Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bernie Fine and Jerry Sandusky: Let's Never Shut Up About This Again

This year marked 25 years since I was raped. I've never been quiet about it because it never occurred to me that I should feel embarrassed. After all, I was 10, and I was asleep in bed when a serial rapist kidnapped me from my bedroom... not a lot there that I need to feel responsible for. I'm sorry that any rape survivor feels any different, because regardless of circumstances, you are not responsible or to blame for what happened to you, either. No matter what.

My rapist is up for parole right now. I've already given my victim impact statement to the parole board and I'm just waiting for an answer. If he gets out of prison, my life will be very different, and you may not see me here anymore.

That's because our justice system and our community is really, really screwed up with regard to sex crimes. First off, there is no reason on the planet for a serial rapist ever to get out of prison. Now make it a serial rapist who also raped children, and I don't understand why this person even deserves to be alive right now. But that's beside the point.

I was one of the lucky ones. I told my story to the police, I was believed, and my rapist was caught before the statute of limitations ran out (in New York, a paltry 5 years-- that's right, if the rapist evades capture for 5 years, even if DNA evidence proves he did it, he's a free man and can never be convicted for that crime). He went to trial in three counties and was found guilty and sentenced to the maximum-- 25 years "to life."

I was assured at the time that he'd never get out. Except that was a lie. He's getting out. "Life," as defined by NY State, is 35 years. So sometime between next month and 10 years from now, he will be out.

Yet I'm still one of the lucky ones. At least I had these 25 years. I didn't have to look over my shoulder and wonder when he'd be back for revenge, as he promised when he let me go. He told me then that he'd come back for my 4-year-old sister.

My daughter is now 4.

Other people don't get those 25 years. Even if they manage to be heard and believed and the crime is investigated and makes it to trial and the rapist is convicted... even after all that, the sentence may still be a joke. Take, for instance, what I just found in my state's sex offender registry. Took me five seconds to find that a man in my town convicted of 1st degree sexual abuse involving intercourse with a 7-year-old girl spent 16 days in county jail, and then was sentenced to 5 years of probation.

Yep, that sounds like justice, doesn't it? He's even smiling in his mug shot.

Through the years as I've shared my story, I've heard from probably 40 or 50 women who've told me that they were also raped. It's a terrible sisterhood we share, a club that none of us wants to belong to. But then there are the men... four of them who've confided in me that they were also sexually abused as kids.

Being raped is a steaming pile of shit for anyone, but in particular for a boy. In addition to all the other emotions you go through-- worthlessness, self-blame, depression, betrayal, and so on-- now you also have this additional stupid stigma that you weren't "manly enough" to fight it off. There are fewer men out there talking about it, fewer support groups, and I presume it's even easier to feel alone and crazy. I felt alone and crazy until college, when I met a group of women who, it turned out, were all going through the very same crap I was-- hypervigilance, overreactions to triggers, trust issues, and so on.

When I read about Jerry Sandusky and then Bernie Fine and their heinous sexual crimes against boys, I thought about the men I know who've been abused. All those terrible people who didn't do a damn thing for the victims... all the people who SAW or KNEW that men were raping little boys and were too chickenshit or too uncaring to actually, y'know, DO something about it... and I thought, "That's exactly why rape victims don't come forward."

Far too often, we're not believed, or even if we are believed, it's just too horrible for society to think about-- so they do anything they can NOT to think about it. They pretend we're not really here, that it's not really so bad. They take this huge thing we just summoned up the guts to share and they do nothing about it. They fail us. They move on with their lives and we wonder why we can't move on with ours. People would much rather pretend that this stuff is so rare as to be inconsequential. But it's not rare.

There are child molesters and rapists in your community. They are in your church, they are working in your schools, they are on line next to you at the grocery store. You've probably made pleasant small talk with a child molester without ever realizing it. He (it's usually a "he") seems nice. A pillar of the community. "He would never do something like that"... except that he would. They live in Idaho and in North Carolina just the same as they live in New York and California.

If you need proof, then use the resources that proponents of Megan's Law fought for. Take a quick look at your state's sex offender registry. Now, keeping in mind that these are people who were caught and convicted and haven't yet aged out of the system. If you really want to feel ill, scroll down to the fine print about their sentences. See how many child molesters get nothing more than probation?

So here's the thing... let's take this Sandusky and Fine stuff and actually do something productive about it. We can all shake our heads and say "tsk tsk" and then go read the next scandalous story, and then nothing will actually change. Or we can go after our elected officials and MAKE THEM make some changes or kick them out of office.

Here's one: Abolish the statute of limitations for rape.

Bobby Davis found out that when he came forward about Fine's abuse, it was too late-- police wouldn't bother doing an investigation because the statute of limitations had run out. That's disgusting. Fine didn't miraculously become innocent of raping a small boy because some invisible timer had run out. Rape does not have an expiration date. Tell that to your state senators and assemblymen.

Here's two: Increase prison terms for sex offenders.

Convicted child molesters and rapists should not have a chance to rape someone else's child. This is not a "three strikes and you're out" kind of crime. One is enough. Raping ONE child should mean life in prison without the possibility of parole, period. Probation is bullshit.

Here's three: Prosecute those who see or know about sex crimes and do not report to authorities.

They have aided and abetted a rapist and deserve to be criminally punished. That includes churches who hide away their priests and pastors who've committed sex crimes, wives who know their husbands are rapists, and everything in between. If you know someone has raped someone, the time to call police is NOW.

And a few other things I want to say...

BOBBY DAVIS and MIKE LANG, you are heroes. You are amazing for speaking out the way you are. You're amazing for not letting people sweep you under the rug.

"I don't want this to happen to anybody else," Mike said.

I wish I could guarantee that. What I can guarantee, though, is that because of people like you, there are other men who will feel less alone and less crazy. You're encouraging people to speak out, and you're showing the world that male sexual abuse survivors have nothing to be ashamed of.

It's not your fault. It's not the other survivors' fault. The fault lies with the criminals who did this and the people who allowed them to do it, time and again-- people like the district attorney and university police who let Sandusky get away with it the first time, Penn State coach Joe Paterno, athletic director Tim Curley, senior VP for finance and business Gary Schultz, everyone at The Second Mile who knew about what Sandusky had done and let him get away with it after an "internal review," wrestling coach Joseph Miller (who watched Sandusky molest a boy), graduate assistant Mike McQueary (who watched Sandusky molest a boy); Bernie Fine's wife, everyone at ESPN who heard the tape of Fine's wife and didn't bother telling police about it, detectives who blew off Bobby Davis the first time around, the police chief who actively tried to block the DA's investigation after Mike Lang came forward...

Sadly, the list goes on and on. Imagine how life might have been different if even ONE of those people had the guts to do what was right. Other boys might not have been abused.


TYLER PERRY, you are amazing for telling your story, and for your wonderful letter to the 11-year old Penn State survivor.


MALESURVIVOR.ORG, thank you for being there. Men who have been abused, there's a place to seek some understanding.


BERNIE FINE, JERRY SANDUSKY, and every other schmuck out there who's abusing children and getting away with it, I do hope you die miserably, in as much pain as inhumanly possible, slowly. I wish horrors upon you that I can't even dream up.

Child molesters get away with their crimes because people don't want to talk about it. Let's never shut up about this again. Let's keep talking about it until we drive this stuff into the light and make it unacceptable for anyone to get a "pass." Don't be afraid to speak up because the man is a respected community member, or doesn't look like a child molester. We are responsible for people who can't speak up for themselves. Children need our protection. Let's not fail another one.


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