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Yesterday former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky waived his right to a preliminary hearing. He’s been charged with 27 felony counts of child sex abuse. Witnesses were to detail their versions of the alleged incidents, but Jerry Sandusky’s attorney said the hearing would have given Sandusky’s accusers a chance to publicly rehash allegations. Join us for a discussion of the latest developments in the Penn State case and its broader implications
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Yesterday former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky waived his right to a preliminary hearing. He's charged with sexually abusing 10 boys. The case raises troubling questions about child sex abuse more generally, including just how prevalent it is, how it's reported and the help available to victims.
MS. DIANE REHMJoining me here in the studio to talk about the case and these questions: Mary Leary of the Catholic University of America School of Law, Dr. Mark Horner of Childhelp's residential treatment center in Virginia and, joining us from a studio at NPR in New York, Chris Gavagan. He's filmmaker. He's currently working on a documentary film on sex abuse in sports. It's called "Coached into Silence." And we are going to take your calls, questions, comments. Join us by phone at 800-433-8850.
MS. DIANE REHMSend us your email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can join us on Facebook or Twitter. Before we begin our conversation with our guests here in the studio and New York, we're joined by the editor of The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa., David Newhouse. Good morning to you, David.
MR. DAVID NEWHOUSEGood morning.
REHMThe decision to forgo the preliminary hearing came at the last minute. Tell us what that means.
NEWHOUSEWell, it probably came at the last minute -- Jerry Sandusky's lawyer, Joe Amendola, had signaled to the prosecution the night before that he was considering waiving the hearing. But it does appear that they didn't make the final decision until they arrived in the courtroom and they saw that the prosecution had 11 witnesses ready to testify, including numerous alleged victims. At that point, they huddled in a side room for about 20 minutes.
NEWHOUSEThey came out and told the judge, and the entire hearing lasted about 30 seconds. Now, I think it was probably last minute because Joe Amendola then proceeded to come out to the courthouse steps and make his client's case in front of a truckload of reporters for about three hours. So was it all a ploy to get the national media to cover a long press conference? Who knows?
REHMIs there, in your view, some speculation about a possible plea bargain?
NEWHOUSEAbsolutely. On Nov. 30, Amendola told our reporter Sara Ganim that he might consider a plea bargain if new allegations came forth and if Jerry Sandusky realized that fighting those allegations would be what he called a real uphill battle. And since Nov. 30, that's exactly what happened. Last Wednesday, as you may know, there were more charges brought against Sandusky with a revelation of two new alleged victims. One of them -- I think both of them were horrendous tales.
NEWHOUSEOne them said that he was in the basement of Sandusky's house on one occasion, allegedly being raped. When he screamed for help, knowing that Sandusky's wife, Dottie, was upstairs, but no help came. And, you know, you think about this kind of testimony open court, and it's certainly what most people would call an uphill battle.
REHMBut, of course, we have to comment that Sandusky's wife denies that anything of this sort took place.
NEWHOUSEAbsolutely. Now, I mean, you have to say Joe Amendola -- he has conducted a very unorthodox defense. He's either crazy, or he's crazy like a fox.
NEWHOUSEHe continues to maintain Sandusky's innocence very vigorously to the extreme of sometimes even insulting the alleged victims. At the same time, this is a very savvy attorney. He is known for his plea bargains. The next step is a formal arraignment that's set for Jan. 11. At that point, a trial date would presumably be set. If there is a plea deal that's going to be struck, it's most likely going to happen after that.
NEWHOUSEOtherwise, it is possible that they will go ahead -- especially if they can't convince Sandusky, they will go ahead to a trial. And I can tell you, Diane, if there is a full-blown trial -- yesterday, we had -- in a little town of 6,000 people, we had 200 credentialed reporters and 29 TV trucks.
NEWHOUSEAnd if there is a full-blown trial, it is going to make yesterday look like a walk in the park by comparison.
REHMSo tell me, in the meantime, between now and Jan. 11, what happens to Jerry Sandusky?
