The first week of the Jerry Sandusky trial reminded me of Anita Hill's testimony at the confirmation hearings for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
When Hill raised her right hand on October 11, 1991, most Americans had no clue about the sights and sounds that can come with a case of alleged sexual harassment in the workplace. By the time Hill's testimony ended two days later, Americans had heard about a pubic hair on a Coke can and a porn actor named "Long Dong Silver."
We had cases of child sexual abuse before Jerry Sandusky became known to more than just hard-core Penn State football fans. But I don't recall another case where the nauseating details have been brought to so many newspaper pages, TV newscasts, and computer screens. As I checked for updates each day at pennlive.com and espn.com, I was tempted to make sure I had a vomit bag nearby.
That's saying something because I've become a bit numb to the horrors of child sexual abuse. Why? Well, I've been investigating a case of alleged child sexual abuse off and on for the past eight months or so. The story is not quite ready for publication, but my research has produced compelling evidence that the abuse was real. And it is deeply disturbing, in part because I have come to know a number of people who have been impacted by it.
In fact, the story I've been investigating has similarities to the Sandusky case. Both appear to have originated in the early to mid 1990s. In both, a state investigation was launched only to see no action taken against the alleged perpetrator. In both, records indicate one or more children wound up suffering terribly because public officials failed them the first time around.
Some of the details in the case I am researching are more sickening than anything revealed so far in the Sandusky case. That's saying something because reading about the Sandusky trial makes you want to take a leisurely trip through a heavy-duty car wash--with no car.
Maureen Dowd, of The New York Times, provides a sobering summary in a piece titled "American Horror Story." It provides deep insights into the methods that abusers use to manipulate their victims:
The prosecution charges that Mr. Sandusky used his charity for disadvantaged kids, Second Mile, as a perverted recruiting tool, putting asterisks next to the names of boys who were fatherless and blond, making up weird contracts for boys to sign, giving them money, ostensibly for doing good schoolwork, but really as a way to keep them from fleeing -- and telling.
Like pedophile priests, Mr. Sandusky was especially vile because he targeted vulnerable boys. Later, when victims finally spoke up, there was a built-in defense: Those boys were trouble; you can't believe them.
Each day of the Sandusky trial has produced platefuls of stomach-churning moments. The prosecution is expected to rest its case today, and then Sandusky's defense will begin. It is unclear when the case might go to the jury. Let's consider some of the "highlights" so far:
From Day One (Monday, June 11), we have an account from pennlive.com about Alleged Victim 4 and his cross-examination by defense attorney Joseph Amendola:
Amendola pressed the man on the shower facilities at Penn State's football facility, asking if any players or coaches entered when something inappropriate was happening between him and Sandusky.
The man said no coaches or players ever witnessed anything inappropriate, but estimated that something inappropriate had happened with Sandusky "probably 50 times."
From Day Two (Tuesday, June 12), we have an account from espn.com about the testimony of former Penn State assistant coach Mike McQueary:
A former Penn State assistant coach who was a central figure in Joe Paterno's downfall testified Tuesday that he heard a "skin-on-skin smacking sound" in a campus locker room one night in 2001 and saw something that was "more than my brain could handle."
Jerry Sandusky was standing naked in the showers behind a boy, slowly moving his hips, Mike McQueary told the jury.
McQueary, one of the star witnesses in the child sexual abuse case against Sandusky, said he had no doubt he was witnessing anal sex. He testified that he slammed his locker shut loudly as if to say, "Someone's here! Break it up!"
From Day Three (Wednesday, June 13), we have an account from espn.com about the testimony of a man who worked with a former Penn State janitor:
Judge John Cleland ruled that a co-worker of Penn State janitor Jim Calhoun could testify about what Calhoun told him in November 2000. Calhoun is now suffering from dementia.
The co-worker, Ron "Buck" Petrosky, said that when he encountered Calhoun in a football team locker room, the janitor told him he had seen Sandusky -- he didn't realize Sandusky was a famous coach -- making a boy perform oral sex on him. Petrosky said Calhoun's face was white, his hands were trembling and he was in tears.
"He said, 'Buck, I just witnessed something in there I'll never forget the rest of my life . . . that man that just left, he had the boy up against the shower wall, licking on (him),' " Petrosky testified.
Finally, from Day Four (Thursday, June 14), we have an account from pennlive.com about the testimony of Alleged Victim 9:
Former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky regularly forced him to have oral sex and repeatedly sodomized him, an 18-year-old man told a Centre County jury this afternoon.
The alleged attacks occurred during several years when he slept over in a basement bedroom of Sandusky's College Township home, alleged Victim 9, a recent high school graduate, testified during the fourth day of Sandusky's trial.
Details such as those, I suspect, will remain in the public consciousness long after a verdict is rendered in the Sandusky case.
I know from personal experience that once you've heard the details about child sexual abuse, they are impossible to forget.