The most cunning predators choose a victim who can’t speak up. The drug dealer robs a junkie who can’t call the cops; the hooker robs the john who doesn’t want to be caught. These scenarios describe victims who put themselves in precarious positions; they took a risk and lost. The only risk a child victim of a pedophile took was to accept the friendship of an adult and they find themselves forced into a devastating silence that leaves scars as deep as the actual abuse.
The vastly different reaction of first two victims to testify the Sandusky trial show how individualized the effect of victimization can be. Fear, anger, and shame take their toll on developing psyches. The horrifyingly confusing double messages about right and wrong wreak havoc on a budding personality. Some victims bury their horror so deeply that internal walls come crumbling down when the secret is revealed; others act out in ways that we’ve come to recognize as cries for help.
The young men providing testimony are heroes. They should be hailed as trailblazers, lighting the way for other victims to come forward and helping everyone to see the predators hiding in plain sight. Lance Armstrong couldn’t have been thrilled at the thought of the entire world discussing his testicles; he moved millions to action with his frank disclosure of testicular cancer. We can and must show these brave young men taking the witness stand the same admiration we show for celebrities who shed light on deadly diseases, paving the way for predators to be caught and other victims to rid themselves of the undeserved shame.