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I got a call from Bellafonte last night informing me that rumor has it Sandusky and his lawers are trying to make a plea deal.  And I've been struggling with that news ever since.

On the one hand, depending on the "level" of plea Sandusky makes, it means he will (hopefully) go to jail, the victims won't have to be identified publicly and won't have to relive the abuse they suffered on the witness stand for all to see.  

But, on the other hand, I fear the conversation they started will come to an abrupt halt.  The media will tie it all up in a neat little package with a bow and say "See, we got the bad guy and he's in jail - And now onto other news..."

Meanwhile, little kids will still be suffering at the hands of pedophiles because even today, in 2012, nobody talks about this dirty little secret...

History shows us that we've been here before.  On the cusp of really talking about the abuses perpetrated on our most innocent children and doing something about it - only to once again push it to the back burner because it's too ugly to look at.  

SwedishJewfish has begun an excellent historical perspective piece on this in her Part I of Opening Pandora's Box: The Forgotten History of Sexual Trauma detailing how Freud's initial diagnosis of child sexual abuse was quickly changed to "hysteria" when the patriarchial society pushed back.

In the 1980's and 90's, reports of child sexual abuse were so overwhelming, that again society pushed back, claiming "repressed memory syndrome" or "false memory syndrome."

The debate on "recovered memories" and "false memories" dominated media coverage on child abuse for much of the 1990s. In the media, proponents of the "false memory" position argued that there was no evidence for traumatic amnesia, and that "recovered memories" of sexual abuse were unreliable, and often the product of overly zealous therapists, and hysterical, malicious or confabulating women.
Here, again, we see this word "hysteria" and "confabulating women."  (big sigh)

Is that what's going to happen here - again?  Will children's voices be silenced because their message is too painful to bear?  We struggle with the concept of child sexual abuse because victims don't disclose until they are well into adulthood - and then we don't see them as the children they were when the abuse started.  

I was 5 when the grooming started

We've been here before...

Father James Porter

The Catholic Church, once again in the news, already went through round one of their scandal when in 1992, Father James Porter was tried, convicted, and sentenced to a 20 year prison sentence as a result of charges brought by 28 adults who claimed to have been sexually abused as children:

This month marks the 20-year anniversary for the conviction of Father Porter, a Catholic preist who sexually abused 100's of boys in the 1960's and 70's.  

And, of course, church officials knew but did nothing - sound familiar?

Among the most damning Porter revelations were that church officials who knew the seriousness of the charges against the priest, transferred him from parish to parish, rather than dismiss him from the priesthood. Porter was assigned to St. Mary's after being ordained in 1960. But when complaints arose, he was sent to another parish in Fall River, then was transferred again to New Bedford. In 1969, he was moved to a parish in Bemidji, Minn. All along the way, according to church records and news reports, Porter abused children.

Porter was a pedophile, and superiors knew or suspected. At least twice before he formally left the priesthood in 1974, he was sent to treatment centers.

But the church, just like families, just like educational institutions, want to quiet these stories - want to make them go away.  The sexual abuse of children is unsettling and no one wants to talk about it - but they have a way of resurfacing...
1992: US bishops meeting in South Bend, Indiana, admit attempts by some of their number to hide abuse.

1993: First legal proceedings brought against Dallas diocese over sex abuse by the priest Rudolph Kos.

13 July, 1998: Dallas diocese forced to pay more than $31m to victims of Kos.

1999: Former Massachusetts priest John Geoghan indicted on child rape charges.

8 January, 2002: Vatican publishes guidelines on how to deal with paedophile priests, saying all cases should be reported to Rome.

Geoghan was jailed for 10 years in 2002 - and later killed in prison
9 January: Cardinal Law apologises to victims of John Geoghan and promises a tougher line on abusive priests in future.

18 January: Geoghan convicted of indecent assault and battery of a 10-year-old boy, for which he later receives a 10-year prison sentence.

4 April: Two US men, in Florida and Oregon, begin legal action which symbolically names the Vatican for its alleged role in covering up sex abuse cases.

8 April: File released on the Rev Paul Shanley, alleging he publicly advocated sex between men and boys and still received the backing of the archdiocese for his ministry.

23 April: Pope John Paul II calls emergency meeting with US cardinals in Rome.

2 May: Paul Shanley arrested in California and later charged on three counts of child rape. He denies the charges.

13 June: US bishops approve "zero tolerance" national policy on abuse, but the Vatican demands changes to protect rights of priests.

17 September: Boston Jesuit priest James Talbot charged with raping and assaulting three teenaged students.

19 September: The Boston Archdiocese reaches $10m settlement with victims of John Geoghan, retracting a previous settlement of $30m which the Church said would have bankrupted the archdiocese.

Shanley was convicted of raping at least one boy
3 November: Cardinal Law apologises for "decisions which led to suffering".

13 November: US bishops meet in Washington and approve revised policy on abusive priests which takes account of Vatican concerns.

On the same day, Roman Catholic activists from the Survivors First group launch an online database listing 573 US priests accused of involvement in paedophilia since 1996, later dropping 100 of the names.

3 December: New revelations about eight priests in Boston archdiocese accused of abusing women and girls, taking drugs and supplying drugs in return for sexual favours.

6 December: Cardinal Law leaves for the Vatican, on the same day that he reportedly is ordered to appear before a grand jury investigating sex abuse allegations.

