HBO’s upcoming biopic, Paterno, tells the story of how late Penn State coach Joe Paterno grappled with losing his position as coach amid Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky’s sex abuse scandal. Paterno was accused of allegedly knowing about Sandusky’s repulsive actions, including witnessing Sandusky abusing one of his victims. Sandusky was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison on October 2012, which for him is technically a life sentence. Being a high profile figure didn’t allow his sentencing to be reduced, so while it’s been six years since he was convicted for sexually abusing many children over the period of 15 years, Jerry Sandusky is still in prison in 2018.
On Oct. 31, 2012, Sandusky was transferred to Greene State Prison to be under protective custody due to his high profile persona. Prisoners who are convicted of child sex abuse crimes are often amongst the main targets for other prisoners due to the heinous nature of their crime. This decision was controversial, as it would potentially grant Sandusky certain privileges like having meals brought to his cell, as well as a TV, radio, and other recreational items. Business Insider reports that in 2017, Sandusky was hopeful of a new trial, claiming that he wasn’t properly represented earlier on, but this was ultimately denied by a judge who said he believed there is enough evidence against Sandusky to prove he did commit the horrific crimes.
In 2014, Sandusky's son Matt, who was adopted at 18, revealed that he was also one of the victims. Matt initially met Sandusky through the Second Mile charity when he was seven years old. The charity was a way for Sandusky to meet many of his victims, entrusting them by filling in the role of paternal figure and feeding into their vulnerabilities as survivors of abuse. During Sandusky’s trial, Matt initially claimed that Sandusky was innocent, but later told police that he was actually a victim. In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, Matt said that when he came forward, many of Sandusky’s fans harassed him, but he didn’t let this stop him from sharing his story. Upon hearing one of Sandusky’s victims’ testimony during trial, detailing the horrific sexual abuse he experienced, Matt realized that they shared the same story and decided to speak out.
In 2016, Matt gave a heartbreaking speech at the McMahon/Ryan Child Advocacy Center’s annual breakfast for National Child Abuse Awareness Month, detailing how his adoptive father took advantage of his childhood trauma to groom him. Instead of referring to Sandusky by name, he called him “the man who sexually abused me.” According to Matt, Sandusky would take him out for car rides and place his hand on his knee, but that escalated to Sandusky sexually assaulting him in the Penn State showers and then recurrently raping him.
At one point, when Matt was sent to a juvenile detention center for arson after lighting a truck on fire, a judge gave him the option of either going to a detention center or living with the Sandusky family. This meant he would feel trapped with his abuser, but at the time it seemed as if there was no better option. Yet it led to Matt later attempting suicide by consuming pills, and then by carbon monoxide poisoning.
Last year, Jerry Sandusky's son Jerry, who defended his father throughout his trail, was also convicted of 14 counts of child sexual abuse. He faces up to six years in prison, according to Sports Illustrated. The effects of Sandusky's horrific actions on many people, including his own family, are wide. Hopefully Paterno can bring back attention to his numerous victims and the pain they endured, and prevent others from getting away with abuse.