NEWHOUSEWell, I think we'll see if new revelations come out, if any new victims come forward. We know that there have been at least some more people who have come forward to authorities. Whether they are added to the case or not as credible victims remains to be seen. The next thing that's going to happen in the case is this Friday when the two top Penn State officials are going to have their preliminary hearing. And the case against them really is much, much more problematic because of the changing story of the assistant coach Mike McQueary. And that's going to be quite a drama on Friday.
REHMHelp me to understand exactly that changing story by Mike McQueary.
NEWHOUSEWell, you know, the sad thing about it -- I think your guests, who you're talking to later, would agree is that clearly Mike McQueary saw something, something very, very disturbing to him. The problem is that he gave one statement to the grand jury. He gave another statement, which we reported on in our paper, to the state police when they first started this investigation. He gave yet another statement to his father and a friend of his father the night that it had happened.
NEWHOUSEAnd then he gave a different variation in emails to friends a few weeks ago. So all of these things, all of these versions have slight differences. There are a few substantive differences, such as whether he talked to police or not. But for the most part, the differences are small. But there's no question that the defense for the Penn State officials are going to seize on those to attack his credibility. And, clearly, he saw something.
REHMHe saw something, and that's yet to be exactly determined. But back to my other question, what happens to Jerry Sandusky between now and Jan. 11? Is he on home confinement, or does he wear an ankle bracelet? What happens?
NEWHOUSEYes. One of the conditions that Joe Amendola, his attorney, set forth for the prosecution to waive the hearing yesterday was that they keep the bail and the situation the same as it has been. So Jerry Sandusky, he is on house arrest. He is wearing an ankle bracelet. He is prohibited from any contact with minors. But other than that, you know, he's home. And he is waiting, and -- I think as we're all waiting to see if more revelations will come out.
NEWHOUSEIt's hard for most legal experts who have -- we have talked to and other people have talked to, to imagine at this point that they will go forth with the case. There seems to be witnesses who are very, very willing to testify in open court, and they would say some really horrendous things.
REHMAnd the bond, once again, is placed at?
NEWHOUSEYou know, you're stumping me on this. I have to review that. I don't remember. It's a couple of hundred thousand dollars, but...
NEWHOUSEBut he is on house arrest, and that's the main thing. He's not going anywhere.
REHMRight. David Newhouse, he is editor of The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa. Thank you so much for joining us.
NEWHOUSEThank you, Diane.
REHMGood. And turning to you now, Mary Leary, as a former child abuse prosecutor, what was your reaction to the decision to call off the hearing?
PROF. MARY LEARYWell, there were several reactions to it. It's an interesting decision that, as David indicated, had some legal experts kind of scratching their head. What his lawyer -- his lawyer has given a few different reasons for doing this. And I think David alluded to one, perhaps, more accurate reason. His lawyer said yesterday that it was only after realizing that he wouldn't be able to attack the credibility of the witnesses at the hearing that he made this decision and that he thought that all that would happen if they had the preliminary hearing would be an increase of a publicity.
PROF. MARY LEARYNow, any defense attorney knows the rules of the preliminary hearing beforehand, so I don't think he just realized it that night. There are some possible strategies though. One is waiving your preliminary hearing can look favorable to a sentencing judge later on if you point out...
LEARYWhy? Because defense counsel will sometimes argue, Judge -- like, this is assuming a guilty plea, right? The defense counsel will be able to argue, Judge, my client has been cooperative all along. He turned himself in. He didn't make the victims go through it, those sorts of things. So that's one possible strategy. The other is some experts will say that if it's just going to be more bad publicity -- it's not as though the defendant will not get -- will get out of this hearing with anything -- there's no need to do it.
LEARYBut I have to say that's a little questionable. A preliminary hearing is an opportunity for defense counsel to both cross-examine a witness, to...
REHMAnd challenge their views and their experiences even.
LEARYIt's correct. It is limited. It is not full-fledged trial. The question at a preliminary hearing is very narrow. It is, is there probable cause to proceed to trial? So it is not an open-ended cross-examination, for sure. The court is jus trying to determine if that standard -- which is, is there a fair probability that a crime was committed and the defendant committed it -- if that low standard is met, the case goes forward.
