While the jury in the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse trial was spending all those hours deliberating, I was getting very anxious. I read the judge’s comments in providing the jurors their instructions, and it almost seemed like an invitation to render a not guilty decision. I kept thinking that many of the jurors had direct ties to Penn State, and they sprang from the Happy Valley community that first reacted to the breaking scandal by rallying around Joe Paterno and the Nittany Lion football program. As a former sportswriter in Pennsylvania who once covered Penn State football games during the height of Sandusky’s tenure as top assistant coach to Paterno in the late 1970s, I carried vivid images of just how deep those passionate loyalties ran. Perhaps, I feared, it would require too much courage and clear-mindedness for those 12 jurors to recognize the obvious and slam the guilty gavel down.
But then those Sandusky trial jurors stood up and acted with boldness and clarity. They believed those young men who told of Sandusky’s horrible acts against them as boys. They transformed what could have been another stunning example of injustice where a prominent and powerful person escaped punishment (O.J. Simpson?) into what has been accurately called a landmark day: http://usnews.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/06/22/12365711-landmark-day-reaction-to-guilty-verdict-in-sandusky-child-sex-abuse-trial?lite
It’s so gratifying to hear the victims being saluted as heroes mustering deep wells of strength and conviction. I know from contact with another recent sexual abuse victim how difficult it is to bring the abuser to justice. And yet, it can be done. Let’s hope the willingness of these victims, and the jurors, to take a stand for what is right will open the door for other abuse survivors to seek out justice in their lives. And let’s hope that this guilty verdict will serve as a wake-up call for schools, athletic teams, and other institutions that turn a blind eye to such acts.
Have you found yourself having your own feelings stirred by what happened in the Jerry Sandusky trial? Does it prompt memories from your own life, or something that you witnessed, where justice was served…or when it was not? Or maybe the Sandusky trial prompted you to feel a deeper pang about the need to protect our children, and how vulnerable they can at times be.
As a memoir ghostwriter and personal historian who helps ordinary people write their life stories, I consistently urge my life-writing clients and students to pay attention to our emotional reactions to the news of the day, and where those emotions take us. There are stories that may be waiting to be told. Maybe it’s time to sit down and write them, either yourself or with the help of a life story writer. Tell your own story about children, about justice, about the courage to speak up and take a stand. And tell it with conviction and passion.
– Kevin Quirk is the author of Your Life Is a Book and It’s Time To Write It! – An A-to-Z Guide to Help Anyone Write Their Life Story. He is a ghostwriter for memoirs and autobiographies who lives in Charlottesville, Virginia.