Teen Angst

Helping adolescents deal with anger and other emotions effectively

There are No Winners: Sandusky Found Guilty

The Signs and Aftermath of Sexual Abuse

Well the verdict is in and Penn State's former defensive football coordinator Jerry Sandusky has been found guilty on 45 charges and not guilty on three charges.  The 12-member jury in Pennsylvania, deliberated well over 21 hours and found the 68-year-old guilty of sexually abusing 10 boys over a 15 year span.

Looks like Sandusky may face spending the rest of his life in prison.  His charges could carry a prison term of up to 422 years. That will only be a "drop in the bucket" compared to the psychological distress the victims have had to endure.  To top it off, one of the victims that came forward was Sandusky's own 33-year-old adopted son and former foster child, Matt Sandusky, who issued a statement 6-21-12 that Sandusky also molested him.  So here are the questions: Where did all of this come from? How did it go undetected, unreported, and under the radar for so long? For those who did report it, why was it swept under the rug? Didn't someone, anyone, see the signs?

Well, sad to say, it's not as uncommon as you may think for sexual abuse to go unnoticed. Did you know that sexual assaults are one of the most under reported crimes? According to Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) and The Bureau of Justice Statistics, approximately 1 out of 5 boys and 1 out of 3 girls will be sexually abused before their eighteenth birthday. Of those assaults, 34.3% were family members, 58.7% were acquaintances and only 7% were strangers. So, the vast majority of sexual assaults occur with people the teen knows and trusts. Scary isn't it?

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The National Crime Victimization Survey reported that in 2008 victims age 12 or older experienced about 203,830 rapes or sexual assaults. About 6.1% children and teens up to age 17 were victims of a sexual assault. Also approximately 28% of 14-17 year olds in the US had been sexually victimized. Unfortunately, the vast majority of these teens don't report it to an adult. Males are the least likely to report a sexual assault. So, why are these teens so reluctant to speak out? Remember, the majority of these crimes are committed by someone the teen knows and trusts. Plus, they may be ashamed, afraid they'll get into trouble, or they may have even been threatened.

So, how do you know if you're teen has been victimized? First and foremost, keep the lines of communication open and be supportive. Let your teen know that they can tell you anything and that you will not judge them. Let them know that you're there to help. Establishing supportive communication early will help your teen feel comfortable letting you into their life. Second, be wary of any adult who hangs out with your teen more than you do. It's better to be suspicious and error on the side of caution, so don't be afraid to ask questions. There are also some behavioral signs that your teen may exhibit.

These include but are not limited to:

Extreme agitation Anger outbursts Depression Sleep problems Problems in school Withdrawal from friends and family Disengagement in activities Poor hygiene Stress Anxiety Nightmares Increased levels of fear Decreased self-esteem

Also, sexual abuse may manifest itself in more risk taking behaviors. Many of these teens have shattered self esteem and they may engage in impulsive and dangerous behaviors. Sexually abused teens are at an increased risk of: Drug/Alcohol Use Pregnancy Promiscuity Sexually Transmitted Disease Suicide Attempts Eating Disorders Running Away

If you suspect that your teen is a victim of a sexual crime reach out to your teen with love and support. Next, call the authorities and file a report. Lastly, get help immediately. The psychological damage that sexual crimes cause is monumental. Teens need to learn how to let go of the guilt that they may feel and learn to cope with the traumatic experience. Trained professionals can assist with this process. Additionally, parents may need some counseling as well to let go of the guilt for not knowing what happened and the anger they feel towards the perpetrator. There are directories that will assist you in locating a counselor in your area.

In closing, Victim's 6's mother said it best to a reporter following the trial "Nobody wins. We've all lost."

This blog is a re-visit of a previous blog "Has Your Teen Been Sexually Assaulted" published in November when the allegations of sexual abuse surfaced.

Additional Resources:

Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) http://www.rainn.org/

Safety Tips for Parents from Childhelp: http://www.childhelp.org/pages/get-help/ Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-4-A-CHILD

Family Watchdog - use this free website to determine just how close you live to a registered sex offender. http://www.familywatchdog.us/default.asp

“But Who Should I Tell?” Questions and Answers About Seeking Help After Sexual Abuse (2011) (PDF) A guide for children and teens that discusses whether or not to tell anyone and who to go to for help; lists other resources for support.

It’s Never Your Fault: The Truth about Sexual Abuse (2010) (PDF) A guide for teens that identifies common myths about sexual assault and then presents the facts. Includes resources for where to go for help.

 

 

Raychelle Cassada Lohmann, M.S., L.P.C., is the author of The Anger Workbook for Teens.

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