LEARYSo it gives defense counsel an opportunity to exploit some parts of the witness' story. It also gives them a -- even if they can't "score any points" in cross-examination, they can see how will this witness perform in testifying. And that can be important information for defense counsel.
LEARYAnd lastly, it puts the witness under oath with a prior statement that they can use to cross-examine at a later time. So the defense gives up a lot, and it is unusual to waive that preliminary hearing.
REHMMary Leary, she's associate professor at the Columbus School of Law at the Catholic University of America. We'll take a short break. When we come back, we'll talk to others involved in watching what is happening here. Short break.
REHMAnd we're talking about the child sex abuse case against Jerry Sandusky, but even more generally just how these cases are handled and whether there is going to be more attention placed on individuals, for example, in sports. Certainly, there has been a great deal of attention focused on the priesthood. But, Mary Leary, I understand that Sandusky's lawyer gave an interview to Ann Curry this morning and said there is a deal.
LEARYMy understanding of that is -- and again, he gave a couple of statements yesterday, and then this morning, I think, he referenced a deal not so much to a guilty plea. My understanding is -- and I may -- please correct me if I'm wrong -- was a deal that the government would not increase his bail in exchange for his waving the preliminary hearing. He said yesterday he is not going to plead guilty, and Mr. Sandusky himself said that they're going to play all four corners. I believe he made a sports reference.
LEARYThe government, to my knowledge, hasn't really responded as to that. They've denied there is a plea deal at this time. And who knows? These things are organic, and conversations do develop. There was, if I could, one other point I wanted to make about the waiting till that morning to waive the hearing, and I think that David made this point. Challenge for prosecutors with a child sex abuse case is actually getting a trial.
LEARYThe family has to go through a great deal in terms of harassments, focused community response. And, quite honestly, a cynical view of some trial preparation on the part of defendants is trying to get rid of the case in the front end, that if you actually are going to have a witness testify, well, then we've got problems. But perhaps, we can deal with this case in the front end.
LEARYSo a cynical view -- and I don't know what Mr. Amendola's goal was. A cynical view might be that if you think about the 10 witnesses that were prepared to testify, they had to prepare for that, revisit that in their own emotional preparation, go to court, see the 200 reporters and 20 police trucks and then hear him say, after waiving it, I'm planning a vigorous cross-examination of these people. That is -- could be all designed to sort of reduce the witnesses' desire and then ability to testify. That is one theory.
REHMAll right. And, now, I want to turn to filmmaker Chris Gavagan. I gather you were there yesterday. Tell us why.
MR. CHRIS GAVAGANYes. I was in both the courtroom and outside the courthouse afterwards. I was there because I've been -- for the last two years, I've been producing this documentary which revolves around these abuses within the world of sports. But beyond that, not just the abuses themselves, but the silencing that can happen afterwards within institutions as they take steps to protect the predators rather than the children. And in that case, they wind up shielding these predators, and -- which, without fail, creates more victims.
REHMYou have a great deal empathy for the alleged victims, saying it would have been a very hard thing for them to testify.
GAVAGANAbsolutely. Personally, as a survivor of sexual abuse by a coach myself, I can empathize with the amount of work that it takes to take the courageous step to be willing to face these -- face your abuser and face the public. And that's why I do agree with Mary Leary's cynical view that she mentioned, that there may be a tactic here, which -- to put it in the football vernacular that the defense team seems to favor, that they might be trying ice the kicker.
GAVAGANAnd by that, I mean that they are forcing the victims to look at this O.J. trials level media attention and stand there and say, are you sure you want to do this? It seems to be giving them one more chance to back out. And if they can pick off one victim at a time, they can weaken this case, which we know is quite strong.
REHMTell me about your experience with this so-called grooming process.
GAVAGANThat is an insidious and really underexposed element to the entire issue of child sexual abuse because this incremental process that can be -- we hear with Jerry Sandusky so much as a hand on the leg. But it can be as much as a coach or any abuser giving you permission to do things that an adult who is looking out for your welfare would not do. It can be, it's OK to have a beer after a game, or it's OK to curse here or all of these little processes that grease the skids for the abuse to come.
