I have dreaded writing about Jerry Sandusky since November of last year. The details, the revelations, the children, oh the children, and the indescribable actions of a sick and twisted soul were too complex to put on paper. Nearly eight months later, the situation is still nearly incomprehensible, despite the fact that we know much more than we could have ever imagined or wanted in our minds.
As the judicial process took its course, we knew that Sandusky’s time in court would come. We knew the details would be descriptive and gruesome. We knew the prosecution’s case would be strong. We knew that victims would tell their stories and it would invoke both anger and sadness. We were prepared for all of this, yet somehow it shattered expectations in the worst possible way.
I’ve always used my time on Twitter as an outlet to get away from life’s true burdens. I’ve made friends, I’ve made jokes and I’ve found a comfort zone in a virtual world that serves as my own selfish form of therapy.
As details from Sandusky’s case surfaced through my Twitter feed the past few weeks, however, my outlet suddenly didn’t feel like an escape anymore. I didn’t turn away, as much as I wanted to; I just consistently absorbed every last piece of news, the next more unthinkable than the one before it.
Each victim’s testimony told a story, a devastating one riddled with love letters, nicknames, unthinkable violations and abuse from a disturbed individual. “Disturbed” doesn’t begin to outline the man, and even “monster” feels short of an accurate description. I suppose it will have to do.
The prosecution was surgical and worked quickly. They interviewed the victims, who opened their wounds to the courtroom and recounted their darkest days. We cannot commend them enough for their strength, nor can we fathom having to open up so deeply in such a forum.
The defense really had no defense, outside of a situation where police officers gave details that potentially swayed one of the accusers' statements. For a brief moment, this looked like an opening on the Sandusky side.
It turns out this impacted the case very little. On Friday night, the Pennsylvania jury ruled that Jerry Sandusky was guilty of 45 of 48 child sexual abuse charges, according to The Patriot-News, which carries a maximum of 442 years in prison. Justice was indeed served.
Twitter once again received the news first, but there were no more details to be given. Just a guilty verdict that many hoped and assumed would be coming, and time to reflect on the decision for yourself.
The scene that followed, however, will stick with me forever, as will the strangeness that followed it. As the crowd standing outside the courtroom caught word of the news and the verdict was brought out, the group let out an empathic cheer. They celebrated. They hugged one other. They screamed, and the entire nation tried to comprehend what they were watching while also trying to establish their own emotion.
It was a bizarre sequence, and the emotion (albeit joy for a guilty verdict) that poured through the television just wasn't right. This was no time for joy; the healing had begun.
Justice is a wonderful thing. We crave it. We need it. We deserve it. But there is nothing to celebrate when the victims are still left to pick up the pieces. I am unbelievably thankful that the legal system prevailed, but the victims will remain victims for the rest of their lives. There is no satisfaction knowing that. There simply can't be.
Jerry Sandusky was then guided to his police escort in handcuffs, another scene that will forever be embedded in the brain. There was no ovation for this televised lonely stroll, only sadness—an indescribable 15-second stretch from an emotionless evil as his head was tucked into the vehicle and he was taken away.
Meanwhile, Joe Amendola, Sandusky’s lawyer, made his media rounds. Despite the unsurprising tensions at the scene and the seriousness of the rulings, he was laughing. He was smiling. He was cracking jokes. The extreme disconnect of emotions came full circle, although Amendola’s non-reaction reaction is impossible to explain or understand. It was disgusting given the circumstances, and we're all left trying to understand what just happened, why it happened and what will happen next.
There will likely be appeals, civil lawsuits, more details and a further investigation into how other Penn State officials could have prevented further abuse. This is far from over, and much of this will likely take place over the next decade. The story is not going to disappear, although Jerry Sandusky certainly will.
My thoughts will remain with the victims as they have all along, and the mother of Victim 6 described what I just tried to in only three words following the ruling:
The National Sexual Assault Hotline number is 800-656-HOPE.