It was hard enough when he was telling his story to only a jury, he'd tell a defense attorney when cross examination grew stressful the morning of June 12 - let alone the courtroom he now faced, as he sat in a witness stand recounting some of the most painful memories of his childhood to a roomful of strangers.
"You're asking me the same questions over and over again," the 18-year-old known as "Victim 1" told Joe Amendola the second day of the Jerry Sandusky trial when the lawyer asked about discrepancies in his testimonies, "and I'm going to tell you the same thing - I was scared."
Over the past two weeks, this man and seven others were asked to put aside their fears and open up about the abuse they'd suffered at the hands of someone they thought they could trust.
Until then, they had been known to the public only as "Victim 3," "Victim 6" and so on in court documents. But on the witness stand, the shield of anonymity was gone. It took courage to speak out, and all of us should take note.
These weren't just nameless individuals whose experiences were outlined in the pages of grand jury presentments. They were boys who had to carry the weight of their abuse as they grew into men.
They were human beings who saw their personal horrors become headline news over the last seven months and then had to revisit that abuse again through their testimonies in order to see justice served.
This case, and the stories of the men involved, forced all of us to talk about issues that are often otherwise kept quiet - and it's important to realize that sexual violence remains a problem, even after a verdict has been reached.
One in four girls and one in four boys will experience sexual abuse by the time they reach adulthood, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network estimates that someone is sexually assaulted in the United States every two minutes. At a university level, according to the Campus Sexual Assault Study, nearly 20 percent of college women will experience sexual assault or attempted sexual assault.
Use this case as a call to action: Pay attention if you think a friend's in danger, don't just brush aside awareness efforts on campus and be sure to take the time to listen if someone tells you his or her own story of abuse.
The eight men who came forward to testify in this trial spoke up. Now it's up to the rest of us to make sure the conversation keeps going.
- The (State College) Daily Collegian