The Jerry Sandusky sentence came this morning, and the former Penn State assistant football coach got 30 to 60 years on 45 counts of child sex abuse. At 68 years old, that’s basically a life sentence, despite his sustained denial of all “the horrible things” he’s been accused of, and frankly, we’re glad it’s so severe. Now we just hope that other child sex abuse (and sexual assault in general) will start to get similar treatment.
Sandusky took advantage of his connections to the Penn State football program and his own charity for disadvantaged youth, The Second Mile, and has already established a legacy of mental health disorders in the kids and families that he abused. He denied it in a statement recorded and aired on a Penn State radio station Monday night:
They can take away my life, they can make me out as a monster, they can treat me as a monster, but they can’t take away my heart. In my heart, I know I did not do these alleged disgusting acts. My wife has been my only sex partner and that was after marriage.
The evidence not only says otherwise; it also points to other members of Penn State’s football program who were alerted to his crimes and did nothing to stop them.
He was convicted of abusing 10 boys over 15 years in June, and today, the judge didn’t opt to punish him lightly–and it’s hard to imagine the outrage that would have occurred otherwise. But the vast majority of child sex abuse and sexual assault isn’t so high-profile, and the perpetrators don’t get nearly the same publicity or penalty. Sexual assault is one of the most underreported crimes in the country. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), 54% of sexual assaults aren’t ever reported to police, and only 3% of rapists ever actually serve any time in jail. Child abuse is similarly underreported, and the number of reported cases that proceeds to trial is small, often in part due to difficulty interviewing child witnesses.
Sandusky’s conviction and sentencing is a huge step forward for child sex abuse prosecution; here’s hoping it raises the bar for cases that aren’t as public, too.