Hoping victims can start healing

No amount of money can adequately compensate those whose lives were forever damaged by the indignities, and the mental and physical suffering, inflicted upon them by former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.

But the fact that 25 of Sandusky’s 31 known victims were poised to reach a settlement with the university last week in connection with the sexual abuse Sandusky meted out under the cover of The Second Mile charity that he founded will help with these victims’ long-overdue healing process.

Though it is unlikely that healing ever will achieve full closure because of the magnitude of the horrors they endured, having put this settlement behind them will allow each to move ahead without uncertainties and anxieties over what the future might hold regarding deserved compensation.

Not only is that compensation justified by Sandusky’s crimes, but it’s justified even more so by the university’s demonstrated failure to take action when top officials received their first indication that the up-to-then highly respected Sandusky was not the upstanding person that he pretended to be.

At the same time, each of the victims should embrace the knowledge that his individual ordeal might be a source of help and hope to some of those currently suffering at the hands of other sexual predators or who have been scarred in the past and continue to harbor the mental or physical wounds of that abuse.

On behalf of those victims, it’s a good time to reflect on an anonymous letter written by a Penn State student that was read at the Nov. 11, 2011, candlelight vigil held on the University Park campus in response to the turmoil engulfing the school in the wake of Sandusky-related disclosures. The letter, subsequently published in the January-February 2012 issue of the The Penn Stater alumni magazine, aptly titled “Our Darkest Days,” began:

“From the age of 12 until shortly before my 16th birthday, I was abused from within my own household.”

After the victim started high school, the sexual abuse continued. The letter went on:

“My school got a resource officer, whose job was to be the police of our school. I decided I needed to talk to someone, and one day I went to this officer and told him everything … and when I finished talking, I was laughed out of his office.”

The young person eventually met “a person who realized, after three days of knowing me, that there was something wrong.

“He finally got me to open up. I told him everything I had told the officer the year before, except this time, I was finally believed. Less than 24 hours later, the school had called child protective services, an assistant district attorney, and five lawyers … it [abuse] was over.”

The goal must be to end abuse others might be experiencing – in central Pennsylvania and beyond.

Some Sandusky victims are not ready to settle, and their decision should be respected. They have the right to pursue whatever options are available to them to get what compensation they feel they deserve.

What they endured – and continue to live with – is beyond the imagination of most people. Meanwhile, the victims now settling are doing what they feel is right.

Sandusky’s prison sentence, keeping him away from young people for the rest of his life, is more important than any inconvenience or expense the university might experience because of this temporary unfinished business.