GAVAGANBecause by the time the legal line has crossed and sexual abuse has been committed, a child can feel that they're already complicit because they've gone against their parents, and they've gone against what they know of right over wrong -- right and wrong. And there's physical grooming, like you hear with Sandusky, whereas, what is the difference -- where is the line between a massage by a coach for a pulled muscle and sexual abuse? What you're doing is breaking down the barriers so that the child can't distinguish.
REHMDid you, at the time, speak up or feel you could speak up?
GAVAGANWhen I was child, I did not speak up at all. And again, raised by the greatest parents that a young man could hope for, I felt as if the first time I did have a beer after a game, that I was complicit somehow. And there was a secret that I kept from them. The first time I didn't even go back and report that to them. And then it's just one incremental way of wearing down of what you've been taught on top of the other, and I wasn't -- I -- by the time it was -- I -- it would've been a cry for help. I felt like I was too far gone, and I thought I was going to go to my grave with these secrets.
REHMAnd what made you finally decide to be open about it?
GAVAGANIt was only when I was 24 years old and I lived in the same neighborhood, and I saw my coach's very distinctive car drive boy -- drive by with another boy in the passenger's seat. And at that moment, it stopped being about me and feeling as if I was damaged goods. And it had to be about stopping this from going any further. So that was when I reported him.
REHMAnd then what happened?
GAVAGANI reported him directly to the league. And on that night, they did exactly what I could've asked for, which was they believed me, which is so important when somebody's taken the step to tell these difficult truths, and then they fired the coach. So that felt like a victory on that night. But, unfortunately, that was as far as it went. And it's another moral minimum as we see too often in the Penn State case, and they didn't make it a police matter. And he was free to go six miles down the road and continue coaching for years.
REHMSo it did not rise to the level of bringing in the police and charging him even though you told them of your experience.
GAVAGANThat is absolutely correct. And, unfortunately, in my home state of New York, at the age of 24, it is too late to report because of the statute of limitations so that it couldn't be a criminal case. And the law was another level of the silencing here. There's the silence of shame. There's the silence of these institutions which protect themselves. And then there's this legal silencing, which takes the voice away from the victims and takes their day in court away. And I could not pursue a criminal case against him.
REHMMark Horner, I know you've been treating children who have been abused. Talk about this silence of shame.
DR. MARK HORNERIt is pervasive aspect of what these children are dealing with. And, certainly, institutions being complicit with this essentially recapitulates the pattern of abuse and that the children are -- the victims are blamed or come to blame themselves, and the secret is kept and reinforced. The entire key to treatment is, of course, finding a safe place once the child is removed from the abusive situation, coming to a safe place to be able to talk about what has happened and to get the kind of response that David was referring to, which was to be believed and supported.
HORNERAnd the key to outcomes, positive outcomes, is having those supportive relationships, basically the context in which the disclosure occurs.
REHMWell, the first supportive relationship, it seems to me, would be with one's parents, that if the child has the good relationship with the parents and is willing to break that silence of shame quickly...
REHM...that one can be moved away from that incredible burden.
HORNERYes. And in cases where there are supportive parents, and generally cases where the abuse has occurred outside of the home such as with a coach, we often have circumscribed effects of the abuse because the parents are there to be supportive. And in spite of whatever, you know, painful reactions they have to their child disclosing, they can be there to support and protect. But all too often, or in more serious cases, it's actually the caregivers, who are supposed to be protecting, who are actually the perpetrators of the abuse. And that's a whole another level of severity and destructiveness.
REHMWell, why should a child who, for example, has been abused by someone close to him or her -- by a friend, by a relative, by a coach, by a teacher, by a minister -- why should they trust you?
HORNERWell, that is -- of course, they don't, initially, depending -- especially if this has been an ongoing or pervasive process in their life. Their whole internal working model of themselves and others and what caregivers -- how caregivers will respond to them is altered. So the pervasive expectation is that you won't be believed, that you'll be blamed and that you'll be humiliated.
