Commentary

Sandusky's continuing cowardice

Updated: June 19, 2012, 7:56 PM ET
By Rick Reilly | ESPN.com

Jerry SanduskyMark Wilson/Getty ImagesAccused child molester Jerry Sandusky heads into court for another day of testimony in his trial, one that should never have taken place.

The horror movie playing right now in a small courtroom in Bellefonte, Pa., didn't have to happen.

None of the eight alleged victims of 68-year-old former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky should've been made to squirm on the witness stand and tell how Sandusky reportedly molested them in campus showers, basement bedrooms, even the football team sauna.

Testifying under their own names, they wept. They whispered. They trembled. One left the courthouse with a black bag over his head. Justice shouldn't cost this much.

But all eight of these young men, ages 18 to 28, had to testify because Jerry Sandusky didn't have the guts or the courage or the decency to cop a plea and go to jail. He could've saved them the pain, the shame and the degradation.

If Sandusky really did abuse them the first time, then this was the second.

Shame on him. Shame and sorrow and humiliation.

Sandusky is on trial, facing 51 counts of sexual abuse allegedly committed over 15 years on 10 boys, only two of whom will not testify. He has denied the allegations, and the scandal led to the firing of Penn State coach Joe Paterno.

But it shouldn't have come to this.

Victim 3 shouldn't have had to describe for perfect strangers being a seventh-grade guest at Sandusky's house, having him come into that grisly and infamous basement bedroom, having Sandusky rub his shoulders and inner thighs and fondle his genitals.

Victim 4, now 28, shouldn't have had to tell how Sandusky "treated me like his girlfriend," how he tried to penetrate him in the shower, in Penn State athletic buildings and hotels on Nittany Lions road trips, how he suffered more than 40 instances of abuse at his tormentor's hands.

Victim 9 shouldn't have had to sit there and say, in front of his family, how for four years, starting when he was 12, Sandusky would come to that room and pin him down, lay on top of his 70-pound body, rape him and force him to give him oral sex.

"What was I going to do?" said 9, now 18. "I mean look at him, he's a big guy. He was bigger than me, at the time way bigger than me. … There was no fighting against it. Sometimes [I'd] scream, sometimes tell him to get off me, but other than that, who was there? We were in the basement, no one could hear you down there."

When told to indicate which man in the courtroom was Sandusky, 9 could only point.

"Can you look at him?" the prosecutor said.

"I don't want to look at him," 9 said.

If all eight young men are lying about Sandusky, they must've rehearsed together for a month. If they're telling lies, they each told the same sickening one.

There were so many moments in all this when your skin crawled and your heart ached for these young men. One victim was asked whether he bled from the anal sex he says Sandusky forced on him.

Yes, he said.

Did his mother ever see blood on his underwear?

No, he said. He hung his head and added, "I never told anybody. I didn't even tell my own mom."

The prosecution has rested and the defense is next. Now it gets ugly. Now the victims get dragged through it all again a third time, backward.

Sandusky and his attorney, Joe Amendola, have come up with all kinds of excuses for why Sandusky continuously showered with young boys, for the one-on-one visits to that horrid guest room, for the touching and the nakedness. He was showing them how to soap up, was one. He was a "tickle monster," was another.

Sexual abuse victims can feel relief and catharsis when they unburden the black secrets that fester inside them. But that unburdening should happen in a psychiatrist's office, over years, not in front of a courtroom in half a day.

The hell, the anguish and the torment Sandusky put these boys through was cruel enough. To make them relive it in front of brothers and sisters, strangers and jurors, public and media, is unforgivable.

Let's hope the judge sends Sandusky away for the rest of his days, into the general population at a federal prison, not a protected one.

Let's see how the tickle monster goes over with those guys.

Rick Reilly | email

Columnist, ESPN.com