Trigger warning for discussion of rape.
Jerry Sandusky has been convicted of molesting ten boys and found guilty of 45 of 48 counts of sexual abuse. He faces the possibility of life in prison.
Justice has been served. Despite Penn State’s enabling and coverups of his crimes, despite the apologism of far too many people, despite the despicable arguing tactics of the defense (“they made it up for money?” Really? “everyone showers with kids?” REALLY?)… justice has been served.
I don’t feel pleasure at this. Although I hope it provides some manner of comfort to his victims, they will still have to endure the consequences of Sandusky’s actions for the rest of their lives. Although I am happy that he will never be in a situation where he may harm another child, I’m upset that he had the opportunity to rape children to begin with, again and again, and that it took fifteen fucking years for someone to realize that this was not okay.
Sandusky’s prosecution makes me think of all the rapists who never face this sort of punishment. The survivors who never get the comfort of knowing their attacker has been punished. The people who have been raped who wouldn’t have been if their rapists had faced the legal consequences for their crimes. The other people who, seeing that there are no consequences and that it is an ordinary and acceptable way to act, themselves rape. Most rapists are repeat rapists; most rapists never spend a day in jail. That is not okay.
[Image description: Out of every 100 rapes, 46 get reported to the police, 12 lead to an arrest, 9 get prosecuted, 5 lead to a felony conviction and 3 rapists will ever spend a day in prison. The other 97 will walk free.]
I also think about prison. I am, as many people are, troubled by our prison system: it is often implemented in a racist, sexist, classist and ableist way; it prioritizes making criminals feel pain over making them decent, contributing, non-criminal members of society; perverse incentives and the lust for profit warp the way prisons are run. While I acknowledge that even in a hypothetical utopia punishment for crimes would have to exist, and certainly Sandusky is richly deserving of it, I wish the system he’s being put in now would respect his human rights the way he didn’t respect the human rights of his victims.
While I’m looking for a million dollars and a pony, I also wish that instead of being happy because a rapist was punished we would ask why he became a rapist in the first place. How can we prevent this from happening in the future? How can we keep rapists and abusers from abusing and raping people?
Nevertheless, despite these doubts, Sandusky’s prosecution is certainly good news, the best that could be hoped for. I hope that Penn State and other colleges will take this as an opportunity to examine their rape cultures and affirm that in no circumstances will they privilege the reputation of the school over protecting children from sexual assault.