Victim One: The Fall of Jerry Sandusky

Jerry Sandusky being escorted from the counry courthouse. | Courtesy of Christopher Weddle – Centre Daily Times

Penn State University was having an amazing start to their 2011 football season. Before November, their record was 8 wins and 1 loss under head coach, Joe Paterno. Penn State has always had a stand-out defense, especially while defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky, was manning the helm. Sandusky coached many defensive squads over the years and produced ten All-American linebackers as well as earning Assistant Coach of the Year in 1986 and 1999.1 Although Sandusky retired after receiving his award in 1999, he was still a loved celebrity in the eyes of Penn State Nittany Lions fans. The university kept an office for him that allowed him to have unfettered access to the locker room, showers, and of course, the coaches’ offices.2

Head coach Joe Paterno watching his team take the field on September 16, 2006 | Courtesy of Washington Times.

Aaron Fisher was fatherless. He had a stepdad once, along with his mom having a boyfriend here and there, but it never went too well. However, Aaron had a grandpa that was a good father figure in his life, so he wasn’t looking for guidance, just something to make him happy and care free as all children should be.3 In 1977, Sandusky founded The Second Mile on Penn State’s campus, which was a camp and foster home for troubled boys. This camp is where Jerry met Aaron and many other boys going through a rough time and in need of guidance. When Aaron arrived at the camp, it was his first time on campus, and he was bursting with excitement. There was arts and crafts and many games for all of the boys to play. Jerry would formally introduce himself at the beginning, and then walk around and get to know some of the boys. All the boys knew him as some pretty famous coach who had started The Second Mile. Aaron was finally making some new friends and a couple best friends, but if anyone were to tell him that his first summer after The Second Mile camp was going to be the last of his childhood, he wouldn’t have believed them.4

The time Aaron spent at camp was one of the best moments of Aaron’s childhood, and he was looking forward to returning to the camp next summer. When it finally came around, Jerry would formally introduce himself, but this time he more personally introduced himself to Aaron. He was hanging around Aaron’s group more than the others, and seemed to notice Aaron more than any of the other boys. He would pull Aaron aside and ask him how he was doing and what he liked most about the camp. He even featured Aaron and his sister in a camp promotional video, with their mother’s permission of course.5

Soon after camp had ended, Jerry called Aaron’s mom and asked if he could pick him up and take him and some of his friends from camp to one of the football games. At first, his mom was hesitant, but how could she say no to a personal invitation from Jerry Sandusky? Plus, her son wanted to go be with his friends. Then, later in the fall, Jerry would invite the boys to a hotel that let him use their indoor pool. They would swim and have fun. But this is where Aaron got his first funny feeling about Jerry. Whenever Jerry would pick them up and throw them in the pool, Aaron felt like he was holding onto his crotch a little too long. No one else said anything about it, so he just didn’t think about it. Shortly after that, Jerry would take Aaron and a few of the other boys to many different places. Aaron would always get to ride in the front seat and Jerry would always show his affection by putting his hand on Aaron’s leg or give him hugs, but Aaron was taught to respect adults, so he just went along with it.6

Eventually, Jerry stopped taking the other boys. Aaron was all alone with this man at only twelve years old. They would go swimming and then head back to Jerry’s house, where they would lay down together, Jerry on top of Aaron. Dottie Sandusky, Jerry’s wife, was always nice to Aaron, and made meals for him when he would come over, but would never go down to the basement where Jerry would spend his time with Aaron. Jerry would plan their weekends and arrange for Aaron to have sleepovers there. Aaron was conflicted in his own decision to sleep not only with Jerry, but on top of him. This is where things would take a turn for the worse. Jerry would reach down his shorts and kiss him on the lips every night before bed. Aaron talked himself out of it being too weird for him and continued to convince himself that everything was normal. Aaron was headed down a dark path even though deep down he knew something definitely wasn’t right.7

Aaron at twelve years old, nearly two years after meeting Sandusky | Courtesy of ABC news

