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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59 Comments

  • What an unbelievable story this was to read. This article was very well articulated and told a very great story. Sexcual harrassemnt is a topic that is becoming more popular and that’s so sad to say. Every person that has condoned those action should have to be punished. Overall AAron deserved his sentence, because of his actions. Totally worth the read.

  • I am happy Aaron got the justice he deserved, but I am said he had to endure all this sexual abuse as such a young age and that he felt the need to convince himself that it was all normal. What I find even more sad is all the people who yelled at Aaron and his mother, blaming them for tainting Jerry’s name. Aaron’s story speaks for all the men/women who have been raped or molested by someone “famous” or “great”; everyone feels the need to defend the latter because they refuse to believe their idol is capable of doing something so horrible. I wish people would take time to hear the victims story and not be so quick in taking sides.

  • It sad to think that there are people that take advantage of young children like Aaron Fisher all over the world today. I like to think that all of these people get the justice they deserve from situations like this, but sadly this is not the case all the time. The fact that these things happen to people at such a young age is heart breaking because your childhood is so important. It has a lot to do with the type of person you will become. It shapes your future. Aaron was one of the lucky victims, who got the justice he deserved but what about those who don’t?

  • Jerry’s actions are completely inexcusable, and because of him Aaron is scarred for life. A lot of people try to give reasons for a why person commits such terrible actions. Whether that is because they had an abusive upbringing, specifically being abused themselves, or other reasons. However, that does not in any way justify someone’s actions to continue wrongdoings that were done unto them. Although he was sentenced to life imprisonment, Aaron is left scarred for the rest of his life.

  • This article is well written and sounds very accurate. I remember when this happened and its sad to see this happen and it suck that this happens with people in what some would call honorable positions to have such as a division one assistant coach of one of the best college football teams in the country.

  • This was an amazing read. The details and realism and immersion of this article made it as though I was there with Aaron. I remember when this was going on in the news, yet I was too young to care about what was happening on the news, but now, it is satisfying to know that Sandusky got what was coming to him, and in my opinion, he got off too easily.

  • It seems like some people can not control themselves and seem to do whatever comes to their mind. One of these people is Jerry Sandusky It is insane what he did how how he began to do it. By slowly befriending the child and then step by step getting closer and closer. It’s crazy to think the family was accused of making up lies for money from the lawsuit.

  • This article was unbelievable to read. No one deserves to go through any type of sexual harassment at any age. What bothered me the most was how Aaron continued to smile throughout the trial, he deserved every year he was sentenced. Overall this article was very well written and had me at the edge of my seat throughout the whole story. The author put a lot of work into it and it shows, great job !

  • There is no excuse for a child or any individual to suffer from rape or any kind of abuse because those experiences affect the victim for the rest of their lives. It is unsettling to think that Aaron was carrying such a big nightmare for such a long time. Also, it’s sickening that Jerry was smiling like a monster as they were in trial, the sentence given to him of 422 years falls short to the torment that Aaron faced for so long. Great Article!

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