Monday marked the start of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse trial, and for the first time, one person who said the former defensive coordinator abused him, told the story of his relationship with Sandusky publicly.
The person referred to as “Victim 4” in court documents took the stand Monday, and faced questioning from both the prosecution and defense.
Christopher Anderson, Executive Director of Male Survivor — an advocacy group for boys and men who have suffered sexual abuse — said he was impressed by how the person referred to as “Victim 4” handled himself on the first day of the trial.
“What the first survivor who testified [Monday], how he held up was just amazing,” Anderson said. “It was courageous and heroic.”
Male Survivor was one of a handful of advocacy groups that was represented in Bellefonte on the first day. Anderson said he thought at least seven other groups were there.
One of those groups was the National Center for Victims of Crime, and one of its representatives, Jeff Dion, addressed reporters at a podium in front of the Centre County Courthouse at a midday recess.
“We know what happens in this courtroom will have a tremendous impact on survivors of child sexual abuse throughout our country and throughout the world,” Dion said.
“This way the court, the prosecutors and the defense team treat the victims of this crime, will determine for many victims who have not come forward, whether or not it’s worth the risk.”
Joining Dion at the podium was Jennifer Storm, the Executive Director for the Harrisburg-based Victim/ Witness Assistance program, and they both asked the media to not disclose the identities of those Sandusky is charged with abusing.
Dion added Al Chesley — a former NFL linebacker who was sexually abused — will join him and his organization Tuesday at the trial.
While there several advocacy groups at the courthouse, Anderson said attending trials like the Sandusky case is not something he and his group get to do much of, because they don’t happen all that often.
“As Male Survivor grows as an organization, this is definitely something we’re trying to do more of, because we exist to give support to survivors,” Anderson said.
“Nobody needs more support than a survivor who’s being asked to testify in open court about their experiences.”
According to Anderson, Male Survivor, which was founded in 1995, has helped thousands of people in the past 10 years alone.
Anderson said he is hoping the Sandusky trial will help spread the word about his organization and encourage more survivors to come forward.
“Being able to get the word out that we can bring context and perspective to this trial, to some of the issues surrounding it and to help any survivors that are listening to this,” Anderson said are main goals of his organization.
“To know they’re not alone, to know that there is help, there are resources out there, and that healing is possible for every survivor, is a really key part of what we’re trying to do.”