“Justice.” How do we measure it?
We could spend hours arguing over the terms which a man could, theoretically, reconnect with the outside world after — in Jerry Sandusky’s case, no sooner than 30 years, no farther away than 60, under the conditions spelled out by Judge John Cleland Tuesday in the same unassuming Centre County courtroom that’s been at the center of this case for nearly a year.
We could talk about the impact this has on the lives that were affected by the horrors of his abuse for years and years. Certainly, the men who once again confronted a monster from their childhood yesterday morning — candidly, with a nation’s eyes upon them once again — represent the highest levels of courage.
And this time, unlike the days when they delivered testimony nearly four months earlier, the men were also confronted with their attacker’s own denial that he ever did anything to harm them. He told them their stories, in fact, were just that: stories.
So today, we could look at the situation and understand that a man who inflicted unspeakable terrors on those men, terrors those men will likely carry all their lives, is now locked away.
And we could reason that this, at some level, means justice has been served.
But saying that “justice has been served” — or arguing that “justice hasn’t been served,” if the punishment in Sandusky’s case doesn’t seem to adequately fit his crimes — focuses too much on one man and not enough on the lasting repercussions of this case.
Let’s remember that a jail sentence for Jerry Sandusky doesn’t take back those years of abuse or the ongoing fallout suffered by those 10 men and their loved ones.
Let’s remember, too, that a jail sentence for Jerry Sandusky doesn’t erase the ongoing societal epidemic of abuse at the heart of this.
As Attorney General Linda Kelly noted, devastatingly, “there will be others to take his place.”
Maybe “justice” isn’t the right word, then, when it comes to assessing the fate of Sandusky or the outcome of his sentencing hearing.
Yesterday, Centre County Women’s Resource Center Executive Director Anne Ard noted, “When a community holds a perpetrator accountable, it tells the victims we believe you... But we’re not done yet. If we stop here, we fail.”
The long-term effects of the Sandusky case — the heightened attention to sexual abuse and child abuse in all forms, and the way in which we use this case as a call to act on those issues — will be the true determinants of justice.
If we think a prison sentence alone is what would bring true justice in this moment, we fail.