13 December: Cardinal Law resigns as archbishop.

The Vatican has demanded some protection for accused priests
April 2003: The Boston Archdiocese avoids bankruptcy by agreeing to sell land and buildings for over $100m to fund legal settlements to more than 500 abuse victims.

24 August: John Geoghan is killed in a Massachusetts prison.

27 February 2004: A report commissioned by the Church says more than 4,000 US Roman Catholic priests had faced sexual abuse allegations in the last 50 years, in cases involving more than 10,000 children - mostly boys.

1 July: The key accuser of defrocked priest Paul Shanley is dropped from the case by prosecutors.

7 July: In an unprecedented move, the Portland Archdiocese files for bankruptcy because of the huge costs from clergy sex abuse lawsuits.

The action halts a trial of a lawsuit seeking some $155m against the late Rev Maurice Grammond, who was accused of molesting more than 50 boys in the 1980s.

28 September: Prosecutors drop a case against former Massachusetts bishop Thomas Dupre, hours after he is charged with raping two children in the 1970s.

15 November: US Roman Catholic bishops elect Bishop William Skylstad as their new president. His Washington diocese faces bankruptcy due to the volume of compensation claims made by alleged victims of child abuse.

3 December: After two years of talks, the diocese of Orange County, California, settles a sex abuse lawsuit brought by 87 plaintiffs for an unspecified sum. The diocese later says the package is worth $100m (£53m).

7 February 2005: A US court convicts Paul Shanley of four charges relating to offences committed in the 1980s including rape and indecent assault.

June: The Roman Catholic Diocese of Sacramento, California, agrees to pay $35m (£17m) to 33 victims.

August: The Diocese of Oakland, California, agrees to pay $56m (£27.5m) to 56 people.

December 2006: The Archdiocese of Los Angeles agrees to pay $60m (£30m) to settle to 45 cases of alleged sexual abuse by priests.

January 2007: The Spokane diocese in Washington agrees to pay at least $48m (£24.7m) as compensation to people abused by priests.

July: The Los Angeles Archdiocese settles 508 cases of alleged sexual abuse by priests for a record-breaking pay-out of $660m (£324m). The deal is reached just before the scheduled start of a series of trials into abuse claims dating back to the 1940s.

September: The Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego, California, agrees to pay $198m to settle 144 claims of sexual abuse by clergy.

Link to Timeline

And today, in 2012, the current case in Philadelphia

Child sexual abuse is not going to go away - especially if we refuse to acknowledge that it exists!  With statistics of 1:4 girls and 1:6 boys being sexually assaulted before the age of 18, no longer can we say not in my family, not at my school, not in my diocese, not in my city  To bury our heads in the sand any longer is to ensure another child is raped.

Children cannot protect themselves.  It is our duty to keep them safe.  And while I support and stand beside the victims in the Jerry Sandusky trial, whatever they decide, I implore you to continue the conversation - with your children, in our schools, at our church.  Don't hide from it because it's ugly and disgusting to talk about - prepare the kids around you to act if and when evil finds them.  

Teach them that it's okay to Tell if something happens - the difference between a secret and a surprise - secrets can be deadly - a surprise is something joyful!

If they do disclose to you something that happened to them, listen carefully, encourage them to talk, let them know that you believe them and that you want to protect them.  And seek to get them into recovery through counseling or crisis groups immediately.

Educate yourself and your kids/family/teachers about the signs and symptoms of child sexual abuse - from the way pedophiles groom their victims, the parents and the community - to behavior changes that may tip you off to something happening with your child.  Mood changes, over-sexualized behaviors, withdrawal, self-abuse (cutting, alcohol/drugs/promiscuity).

Finally empower everyone around you to speak their truth.  It is in our stories that others feel comfortable to speak.  All too often victims feel they are the only one's this happened to - that they somehow deserved it because they were bad or did something wrong or were being punished.  But it is in sharing our pasts, our histories of abuse that we see common threads.  We share coping mechamisms that we thought no one would understand - and we can slowly begin healing each other as we share more of our pain.

James Robitaille, one of the first accusers of Father James Porter sums it up this way:

"Anything that reminded me of it, I'd avoid," he said. "Change the subject."

Then one day, 30 years after allegations against Porter first surfaced in his hometown, Robitaille heard a news report on radio station WBZ while driving.

Frank Fitzpatrick, with whom he had attended Catholic school in North Attleboro, was blowing the lid off Porter's dirty little secret.

"I had to stop my car," Robitaille said.

The emotions came flooding back.

As he listened to the news broadcast, Robitaille felt at once horrified and liberated.

As a child victim, Robitaille had felt threatened and terribly alone. Now, even as he relived the old nightmares, he knew he no longer was.

"I dislike the word victim," said Robitaille,..."I'm a survivor. We were all survivors."

12:25 PM PT: According to Sara Ganim - The Patriot News...

The private, unscheduled meeting between Jerry Sandusky's defense team, prosecutors and Judge John M. Cleland yesterday afternoon was to ask for another trial delay. Cleland again denied the request, saying "no trial date is ever perfect, but some days are better than others."

So far, it looks like the trial is still on.  More to come.

Originally posted to TreeClimbers on Wed May 30, 2012 at 08:44 AM PDT.

Also republished by House of LIGHTS and Street Prophets .

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