HORNERAnd so, you know, again, if we have a kid who is -- has that kind of model of relationships, we're dealing with a longer term process of treatment where, very slowly but surely, over a long period of time, they can come to have healthier experiences and relationships.
REHMMary Leary, I want to go back to one point Chris made -- statute of limitations. A number of people have asked about that. What does the law say?
LEARYWell, statute of limitations vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. And it's important to remember why we have statute of limitations. The idea is -- and statute of limitations apply to most crimes, with the exception of homicide. But why we have them is a decision, a policy decision that, for a defendant, it is unfair for a defendant to have to respond to an allegation of a criminal activity so many years out that it would be impossible for them to put forward a defense.
LEARYThey can't say, I was at this location on this date, that time. That is the theory. Statute of limitations are typically broadened for sexual abuse and child sexual abuse, but they are typically not unlimited, which, it sounds like, is exactly what Chris ran into.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." And joining us now from Baltimore is Dr. Fred Berlin. He's associate professor at Johns Hopkins Universary (sic) -- University and director of the Sexual Behavior Consultation Unit. Good morning, Dr. Berlin.
DR. FRED BERLINGood morning. And thank you for having me.
REHMAnd thank you for joining us. You, I gather, see individuals who've had sexual contact with children. How difficult is your work with those individuals?
BERLINWell, I think the first thing to remember is that there aren't two sides here. In other words, the best favor that we can do a potential victim is to keep he or she from becoming victimized in the first place. And so if we can learn more about disorder such as pedophilia, a condition in which people are sexually drawn towards children, and how to prevent it, not only we're helping those individuals, we're helping the larger community.
BERLINIf we can help people who have these attractions to be in full control of themselves, we're helping to keep the community safer. So I do care about my patients as human beings -- any physician should -- but I'm also aware of the bigger picture. And if we help these individuals to go on and have productive and safe lives, it's win-win, both for them and for the larger community.
REHMWhat generalizations can you make about the patients you see?
BERLINWell, one of the things, I guess, is that we have so demonized these individuals that we tend not to see them as human beings. Now, again, make no mistake, to -- for any adult to approach a child sexually is categorically and absolutely wrong. But that does not mean that these are individuals who don't have families who care about them, who don't have redeeming qualities that don't -- some of them feel guilty and are very motivated to live proper lives.
BERLINI think the most striking thing for someone in my position is to appreciate the humanity of this and to recognize that sometimes we are just too tunnel vision in how we tend to appreciate these individuals.
REHMBut, Dr. Berlin, can they be cured?
BERLINI certainly wouldn't use the word cure, but that's not to say they can't be successfully treated. I'd make an analogy to alcoholism. We can't cure alcoholics. We can, in many cases, very successfully treat them, but part of successful treatment is that they need to maintain an ongoing vigilance. They have to make sure to avoid situations, temptations they cannot handle. So, you know, I want to stay away from extreme viewpoints.
BERLINAny clinician who says we can cure or help everybody is making an extreme statement. It's certainly not accurate. On the other hand, what we more commonly hear is that none of these people can be helped, once an offender, always an offender, and that is an equally extreme statement, which is absolutely not supported by facts.
REHMHow do you treat them?
BERLINWell, there are a variety of ways. Again, the simplest way to think about this is that it's similar to treating drug addiction or alcoholism. There's many people -- reason why people drink or use drugs. But the final common pathway is, if the person gives in to their cravings, they can hurt others and hurt themselves.
BERLINAnd so the kinds of methods that are very helpful with craving disorder such as alcoholism, group care, would be to confront denial and rationalization, to insist that people look more objectively at their actions, to provide them with suggestions about changes in lifestyle that may enable this -- them to succeed. So there's a whole psychological part, and a support system needs to be put in place.
