Published in The Patriot News on Sunday October 28th, 2012
By Jennifer Storm
It is disgusting to me. A pregnancy that occurs from a sexual assault is a secondary victimization that just furthers the trauma of the victim.
It is a horrific side effect of a violent crime perpetrated upon an unwilling victim. That victim should have complete control over what happens next. Sexual violence is often about men levying control upon their victims, and to have a government or group of candidates attempting to further the perpetration of control over a victim makes them no better than the rapist themselves.
I wonder, would Mourdock tell a mother whose son was blown up in Iraq by a roadside bomb that his death was God’s will? Why is it OK for our society to claim rape is any less vile of a crime than homicide? Murder kills the person, and rape kills the soul. How can you validate one more than the other? There are plenty of moderate Republicans who understand that you can be pro-life and still compromise in your platform of being tough on crime and sensitive to victims. Unfortunately, they are being drowned out by a radical slice of their party.
In Pennsylvania, politicians are using the Sandusky case as a tool to block important votes and to push pro-life agendas instead of using it to lobby for better policies and much-needed legal change.
House Democrats used an important vote that would have created better laws to protect children to grandstand and demand a federal investigation into then-Attorney General Tom Corbett’s role in the Sandusky case. Shame on them. Investigation into what exactly? The most efficient and effective criminal prosecution of a celebrity predator in our country?
These people don’t know what they’re talking about. I do. I’m a sexual abuse survivor who has devoted much of my life to acting as an advocate for victims of rape and abuse. I have talked with some of Sandusky’s victims.
Most of all, I have seen how profoundly difficult a choice it can be for a boy or young man to admit, first to a policeman, then a grand jury and then to a courtroom full of lawyers and media, that he was groomed into sex acts by an older man.
Now, take a single young man, the troubled offspring of a fatherless home, and pit his word against that of a football hero and the founder of a renowned charity.
Add the fact that there’s no physical evidence and that the accused was, in the eyes of outside observers helping this boy, and consider the odds against a conviction. To take down a pillar of the community you need a jackhammer of a case, and Corbett understood that. And, unlike some others who had suspicions or heard or even witnessed over the years, when the complaint reached Tom Corbett, he acted.
In my career as an advocate, I have seen too many single-accuser cases fall in the face of an aggressive defense lawyer able to plant confusion and doubt when questioning a kid.
The Sandusky case has become a distraction to the voting public; the real issues surrounding the case have yet to be discussed. The real issue is that Jerry Sandusky is the norm, not the exception.
If you ask any prosecutor how many Jerry Sanduskys their office has fought against, you will find the number to be alarmingly high. These Sanduskys walk among us in various forms in every community in this country. He is the coach, the mentor, the teacher, the police officer, the Boy Scout troop leader, the priest, the attorney, the mailman, the uncle at Thanksgiving dinner — he is everywhere, and we must realize we need to protect our children better.
In the wake of this case, I have traveled the country speaking about sexual assault prevention and awareness. I have seen that Penn State is not unique in its lack of reporting, its inability to respond effectively to victims and in its desire to push sexual violence under the collegiate carpet. If there is anything that comes out of all of these political missteps and this high-profile case, it is that awareness must be created about the reality of sexual violence and the need for better programming and more support for victims.
We need to recognize the teachable moment that is before us.
Jennifer Storm is the executive director of Victim/Witness Assistance Program in Dauphin County and author of several books on victimization and recovery including “Blackout Girl” and “Echoes of Penn State: Facing Sexual Trauma.”