For Sandusky's victims, the next step begins now

Posted: June 26, 2012

BELLEFONTE, Pa. - They were known until the trial only by the numbers assigned them by prosecutors.

But as eight men molested by former Pennsylvania State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky took the witness stand over the last two weeks, they offered glimpses of who they are now and how the dark period of their youth had shaped the men they grew to be.

Some have grappled with money problems, drug and alcohol addictions and, in one case, a stint in state prison. Others persevered, pushing bad memories to the recesses of their minds - refusing to let their pasts impede dreams of military or church service.

One man - Victim 10 - told jurors June 12 that as a father-to-be he worried how he could possibly protect his own child.

He tried to back out of testifying the night before he took the stand, he said. Only the foster mother whom he lived with during his time with Sandusky - a woman he had not seen in years - was able to persuade him to follow through.

"They are still struggling, as they have every day, with what happened," Andrew Shubin, an attorney for two of Sandusky's accusers, said of the victims.

Their reactions to the former coach's conviction Friday night on 45 counts of child sex abuse were just as mixed.

"None of you will ever understand what I'm going through currently or have gone through since my preteen years," 27-year-old Victim 7 recently wrote on his Facebook page. "I'm not looking for pity or sympathy."

Meanwhile, his longtime friend - a 25-year-old man known as Victim 6 - embraced prosecutors after the verdict was announced.

But for Victim 4, a 28-year-old retail worker who spent more time with Sandusky than any of his cohorts, carving out a life as a healthy adult has been difficult. He cut off contact with Sandusky in 2000, but that was hardly the end of his troubles.

Soon afterward, his mother said in an interview Saturday, he began abusing pills. Seemingly without explanation, he went from a normal teen to an angry young man with problems with authority.

Relatives of a childhood friend described him as a constant troublemaker, getting himself and others into dicey situations with the law.

It started off with a home burglary and escalated over the years. As recently as 2004, Victim 4 was arrested on charges of criminal conspiracy, engaging in organized criminal activity, and access-device fraud. The case against him was later dropped.

"He has had a bit of a tough life," his mother said. "I hope he can start getting better now."

Victim 10's brushes with the law landed him in a prison cell for more than two years. After a string of drug- and theft-related crimes, the now 25-year-old brutally attacked a man more than twice his age outside of a Central Pennsylvania post office in 2007. The beating, according to court filings, was delivered in an attempt to rob the man of cash.

It is difficult to know if sexual abuse contributed to the men's later troubles, or if, as Sandusky's lawyers suggested, their problems were the outcome of otherwise troubled lives - troubles, the lawyers said, with which Sandusky had tried to help them.

Each of them had met Sandusky as boys through the Second Mile, a charity he founded for underprivileged and troubled youth. Most had been referred to the program by school counselors hoping for solutions to behavioral problems that manifested themselves long before they met the former coach.

Despite all sorts of troubles, some found ways to succeed.

Victim 6, whose experiences with Sandusky in a campus locker-room shower prompted a police inquiry in 1998, moved on to pursue a degree at a Bible college in Colorado. After recent mission trips in Mexico, he plans a career in the church, he said.

Victim 3 grew out of a teenage rebellious phase and went on to the Army National Guard and tours of duty in Iraq.

But even these two conceded they remained conflicted about their pasts. Victim 6 sent Sandusky a text message as recently as 2009, wishing him a Happy Father's Day. Before he agreed to testify, he wrote friend and fellow witness Victim 7 via e-mail.

He "would ask me what happened to me," Victim 7 testified. "I felt like he wanted to confide in me. I would change the subject, but I wanted to be there for him."

Victim 3 said that in the days after he was removed to a foster home in the early '90s - breaking off his contact with his abuser - he still hoped Sandusky would rescue him.

"I prayed he'd call me. I prayed he would find a way to get me out of there," he said. "I prayed he'd adopt me or something."

But Sandusky's conviction Friday could chart a different course for the two youngest victims, the 18-year-old men known as Victims 1 and 9.

Both graduated from high school less than a month before they testified against Sandusky.

And while their abuse is more recent, ending in both cases less than four years ago, their decision to reckon with it publicly now may have spared them years of silent struggle.

Or as jurors heard from Victim 1, the boy whose allegations launched the Sandusky investigation in 2008, it was time to come clean, time to move on.

"I knew one way or the other I was going to be stuck with this," he said. "If I was going to grow up and put this all behind me, I was going to have to tell the truth. So, that's what I did."


Contact Jeremy Roebuck at 267-564-5218 or jroebuck@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @jeremyrroebuck.

Staff writers Susan Snyder and Jeff Gammage contributed to this article.

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