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The Sandusky Trial: It's not "Sexual." It's Rape!

Updated on July 7, 2012

It's not "Sexual", it's Rape!

I was about half way finished writing a book about how to completely heal from sexual abuse when it hit me; one of the reasons why it’s so hard for abuse victims to recover is because what they experienced has been misnamed. We need to stop calling what was done to them “Sexual” abuse, because doing so implies that what was done to them was sexual, and many victims end up wrongly believing that they participated in acts of sex.

Calling what Jerry Sandusky did, “Sexual”, is about as accurate as calling it, “Showering”. Both mislabels confuse the issue. Sandusky’s “showering” was a minimization of his acts; an attempt on his part to make his monstrosities appear harmless. Referring to his acts as “Sexual” also minimizes and mainstreams the horror of his actions. “Sexual” is healthy, harmless, fun, natural, and consensual. What he did was rape.

Mike McQueary, he of the “I was just too shocked and confused” to save a raped child, testified in court that he saw Sandusky “having sex with a minor." He said he witnessed Sandusky and the boy “in an extremely sexual position." He also testified that he had no doubt that he was witnessing “anal sex”, and “absent of seeing a penis, yes I think they were having sex."

Let me ask you this; if I put you up against a wall through threat, blackmail, intimidation, manipulation or whatever, and then put my penis in your butt, would you consider that we were having sex? Would we be “engaged in”, (oh how I despised the ongoing use of that phrase by the media), anal sex?

Later in the trial one of the victims said Sandusky “put his mouth on my privates." That was a very accurate and healthy description. The press subsequently reported that he and Sandusky “engaged in oral sex repeatedly over a two year time span” and that the victim described “intimate details of sexual acts.” That description is nonsense and has the potential to do enormous harm to the victim. The victim’s testimony that Sandusky had “initiated numerous incidents of oral sex”, shows how easy it is for victims of rape and abuse to think that they engaged in sexual behaviour for which they often feel a life time of guilt and shame. (If I forced you to put any part of your body in my mouth or forced any part of my body into yours, would you think of that as oral sex?)

If you think this is just harmless semantics, consider the statement by Anthony Sassano, the police detective who investigated the case in 2009. He said, “It was a daunting task to get these young individuals to come forward-to get them to admit they’d been abused by a man, had performed sexual acts with that man." So much is wrong and so much is telling about that statement. Most notably, those young individuals had nothing to “admit to” unless they somehow thought that they had done something wrong such as "perform sexual acts with that man!" Of course they were reluctant to talk!

Many of my clients come into therapy believing that their first sexual experience was with an adult who forced indignities upon them. How sad would that be for you? How horrible would it be for you to connect violations done to you with sex and your sexuality? How tainted might your sex life become?

Let’s call actions what they are so that they don’t get muddled up in the minds of the victims. Let’s look at what Sandusky did and name the acts appropriately. Sandusky did not “engage in” oral and anal sex. He raped boys orally and anally. His gross fondling was not a form of foreplay, it was molestation. Let’s stop calling it “Sexual”. There was nothing sexual about it.

We struggle a great deal in this culture to talk about sex. Sex is something private, all too often something to feel embarrassment and giggle nervously about. I can tell you from my experience providing Sex Therapy that all too often sex is associated with shame and morality infused messages invoking “dirtiness”. Sex is rarely talked openly about and perhaps this explains why it’s typical of rape victims to not come forward with their stories in order to bring their abusers to justice and to free themselves from their pain. Let’s help victims understand that they can talk about it, that it wasn’t sex, and that any and all shame associated with the violation belongs to the abuser, not to them.

We need to model for victims what to call it and how to talk openly about it. We need to do better than McQueary who said he told Paterno, but he did not describe what he saw explicitly “out of respect for the coach and his own embarrassment.” What he should have said was this: “Joe, I saw Sandusky behind a little boy and I think he was anally raping him.” No “sex”. No “compromising position”. Call it what it is. Call what Sandusky did, “rape, abuse, violation, molestation", call it anything, just don’t call it “Sexual”.

As always, thank you for reading. I welcome your comments and questions.

For more assistance call Theo Selles, M.Sc. 647-686-0116 or visit my website www.integrityworks.ca. Straightforward solutions to complex problems

Sincerely,

Theo Selles, M.Sc.


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      Theo Selles 5 years ago

      Well thank you, mysterious Article Reader.

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      5 years ago

      That was a fantastic article. Agree 100% with it as I always do with your articles.

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