BERLINFor those who are in parole or probation, it's terribly important that mental health work collaboratively with criminal justice so that appropriate supervision and monitoring can be there. And there also, for people with pedophilia, is a biological component. We don't know enough yet how to qualitatively change the nature of sex desires that people experience. But if someone's hungering sexually for children, if I can put it in that way, we are able, through the use of medication, to dramatically reduce the intensity of that hunger.
BERLINCommon sense would suggest that should make it a lot easier for people to resist acting on unacceptable temptations. And, more importantly, there's very good data that when this kind of pharmacological treatment is used, the recidivism rate is consistently quite low.
REHMDr. Fred Berlin at Johns Hopkins. Short break, right back.
REHMAs we talk about child sex abuse, Chris, I'd like to come back to you and get you to talk about what you hope to accomplish with your film.
GAVAGANThere are many goals, of course, as you can imagine. And people think that after Penn State that this issue has reached a saturation point to some extent, that, OK, now we can say we're aware of this. But there are so many subtle aspects to it. If I can speak just to -- when we -- speaking about parents before, the instinct can be to say, where were these parents? And I had very vigilant and involved parents, but there is this insidious nature to this thing where it can be invisible actions by the perpetrators.
GAVAGANSo in terms of the really subtle awareness of all of the aspects of this issue, that's very important. I do think the legal system needs to change specifically with the statute of limitations. And there's -- just in general, I mean, this story starts with sports for me, but that's a way in to discuss it because it's something that most people can relate to. There are 100 million parents who have a child in youth sports in the United States alone.
GAVAGANWhereas in the past when we've discussed these issues, it's been around very divisive issues, such as the Catholic Church where you immediately have people who don't want to hear that and will defend it, whereas the world of sports is ubiquitous.
REHMMary Leary, you were talking during the break about grooming the parents. What do you mean?
LEARYSure. I think Chris makes a really great point when he was commenting on his own experience grooming. And let me just say -- thank Chris for bringing this forward because when more and more victims take the bold steps he's taken, it really helps with prevention. But I think it's important to recognize, while we can't make broad statements about child abuse is right -- that is clear -- when we look at the Sandusky case, this is not atypical. And what I mean by that is for certain types of offenders.
LEARYWe have a situation where someone is in an authority role, that they have gained a position of trust, that they have access to particularly vulnerable children, and they take a long time in getting them comfortable. And Chris explained some of what they do in the grooming process. But another aspect that some offenders have spoken about is grooming the parents, getting the parents or caregivers to trust them to be an authority figure for them.
LEARYSo again, parents will, although they're vigilant and can be vigilant and loving parents, not think to question activity or, when questions are raised, to dismiss it and distance themselves from it.
REHMAnd, Mark, here is an email from Tina in Bartonsville, who says, "Maybe the child can speak to the parents about the abuse but not if their safety is the threat that the sexual abuser uses to keep his victim silent. My son was abused and threatened with harm to his little brother and father if he spoke up. Please include this awful aspect in your discussion." Mark.
HORNERThis is a typical part of the pattern in the way that perpetrators keep children silent by threats of harm to them or to their family members. And it creates an unresolvable dilemma for the child. It's a matter of protecting themselves versus protecting their family and...
REHMAnd, Dr. Berlin, do you think that's typical of these abusers?
BERLINWell, I hesitate to say what's typical because there's such a spectrum. And, you know, regardless of their motivations, the bottom line is we need to protect children. But there's some who sort of consciously are aware of the fact that they're abusing kids. They're willing to threaten others, and they just don't care about what harm they're causing. But there are others that are kind of like the blind man who doesn't see.
BERLINThey're in such a state of self-denial and self-deceptive thought processes that they convince themselves that they're not causing harm. They may, in other ways, generally care about the child, and that's probably what makes it even more difficult for the child in those cases because they do sense that the individual cares about them. They care. But, unfortunately, the sexual component gets introduced and just destroys what otherwise might have been quite a positive relationship.
LEARYAnd I would add to that something that prosecutors are seeing more of recently is the use of technology as another method to silence. And by that, I mean taking images of the child. And then there's victims who've been reporting, I was threatened with, if I ever spoke up, this picture. These pictures would -- fill in the blank.
