With the trial of Jerry Sandusky now over, the healing process for his victims begins. For a once proud institution of higher learning in State College, Pa., it now deals with the challenges brought on by a wave of civil suits and poor publicity that has sullied its reputation.
Sandusky was an assistant coach at Penn State from 1969-1999, and served as the defensive coordinator under the legendary Joe Paterno for over 22 years. Late Friday night, he was found guilty of 45 of 48 counts of sexually abusing children.
“I looked at him during the reading of the verdict, and the look on his face, no real emotion, just kind of accepting, you know, because he knew it was true,” juror Joshua Harper told NBC’s Today Show. “We looked at some inconsistencies in some of the testimony and we wanted to reconcile those and make sure that wouldn’t discredit the testimony. And so we worked through those things systematically as a jury.”
Harper was part of a small group of men and women that worked behind closed doors to determine Sandusky’s fate. The frequently disturbing proceedings took another sharp turn when Sandusky’s 33-year-old adopted son, Matt, revealed that he was also sexually abused by the ex-coach. Jurors, however, were not informed of the prosecution’s statement until after returning to the court room from a recess.
When the verdict was finally announced, there was an outburst of cheers. National television and radio outlets broke into regularly scheduled programming to reveal the news. “Tweet Decks” across the country looked like roulette wheels spun out of control.
Sandusky, taken away in handcuffs Friday night, awaits prison sentencing. For the victims who were sexually abused and mentally tormented, the healing process starts now and will be ongoing for years to come. There are also those who have yet to come forward and will continue to struggle with recurring nightmares in the interim.
The Second Mile Charity, in which various victims were involved, is preparing and taking steps legally to assume what could be several lawsuits. Not alone in the civil suit waterfall is Penn State, which will most likely be the focal point of major civil lawsuits that will be filed soon. Penn State has no choice but to settle the incoming lawsuits from those involved in the Sandusky case, for several reasons:
1. Remove the university’s black eye and restore national credibility among peers by instituting a protocol making all levels, from the president’s office to the athletic director, responsible for criminal acts committed on campus. Summon campus law enforcement, city police and FBI as needed.
2. Rebuild an athletic department that the student body, alumni and current athletes in every department can get behind.
3. Create strict guidelines preventing isolated on-campus visitation and sports camps for all kids and young adults not associated with the university.
4. Create classes that shed light on sexual abuse and alcohol abuse, among other offenses.
The NCAA will undoubtedly have something to say about Penn State’s future situation as the 2012 academic and sports season nears. The key for Penn State is showing compassion and true regard for the well-being of the victims in the Sandusky case – and how they will compensate these individuals for what took place on university property. Removing a predator from the streets, making kids safe, was a win-win situation. Offering continued help for the victims by talking and telling their stories will not only aid their own healing process, but also provide preventative knowledge for young boys and girls moving forward.