Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sad and Dusky

Click here, then read.

Now that Sandusky has been arrested, charged and convicted for the crimes he committed—and since it took so long to play out in the media, with Paterno now gone as well—I wonder how many of us still sit back and say, “Great, another evil man ended," put away like another bad memory, as if everything will now get better.

I never looked at Sandusky like he was an evil man: never met him, never met his wife, never met his victims. While I sautĂ©ed mushrooms and onions in the background, I listened on the evening news as Sandusky’s life closed down around him, his choices regarding boys and the cracking of their backs and then “their turns” all pattering like black rain against the windows of my house.

There was no joy, for me, to see Sandusky caught and sent to prison. Gladness to see him removed from harming boys again, but no joy.

I hear the name “Sandusky” and see his picture on TV, and it’s like looking into any man’s face.

I was not molested as a child, if you discount the neighbor boy who trapped me in the wood shed for ten minutes when I was five and he was twelve. He was just curious. I had a responsible feeling about it at the time: I knew it would be bad to make trouble because my grandparents were visiting, and we wanted everything nice at the house.

A little fondling in the dog shed shouldn’t matter so much. And it didn’t, to me.

I was eight or nine years old when I found out that one of my older sisters had been trapped in our Catholic school gym by a gang of boys, her shirt hiked up, her pants pushed down. I immediately realized the cruelty of that act. Teachers should have been more attentive.

My sister didn’t stay at Our Catholic, quickly transferring over to Our Public. The boys would stay at Catholic and would graduate from there, most of them anyway. My previously sunny sister would get one year’s respite, until they got her again at the public school the next year.

Ideas grew as I too grew, from eight to twelve to a teenager whose older siblings knew more than I did, just because they were older than I was. Stories came out about other girls in my family who had been compromised.

My first reaction was to track down the compromisers and shoot them, but they were all ghosts by then. My second reaction was to comfort anybody who needed it, and nobody seemed to want it anymore.

Years went by and I was called to jury duty in Phoenix, Arizona. I got to the courthouse on time, watched the Barbara Walters special on overhead monitors, ate my orange, then followed the crowd when our number was called until we reached an upstairs courtroom.

I gathered my knitting.

I had gone in against my will, and would have left happily at any time. I was 28, and there was an accused child molester on trial, a Mexican who didn't speak English. I didn’t know exactly what he’d done, but I knew he should be able to get some kind of a fair trial here, not that I wanted to be part of it. I’d been learning some dodge and escape rules from my formal training in rhetoric in graduate school, so I stood up—alone, one out of maybe fifty people sitting in my section—when the prosecutor asked if there was anyone who might not be able to serve for any reason.

I stood up and said in the gallery, more like a tiered movie theater: “I can’t be on the jury because I think attraction to children is a mental glitch, not a crime. I think he needs help, not prison time.”

I was quickly dismissed from any civic service in Maricopa County after that, and have never been called since. I went back to living my normal life, with a speeding ticket or two.


When I was 20 or 21, if 19 matters anymore, I finally reached the legal drinking age in Minnesota. I was in college at the time—in the same small town I’d grown up in—and another kid took me aside to say, “Hey, the bartender was abused by a priest when he was a kid, and he’s in a lawsuit, so like, don't say anything.”

Many years later, when I owned my own DVD player and had a mail-order subscription to DVD’s, I got the one called Deliver Us From Evil…the one where the candid priest talks about abusing all the kids he did. I watched, fixated.

I wondered how all of that could happen without parents noticing.

I sent it back to Netflix with one raised eyebrow.


  1. Excellent. I grew up in a similar milieu and share your thoughts about Sandusky and others like him. Thank you for providing another viewpoint.

  2. Although I'm not one of the "hang them & flog them brigade", in my day job I have worked with many people in the psychiatric system whose lives have been destroyed as a direct result of childhood sexual abuse (albeit typically more extreme and persistent than a one-off grope from a kid next door).

  3. Good way to get out of jury duty :)