (her brothers) moved away, it’s just not been the same.”
During our first four sessions, she not only shared important information regarding the people and relationships of her extended family, but her eyes were filled with tears, eventually rolling down her cheeks. Her on-going loss of the closeness she once had with her brothers, “seemed to have put a deep hole in my heart.”
Brother # 1, Jerry, was a long-haul truck driver, but for some reason, after 20 years, couldn’t hold down a job. He moved to a neighboring state where it was cheaper to live, his wife got a job, and their kids appeared to be okay. “ But they say he’s just moody all the time, drinking a lot of beer, and hanging out at bars.”
Brother #2, Phil became an accountant. He was a real star, played on the school basketball team, married, two kids, then just seemed to” fall apart about 5 years ago.” He still worked for the same firm, in another “valley town," but keeps to himself. Their two kids both moved “back here where all their friends still live,” and are working and going to school part time. His wife is “besides herself,” literally.
Brother # 3, Eric. He moved to the coast in Humboldt and got work with a “fishing outfit” as soon as he finished high school. He was real clear when he said he loved living behind “The Redwood Curtain.” He met a “gal,” they got married, and had one daughter. She works at Safeway and his wife works at Costco in Eureka. Marsha reported that after Eric’s daughter was born, she vividly recalls him telling her, “I’m glad we had a girl, cause I’d be so scared if I ever had a boy,” and saw Eric become tearful.
Marsha continued, “So it’s just my sister and I here, really.” We talk a lot, about our husbands, the kids, our jobs, and how “the boys, you know, our brothers, just seem to have fallen away from us, and from each other.” More tears, more Kleenex, and silence. Marsha looks at me with that “thousand mile stare.” That stare that is trauma-related. And we both know.
There’s more at the door. The door to one’s memory that can’t be kept shut, once someone hits middle age. Our brain and our bodies just get tired, too exhausted, from using all their capacities, strengths, resiliency, and coping strategies we’ve been able to employ; in order to repress, deny, and even dissociate, from earlier traumatic experiences.
A psychiatrist in Sacramento with whom I work, told me years ago, that the definition of middle age is just the above: when our ego functions can’t hold it together anymore. All those thoughts, feelings, perceptions, behaviors, and memories – all come flooding out from whatever was once buried.
That’s why we see people coming into our offices, he said, with their depression, their anxiety disorders, their family issues, work-related challenges, or just generally being unhappy, in their 40 yrs. – 50 yrs. old range.
This made sense for Marsha and her family. Up until then, they had managed to keep that door well-oiled and under lock and key. They made a life for themselves, by getting a job, going to school, marrying or having a partner, & then having children. But those hinges began to rust after 20 years or so, and that door was literally breaking down. No matter how hard they tried, it wouldn't stay shut.
So: over a period of twenty sessions, Marsha revealed a family history of having a step-father who beat the girls and chained the boys to trees outside their home at night. Marsha could barely talk about the screams she heard from her brothers, but knows they were sodomized from the family laundry she did; by seeing their blood-stained underwear.
We both cried together, and I made sure we moved slowly during this difficult time, always asking if she would “like to stop,” allowing her to set the pace. Midway through the therapy she invited her husband in, to become part of our work together: to ask for his feedback and support. Marsha wanted that, because she knew he needed to know, and that he would be loving and supportive. And THAT he was, holding her hand or having his arm around her shoulders as he sat close to her on the couch.
She was ready to “close the door,” but knew she needed the help of her siblings, to confirm her memories. For they were just that: memories, as a teenager, twenty-five years ago; feelings somehow tied to those memories, flashes of points in time. We came up with a plan, recognizing it would take a fair amount of effort on both our parts, but agreed we needed to give it our best effort.
Next Easter, I had all five siblings in my office. All five were aware of what work was to occur. And one by one, each began his/her story, his/her narrative, of their childhoods, of their lives, of their love for each other, and of the night time horrors which remained unspoken until those moments.
These large, muscular middle-aged men were sobbing, screaming in anger, swearing with rage at the monster who took away their childhoods, took away their virginity, took away their innocence, and took them away from their hometown, their friends, and their sisters. They could not remain there, period. Not with that man still around.
And we met again. And again. And again – four days straight, for four hours each time. It was this confirmation by each other that healed their souls. It was their confirmation that they were now not alone with their burden of such gruesome memories, which healed their hearts, and minds, and relationships with their spouses and children – and with their own senses of self.
It was this mutuality of what happened all those nights, that allowed them to finally forgive themselves, and cast off feelings of the shame and humiliation they held for twenty-five years. Then Marsha asked me, “Janice, we’ve lost so much of our lives, haven’t we?”
Jerry responded immediately, “Maybe it’s those twenty-five years, but I feel younger than ever now. We’ve got plenty of time. Plenty.” He got up and spread his wide arms out for the others to join him. To touch, to hold, to sob, to recover together. And before I knew it, an arm grabs me too, to join them. And we shed tears of joy, and hearty laughs, with smiles and bear hugs, literally taking my breath away.
This family of five adults thanked me, and walked out of my office. I watched them laughing, joking with each other, three of them squeezing into the back seat of an old model Chevy, two brothers joking about which one wanted to drive the rest of "this crew" to the restaurant, then speeding out of the parking lot under the stars.
I walked back into my office and saw pillows strewn about the couches, a few chairs pushed out of place, and a wastebasket stuffed with tissues. I sat down on one of the couches, completely exhausted, and just cried. That's all I could do. Then I sat in the quiet silence for the next thirty minutes, and knew: they had each other, once again.
The current media is addressing the facts, and rightly so.
1) Jack Raykovitz, CEO of the Second Mile foundation for 28 years has resigned.
2) Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett has initiated an investigation of 2nd Mile.
3) Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office is asking victims to continue to come forward.
4) Leslie Dutchcot, the Judge to whom Sandusky turned himself in, did not inform the public that there is a conflict of interest with her involvement in this case. She freed Sandusky on $100,000 unsecured bail instead of agreeing to the $500,000 bail with a leg monitor asked for by the prosecution. She has been a volunteer for Sandusky’s 2nd Mile Foundation.
5) Pennsylvania law currently stipulates that any professionals who work with children must inform their superiors (or the designated person at their place of employment) if they detect physical, sexual, or mental injury to a child under 18. However, unlike California law, there is no requirement to report their suspicions to legal authorities or Child Protective Services.
6) Pennsylvania State University may claim protection from liability under commonwealth laws that shield government entities, if it faces suits related to a child-sex scandal.
Thus, we cannot forget about Marsha and her family. These victims/ survivors of this Penn State Scandal will continue to come forward. Penn State cannot ignore that the effects of sexual abuse can remain deep within these men's memories, until their families and friends step up to the plate, and show them the door. Because there will be more. Trust me, those hinges last only so long.