Matthew Sandusky's "Oprah" Interview About Dad Jerry's Sexual Abuse Was Searing And Tragic
In 2012, Penn State University's assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky, was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison after being found guilty of 45 charges of child sex abuse. This month, Jerry's adopted son, Matthew Sandusky, sat down with Oprah Winfrey for an exclusive interview about the sexual abuse that he endured while growing up with his father. It was not an easy decision for Matthew, who once stood by his father during his grand jury investigation. But after a three-year silence, Matthew spoke out about his experience for the first time on Oprah Prime.
For the majority of his career, Jerry was seen as a highly respectable man, a celebrated football coach, and a charity founder. Jerry received accolades and praise for his non-profit, The Second Mile, which provided foster care for underprivileged and at-risk youth. For Matthew, who Jerry met through the charity organization and later adopted, the sexual abuse charges against his dad felt more personal.
During Jerry's nine-day criminal trial, his legal team had intended to call Matthew to the stand as a character witness, and he initially agreed, not wanting to drag his family further into the fray. Matthew even perjured himself in order to stand by his father, but he knew that he couldn't do it much longer. Four days into the trial, however, Matthew decided to come forward with his own accounts.
"If he were to get me on that stand, I would tell the truth," Matthew told Oprah, adding that he wanted to warn his father first. "And I wanted to go there and at least offer him that ... tell him what I would do."
Matthew decided to reveal the truth after hearing how similar victim No. 4's testimony was to his own childhood experiences. And at the same time, he was starting to remember things.
Matthew Once Felt Proud to Be Jerry's Son
Oprah asked Matthew about feeling envied by others because he was picked by Jerry out of hundreds of kids at The Second Mile.
"[He was a hero] to everybody," Matthew tells Oprah. "You just have random strangers as he's walking patting him on the back, congratulating him, and wanting to touch him, and wanting to be near him ... and you were the person that he chose to be beside him ... and you had all of these other people, grown people, wanting to be there, and be in your position."
Oprah then asks, "So it was easy for your hero to manipulate you?"
"Absolutely," he replies.
Jerry's Manipulation Knew No Bounds
Matthew moved in with the Sanduskys when he was 16, relieved to be avoiding a life of detention centers and foster care. But by the time he was 17, he had attempted suicide, but that didn't stop Jerry from continuing his manipulation.
"After the suicide attempt, the really sexual abuse stopped. The manipulation, the control, the hand on the leg anytime I was in the car, him pulling me off to a room anytime I was at the house, he would always pull me into a separate room to speak alone. Those were the times when he's reinforcing. He's reinforcing and checking in with me to make sure that I'm not speaking, that I'm not having thoughts about telling."
Jerry's Disturbing Bedtime Ritual With Matthew
The most tragic revelation? The sexual abuse routine that Jerry enforced with Matthew at bedtime during overnight visits, according to Matthew.
Seeing Other Victims and How Similar the Abuse Was
Matthew, who was already familiar with Jerry's sexual abuse process at the time, recounts what he witnessed when Jerry and victim No. 4 entered the shower together. Later on, when Matthew heard the victim's testimony in court, it felt like he was hearing his own story.
"My child self had protected my adult self. I didn't have these memories of the sexual abuse ... so when these charges came forward, it was a hard time.... The things they were saying, they were telling my story."
Image: Oprah Prime