Aaron was conflicted with himself and didn’t know what to do. He would go on walks or just go outside to relax and try to calm the storm that was raging in his head. The times between his Jerry visits were like mini getaways where he could act like a kid again. No matter what he did, he knew he was in denial. He knew that this was not going to go away, and that he was trapped. Aaron was scared, and as time went on, he was losing himself in the scandal. Eventually, he told Jerry he didn’t want to see him anymore. He told his mom that he just wanted to hangout with his friends and to tell Jerry he was busy if he ever called.8 Jerry became furious and began stalking Aaron from school all the way to his house. He would always beg to know where Aaron was and why he wasn’t “scheduling time” with him. This is when Aaron and his mom knew they needed help.9 Aaron and his mother went to a child youth system to make a report on what was happening with Aaron, and this is where they met Mike Gillum. Mike was a very important man in Aaron’s life. He was the first man that Aaron opened up to and shared what Jerry had been doing to him in the basement of his house. Mike knew there was something wrong happening, and he believed every word Aaron said, which lead to Aaron beginning to trust again. Aaron was embarrassed and didn’t want anyone to know, because his friends might have thought he was gay. He also begged Gillum to keep Jerry far away from him.10

Shortly after Aaron and his mother made their report on Jerry Sandusky, they were approached in places like the supermarket by strangers who would yell at them and call them disgusting. They were now known as the family that ruined the “good” name of Jerry Sandusky. People accused them of lying just to get money from Jerry in a lawsuit.11 Aaron always thought you were supposed to trust adults, but now they were talking behind his back. His only safe place now was in Mike’s room, where he had sat to talk to him every week for the past three years. Mike’s mission was to make sure there was justice.12

The first grand jury was held in June 2009, when Aaron was just fifteen years old. Mike helped him prepare for what he was going to be asked, and told him that he shouldn’t be scared to tell the judge what happened. Over the next five months, the investigation continued. The authorities were trying to ask Aaron if any other boys could possibly be victims as well, but none came up. The case went nowhere for about a year, but the investigations still continued. Aaron was getting to his breaking point, his post traumatic stress, anger, anxiety, and depression were at a boiling point. He ended up crashing his car into a tree at this point. The date was October 21, 2010, and Aaron was a sophomore in high school. The nightmares he used to have started returning, but instead of a tree, he would dream that Jerry was running him off of the road. While Aaron was recovering, major breakthroughs were happening in the case. More people were coming out and accusing Jerry Sandusky of sexual abuse, and people stated that they knew for a fact that Sandusky was a pedophile on their blogs.13

The next grand jury would be held on April 11, 2011; however, it would be an entirely new grand jury, and Aaron would have to take it from the top again, just after one of his roughest years, which included a harsh accident, rejection by his peers, and the lack of an arrest of Jerry Sandusky. You would think that reading your testimony again would make it easier on you, but it was like he was putting himself through all the horrific events all over again and beating himself up. Mike, Aaron, and Aaron’s mother met with the attorney general, and he gave them the guarantee that Sandusky would be locked up by the end of 2011. Three months later, Aaron was up late one November Saturday night playing video games, when he got a call from a man named Tony Sasano, who told him that Jerry had been arrested. Aaron was excited, but he knew that the battle was not over quite yet. Sandusky posted bail and was placed under unsecured house arrest. Meanwhile, the press shifted to something brewing within the Penn State campus itself.14

The grand jury arrested Jerry again on evidence that he molested eight boys from his Second Mile camp. Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, two Penn State staff members, were fired and charged with perjury for failing to report Sandusky’s sexual abuse. Not even a week after Jerry’s arrest, Head Coach Joe Paterno was fired, but he was not convicted of any crimes. The entire Penn State campus was in disarray. Their beloved Coach Paterno had been fired and would shortly after die in January of 2012.15 On Monday, the Attorney General Linda Kelley held a press conference stating that Sandusky has been arrested on “forty counts of child sexual abuse.”16

Aaron Fisher today | Courtesy of dcac.org.

A man named Joe McGettigan was now the lead prosecutor for Aaron and the other victims. He was fearless when it came to prosecution, but when it came to the boys, he was worried about them on a human level. On June 11, 2012, the trial opened. During Aaron’s testimony, Jerry was smiling at him the entire time, and every time he answered a question about the monster, his smile turned into a smirk, almost as if he was proud. Jerry thought he was going to get off scott-free, because he was untouchable. Joe McGettigan’s closing argument was the nail in the coffin. He looked at the judge and jury and said “think of the lives of these ten broken souls.” The verdict was something to awe. The invisible Jerry Sandusky was found guilty on 45 of 48 counts of child sexual abuse, which could result in 422 maximum years in prison. June 22, 2012 will forever be engraved into Aaron’s head. He was driving when he heard the news.17 He pulled over, cried, and shouted “thank God it’s finally over.” The lives of the victims will never be the same, but at least they gave Jerry Sandusky what he deserved.

