A Time for Healing

Teddy Bear. Photo by Callen Harty.

The Jerry Sandusky trial is over.  The guilty verdicts have been delivered.  If the news trucks have not all packed up and gone already they will soon.  It is time for them to move on to the next story.

It is time for others to begin the process of healing.

The horrible reality of this crime is that everyone involved was left devastated.

The perpetrator has lost his freedom.  One can hope that the bondage of prison releases him from the bondage of his actions, because now he will at least be prevented from committing these acts upon any other children.  The horrible thoughts that brought him to do these things may still be there, but he will not be able to act out.  He will have the rest of his life to reflect on what he has done and on who he is at his core, to find some spiritual resolution, and hopefully to take responsibility in his own heart for all that he has done and all that he has destroyed.

Sandusky’s family, too, was victimized, as were all his friends and associates.  At some point they will have to realize that the preponderance of evidence was not because of some plot, but because of the actions committed by the man they loved and thought they knew.  Whether that is accepted or not their lives have been permanently and unalterably changed.  His wife’s twilight years, that she may have imagined spending with her husband in peaceful retirement, will now be spent missing him, wondering where it all went wrong, and, very likely, what she could have done differently.

The boys who were victimized, who are now all young men, must find a way to healing and somehow move on with their lives.  They were not left with scars from what happened to them–they were left with open wounds.  Scars imply the healing has already happened and left a reminder.  The likelihood is that at best the healing for these boys has only begun.  It may take years and for some of them they may never be able to fully recover and move past it.

What I learned from my own abuse is that a man can compartmentalize things, ignore things, and find many ways of not dealing with the issue at hand.  I drank myself into a stupor, I did other drugs, I contemplated and attempted suicide, I put walls around myself, and none of it stopped the interior pain that was my constant companion.  It was only when I quit drinking and quit trying to avoid the issue that I was able to begin any kind of healing at all.  I had to look at myself in the mirror and look deeply into my soul.

And then, after many, many years more what I finally realized was that healing begins in forgiveness.

I understood that as long as I held onto hatred, as long as I could not let go of it, my perpetrator still held power over me.  Once I let it go a burden was lifted, a lightness came to me, and I took the power over my life back from him.  This does not mean that all my pain went away in one magical instant.  In fact, I still have moments where my wound is reopened and brings forth all sorts of horrible memories–the Sandusky trial was one of those things that triggered me.  But for the most part I have been able to let it go and move on with my life, contributing to society instead of acting as a drain on it.

The way I see it the boys who were abused by Sandusky have two choices–to dwell in their pain and suffer in it as victims, or to find some kind of forgiveness and the ability to let it go, becoming survivors.  I believe Sandusky and his family have the same choices.  He can either take responsibility for his actions, acknowledge what he did, and forgive himself, or he can pretend it didn’t happen, that he’s innocent, and play the part of the victim who was wrongly accused and convicted.  His family will have the same choice–to admit what he did and forgive him for it, or feel victimized by the boys and the judicial system.

Understand that forgiveness doesn’t imply that the abuse was okay.  It is more a letting go, a release of the negative energies of hate and retribution.  It is an acceptance that the past is what it is and cannot be changed–it can either serve to burden a person with its weight or serve a person as a tool for growth.  One can’t find love or compassion, especially for oneself, if mired in hatred and negativity.  Forgiveness is the gift that leads to healing, through unburdening oneself of hatred and the discovery of self-love, and now that the trial is over it is a time for healing to begin.

About Callen Harty

Originally from Shullsburg, Wisconsin Callen Harty is the author of four books and numerous published essays, poems, and articles. His most recent book is The Stronger Pull, a memoir about coming out in a small town in Wisconsin. His first book was My Queer Life, a compilation of over 30 years worth of writing on living life as a queer man. It includes essays, poems, speeches, monologues, and more. Empty Playground: A Survivor's Story, is a memoir about surviving childhood sex abuse. His play, Invisible Boy, is a narrative with poetic elements and is also an autobiographical look as surviving child sex abuse. All are available on Amazon.com (and three of them on Kindle) or can be ordered through local bookstores, He has written almost two dozen plays and 50 monologues that have been produced. Most of them have been produced at Broom Street Theater in Madison, Wisconsin where he started as an actor, writer, and director in 1983. He served as the Artistic Director of the theater from 2005-2010. Monologues he wrote for the Wisconsin Veterans’ Museum won him awards from the Wisconsin Historical Society and the American Association of State and Local History. He has also had essays, poems, and articles published in newspapers and magazines around the country and has taken the top prize in several photo contests. His writing has appeared in Out!, James White Review, Scott Stamp Monthly, Wisconsin State Journal, and elsewhere. He has had several essays published online for Forward Seeking, Life After Hate, and The Progressive. Callen has also been a community activist for many years. He was the co-founder of Young People Caring, UW-Madison’s 10% Society, and Proud Theater. He served as the first President of Young People Caring and as the Artistic Director for Proud Theater for its first five years. He is still an adult mentor for the group. In 2003 he won OutReach’s Man of the Year award for his queer community activism. OutReach is Madison, Wisconsin’s lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender community center. He also won a Community Shares of Wisconsin Backyard Hero award for his sex abuse survivor activism work. He has been invited to speak before many community groups, at a roundtable on queer community theater in New York City, and has emceed several events. In 2016, Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault named him their annual Courage Award winner for his activism, writing, and speaking on sexual assault.
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1 Response to A Time for Healing

  1. Wayne Gillespie says:

    I’m sure that the Sandusky trial triggered many fine people who have been abused at some point in their past and who have done their best to move forward in a positive way. Forgiveness is, indeed, an important part of the healing process. Unfortunately, triggers will continue to keep the abuse alive in the minds of those who have been abused – even after long periods of time. I hope that the Sandusky trial will encourage people to “stand-up” and realize that, when they report known abuse to the authorities, innocent victims can be spared a life of struggle and pain.

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