By reducing those who sexually abuse men and boys to “Sanduskys”, we put a generic face on a very real problem.
Men who were abused as boys were abused by individuals, not by a caricature. I find it disheartening that some have suggested we have to work hard to protect our children from other “Sanduskys.”
It seems to me that using the name of Jerry Sandusky, perhaps the most high profile child abuser to have been convicted in quite some time, creates a caricature of what is a horrible crime committed against a person. Of the hundreds of thousands of men who access our website annually, I doubt that even one would want to describe the person who abused him as a generic “Sandusky.” The men, and sometimes women, older boys or girls who hurt them have real names, real personalities, real connections to the child who was victimized. In some cases, they are family members or other trusted persons and what happened to their victims was life-altering and profoundly hurtful.
To take it further, there are over 25,000 residents of Sandusky, Ohio who no doubt would not want to be included in a broad-brush manner with child sexual abuse and their town. Or, the almost 3,000 families in our country who have the last name Sandusky. One such family is the Gerry Sandusky family in the Baltimore area. In fact, this Gerry with a “G” not Jerry with a “J” Sandusky made one of the most powerful and poignant statements about what happened to the survivors of abuse at the hands of Jerry Sandusky of Penn State, in an interview with Rick Reilly on ESPN.
Gerry with a “G” Sandusky gets it. It’s about individuals who were abused by other individuals – complex, sometimes delusional, sometimes cruel, selfish or even violent individuals, but not the caricatured monsters that we find it so easy to paint the people who sexually abuse children to be.
To close, may I suggest that we call those that abuse with a description of their actions– their offense? Saying, “the person who sexually abused those children” or “the coach who sexually assaulted a child in his care” captures the magnitude of the betrayal and the gravity of the crime and not just the easy caricaturization of the moment.
Please note that these words are my own and not those of the organization that I founded and run today.
Steve LePore is the Founder and Executive Director of 1in6.
You might also enjoy: “Can Any Good Come from the Sandusky Sexual Abuse Trial?”
Photo credit: Flickr / wonderferret