LEARYIt would be broadcast, et cetera.
REHMAll right. Let's take a caller here in Washington, D.C. Good morning, Laurie. You're on the air.
LAURIEOh, good morning, Diane. Thank you very much for taking my call.
LAURIEI'm delighted you're doing this show. Here's the issue. My 2-year-old daughter -- she's now 5 -- was substantiated for rape by her father at the age of 2. The sexual abuse forensic examiner substantiated that. We have medical evidence. We have a clean forensic interview. And we have a hidden video of her telling her cat what her father has been doing to her vagina that she doesn't want him to do. We've gone public about a month ago. When the Texas family court judge video went public, we had 40,000 hits on the website. It's "Saving Mila," M-I-L-A.
LAURIENobody in the state of Maine has protected my daughter. She has spoken out like she was told to do. She told the forensic examiner, I don't want my father to do this to me. I have been speaking out. Nobody is helping me. Nobody is helping my daughter. I haven't seen my daughter since May, and I have joint custody. Now, there's a lawyer named Michael Waxman, who has been grooming my daughter since she was 2. And he is the lawyer for her father.
LAURIEShe has been spending overnights and weekends at the lawyer's house. And she came back to me when she was 3, and she said, why does Michael love me, Mama? We went to court...
REHMThis sounds -- you know, this -- Laurie, this sounds like just a horrendous situation where the law is very much involved. And now, Mary, she's concerned that the lawyer himself may be involved in this kind of sexual abuse. What recourse does she have at this point?
LEARYWell, obviously, we don't know the details of any case.
LEARYBut, you know, Laurie's point, Chris' point that the criminal law sometimes is inadequate to respond to victimization is absolutely correct. And that is why the response to child sexual abuse -- a colleague uses this phrase: we can't criminalize our way out of it. And there's some truth to that. And that the response needs to be a full court societal response. Social services, family, prevention and the criminal law plays an important role.
LEARYBut there are times -- for example, there are times where a victims says, I can't go through with this. I can't testify. And we, as a society, perhaps should not make them do that. So we have to turn to other pillars in the society to help heal that child and protect future victims. But the criminal law can be extremely helpful and important and is an important part of our response. But it's not our only response, unfortunately.
REHMAll right. Let's go now to Mary Anne in Orlando, Fla. Good morning to you.
MARY ANNEHi. Good morning, Diane. That's a devastating story that the last caller did say.
REHMI should say.
ANNEMine isn't nearly so devastating, but I feel a lot of the same frustrations that one of your interviewee faces with the statute of limitations. I'm similarly confined. I, like many of the victims of abuse that we've been hearing about coming forward in the news recently, was abused by someone that I was involved with in sports. It was actually a horseback riding trainer.
ANNEAnd at the time, I was silent because I thought that I was preserving my family -- my parents from the stress that they were already experiencing and thought that not coming forward would have prevented an exacerbation of the stress that they've been experiencing since the trainer was a very close family friend. And I thought that it would just be just devastating to my parents to have this news delivered.
ANNEAnd also, like one of your interviewee is mentioning, I had distorted what was happening as being some extension of a bond that I -- that my abuser felt he shared with me. But anyway, back to my not coming forward, I carry with me a tremendous amount of guilt now because years on -- and this is 15 years past the abuse -- if I had come forward at the time, I realize now that I would have prevented a tremendous amount of economic distress that this person was causing my parents.
ANNEHe was swindling them and allowing -- my silence allowed economic tolls that my parents are continuing to feel. And I just -- there's really -- I've explored every dynamic possible to giving my parents retribution years on, and there's -- I have no recourse because...
REHMMary Anne, I'm so sorry for your situation. Mark, the idea that Mary Anne wanted to save her parents' stress is something that I'm sure you hear a lot about.
HORNERYes. Again, victims of childhood sex abuse blame themselves. It's an -- it's a psychological process that allows them to sort of protect the images of other people, protect their family, at -- but at their own, you know, peril because they end up feeling guilty and ashamed. And, you know, I guess the key factor is whether or not parents are open to hearing the destructive secret and can let a child know we want to hear whatever is going on, which...