  1.  Encyclopedia Britannica, 2013, s.v. “Sports Roundup for 2012.”
  2. CNN Library, “Penn State Scandal Fast Facts,” CNN, 2018, https://www.cnn.com/2013/10/28/us/penn-state-scandal-fast-facts/index.html.
  3. Aaron Fisher, Silent No More (New York: Ballantine Books, 2012), 16-18.
  4. Aaron Fisher, Silent No More (New York: Ballantine Books, 2012), 14-15.
  5. Aaron Fisher, Silent No More (New York: Ballantine Books, 2012), 16-18.
  6. Aaron Fisher, Silent No More (New York: Ballantine Books, 2012), 19-22.
  7. Aaron Fisher, Silent No More (New York: Ballantine Books, 2012), 19-22.
  8. Aaron Fisher, Silent No More (New York: Ballantine Books, 2012), 28-34.
  9. Aaron Fisher, Silent No More (New York: Ballantine Books, 2012), 44-50.
  10. Aaron Fisher, Silent No More (New York: Ballantine Books, 2012), 61-70.
  11. Joseph Rhee, Gerry Wagschal, and Linh Tran, “Sandusky Victim 1 Steps Out of Shadows, Says Justice Took Too Long,” ABC News, 2012, https://abcnews.go.com/US/sandusky-victim-reveals-identity-justice-long/story?id=17511612
  12. Aaron Fisher, Silent No More (New York: Ballantine Books, 2012), 80-111.
  13. Aaron Fisher, Silent No More (New York: Ballantine Books, 2012), 120-150.
  14. Aaron Fisher, Silent No More (New York: Ballantine Books, 2012), 151-159.
  15. Encyclopedia Britannica, 2017, s.v. “Joe Paterno.”
  16. Aaron Fisher, Silent No More (New York: Ballantine Books, 2012), 160-173.
  17. Aaron Fisher, Silent No More (New York: Ballantine Books, 2012), 180-201.
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35 Comments

  • This is a tragic story of a child being assaulted sexually. I can only imagine at 12 how you could cope with the stress of molestation and what you could do about it. I also find it sad that when they finally made the report, people acosted them in the supermarket and called them disgusting for accusing the predator. I think that this illisturates that its people you know that do it not strangers .

  • I had heard of Jerry Sandusky and knew he was involved in some kind of sexual abuse case but I didn’t know anything else about it and I definitely didn’t know it was child sexual abuse. I’m so glad they stopped him and he’s finally in jail for the terrible things he did. I feel so bad for all the kids he did this to but I’m so glad he isn’t able to do it anymore. The article was very well written and I was glad I could learn more about his case.

  • This is a very good article on an event that rocked Pennsylvania. I lived there when the story first broke, and remember the trial and the terrible handling of the situation by Penn State. The whole story was so crazy and hard to believe that the case was inspiration for several episodes for shows like Law and Order: SVU. But Penn State wasn’t the only school, and that is what is forgotten in the media. The number of survivors who felt empowered to speak out against their attackers after the story went public brought down more schools of Teflon reputation and the predators they shielded.

  • I never heard of this story before reading this article. To say the least, I was cringing by the end of it. I cannot believe that some people can be so disgusting as to even smile at their victims and scare them to death as they are pouring their hearts out on the stand. This man is truly disturbed on every level possible. Nonetheless, I am glad justice was finally served in the end, and that the boys involved in these disgusting situations have this piece of mind that he can no longer hurt them or anyone else in the future.

  • I remember I was still living in Pennsylvania when this scandal broke out. It’s amazing how people get away with these horrible things for so long. We have cultivated a culture of being ashamed for being abused and then wonder why the truth doesn’t come out till years later. I’m glad Sandusky finally got thrown in jail, but I feel like his punishment was not enough to make up for the years of horrible things he did.

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