A Story That’s Hard to Hear and Hard to Ignore

Jul 22, 2014

Oprah’s interview last week with Matthew Sandusky, the adopted son of convicted pedophile Jerry Sandusky, was hard to watch. My struggle wasn’t with the content or the details of the abuse acts, but in watching the difficulty this courageous man had in struggling to find words to tell the story of his abuse.

Sandusky_Interview.jpgWatching Matthew Sandusky’s pained hesitation in answering the questions–his pause in attempting to articulate his experience living in the Sandusky home–all are characteristic of human beings who have experienced trauma. It is nearly impossible to find words for the depth of emotions that accompany the memories of abuse. Putting adult words to ones painful childhood memories and emotional suffering is truly inexpressible. Of course, there are not words to describe the indescribable and unfathomable betrayal and confusion of being routinely sexually violated by someone you have come to trust.
And yet, as difficult as it is to hear Matthew Sandusky tell of his abuse in the Sandusky home, it is a story that we must listen to and heed. The picture that many of us have in our minds of an abusive home is not the home that Matthew Sandusky describes. The Sandusky home was alive with activity, home cooked meals, and the perks that come with a father who’s a big shot in a small college town.

To all eyes Jerry Sandusky looked to be an engaged, caring family man who loved to “horse around” with his boys. This happy façade provided the perfect cover for a serial pedophile to groom his trusting and vulnerable victims. This is how it is that 1 in 5 children are sexually abused–90% by someone they know. These statistics are hard to believe because it’s hard to believe that a home that looked like the Sandusky home could provide a safe harbor for a man whose unbridled sexual desire for boys created a lifetime of suffering for the unlucky children that Dottie and Jerry Sandusky invited into their home.

At the end of the interview Matthew Sandusky gained clarity as he spoke of his passion and his mission to bring attention and raise awareness about childhood sexual abuse and to support and provide resources to survivors in their healing. I do believe that in his courage to speak out about his abuse, Matthew Sandusky has challenged our comfortable misassumptions and that our communities will be safer for it.

~ Janice Palm, M.A., LMHC

Shepherd's Counseling Services, Executive Director