REHMAnd we support you.
HORNERAnd we support you. And that's sometimes easier said than done because it can be -- families can be preoccupied with the shame of the secrets to the detriment of the child's ability to communicate openly.
REHMAll right. To Chesapeake, Va., good morning, David. You're on the air.
DAVIDHi, Diane. Thanks for taking my call.
DAVIDI -- you know, all the experts and people opinions on Sandusky, I haven't heard anyone really bringing up the characteristics of adoptive-type parents. I grew up as a kid with parents that were similar and how they've shown affection and love and caring abilities towards children and even some of the same situations as what Sandusky has, you know, been accused of. And, you know, I think that adoptive parents, you know, they're successful with kids.
DAVIDAnd because of the type of people that they are -- and though they may have some unorthodox, you know, ways of how they show their affection and everything, you know, these parents that I knew never crossed any lines. They exhibited some of the same traits as Sandusky. They never -- you know, I mean, just like going in high school when you take showers with, you know, other guys that you're in, you know, in class with, whatever, you know, coach walked in, and he decided he wanted to take a shower. I mean, you know, I really didn't see the issue with that.
DAVIDAnd I think a lot of people are just jumping the bandwagon a little too easily and going the opposite way with that he's guilty and that he's, you know, done all these things. I mean, you know, it's really crazy because there's a guy now that's in prison who was accused of something similar, and it was with a female, we've come to find out. And even though there were parents around that saw all of the actions in his defense, you know, he touched -- a girl had fallen on the concrete outside of a church, and he picked her up.
DAVIDAnd she happened to --you know, he happened to touch her where he probably shouldn't, you know, where it was just unavoidable. And -- but come to find out, the parents were coaching these kids -- these three girls into, like, setting up guys, and...
REHMWell, now that's the other extreme, is it not, Mary?
LEARYIt sure is. Of course, look, we have a defendant-base criminal justice system. People are presumed innocent until they are proven guilty. And Mr. Sandusky stands as an alleged defendant. But he has said publicly on television, and he did an interview with The New York Times -- he was recorded during an investigation, so that wasn't a public statement. And he did an interview on network television where he admitted to showering alone, naked and hugging prepubescent boys.
LEARYAnd that information, I think, really stunned a lot of the mainstream media who heard this. So I think the caller, David's point is, look, everybody has their day in court is correct, but there are numerous victims not associated with each other who have come forward. And that's -- that can be -- and a eyewitness, that can be a powerful case.
REHMMary Leary of Catholic University of America. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Chris, hearing all these comments, what's your reaction?
GAVAGANAnd thinking about the last caller, I understand that those cases do occur. Whether these -- there are false charges, but those are absolutely small percentage. The FBI will tell you that their -- when it comes to child sexual abuse, often these -- that the percentage of charges that wind up being false are less than 5 percent. So nobody is looking to smear adoptive parents or coaches or clergy or teachers or anybody with the same broad brush, you know?
GAVAGANThese abuses exist everywhere that there are adults who create access to children. And it's -- we just have to take a harder look. There is no presumption of guilt here at all. It's just a matter of the more eyes are open to this, the more we are able to stop it. And in this case, the transformative power of the truth of the victims of Jerry Sandusky, looking to speak, and of my film and of 1,000 brave people that I've met, can make all the difference.
REHMAll right. And to close this program, I want to read an email form Matthew. He says, "As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I mourn the loss of innocence of these boys who were taught to trust the adults in their lives. To grow up with a dirty secret in which you are usually forced to feel complicit is a crippling and so killing thing. By the time you realize the ways in which it has damaged you, it's probably too late to fix."
REHMA sad story, and at least an opportunity to focus on what does happen throughout this country and indeed throughout the world, child sexual abuse. I want to thank all of my guest, Mary Leary of the Catholic University America, Dr. Mark Horner of Childshelp and Chris Gavagan, a filmmaker, David Newhouse, editor of The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, and Dr. Fred Berlin at Johns Hopkins University, thank you all so much. Thanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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