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Tree Climbers Blog

Bearing Witness: The Trial of Jerry Sandusky (Day 1)

RebeccaBerry : June 28, 2012 5:46 pm : Uncategorized

Originally posted by Roxine on Daily Kos

Today, I attended the first day of testimony in the trial of Jerry Sandusky. Here is a rundown of how the day went.

I arrived at the courthouse around 6:15 a.m.  There were probably 8 or so people in line at that time.  I was 9th in line and the following is a cross-section of who I met:

The attorney for Penn State – She was there first (probably since 4:45 a.m.). Her role is to collect information for the upcoming civil suit against PSU.

A Penn State student who had the day off and decided to come to day one of testimony,

Christopher Anderson from MaleSurvivor and two of his colleagues,

A woman affiliated with the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR), although she was from the national level NSVR

Chris Gavagan, a fellow survivor and activist, currently working on a documentary entitled Coached Into Silence based on his experiences and that of other children abused in youth sports programs.

And finally, perhaps most importantly, two attorneys for the victims. I introduced myself and told them of our plan to put together these messages for the victims.  They immediately gave me their contact information and thanked me profusely for being there in support of their clients.  They said they would let them know of the hundreds of us who stand behind them as they take the witness stand.

I mention this to show how many people were there in support of the victims. Granted, the majority of “public” were additional media people who didn’t get media credentials, I was pleased to see a large contingent of fellow survivors there in support of these brave young men.

We entered the courtroom and were seated by 8:30 a.m.  Judge Cleland entered and spent about 50 minutes talking to the jury about their role, describing different aspects of the process that would be followed and continually reminding them of their duty to avoid media since they aren’t sequestered, concluding his statements by sequestering witnesses, disallowing them from hearing testimony.  At this time, Dottie Sandusky and Matt Sandusky stood up and were removed to the back hall, out of the courtroom.


Opening Statements

Prosecutor Joseph Megettigan then proceeded with opening statements. Speaking for about an hour, he outlined the prosecution’s case.  Reminding jurors to keep in mind the ages the victims were when the abuse occurred.  To this end, as he introduced each of the 8 victims testifying, he displayed a picture of them when they were 10, 11, 12, 13, around the age they were when they met Jerry Sandusky.

Next, Joe Amendola gave his opening statement, speaking for about 45 minutes reminding the jury that there are no “victims” in this case but accusers.  And that there are no victims at all unless and until the jury finds the defendant guilty.  It could be possible that the prosecution won’t convince the jury beyond a reasonable doubt and therefore there would be no victims.  He spoke about victims lawyering up and alluded to the fact that they may be in it for money.  He did state, multiple times in his introduction, that Jerry Sandusky will testify.  (It will be interesting if he does in fact take the stand…)

The Reason We’re Here

Possibly TriggeringThe prosecution called its first witness – known as “Victim 4″.  A young man who first met Jerry Sandusky at a Second Mile camp at Penn State.  He was at a week long football camp and was sharing a dorm room with someone Jerry Sandusky knew.  Jerry came to their room to talk to that kid and introduced himself to the witness.  About two weeks after the camp, Jerry Sandusky invited this young boy to a family picnic along with other kids his age.  It was almost immediately that the inappropriate touching began.  In the car ride over there, Jerry Sandusky put his hand on the boys leg.  “Like I was his girlfriend” is how the witness described it.  The witness testified that when they were at the beach, Jerry was picking up the young boys and throwing them into the water at the beach.  The witness testified that at the time, he didn’t think anything of it, but in retrospect, he realized that when the opportunity presented itself, Jerry Sandusky would brush against the boys genitals, or hold them in such a way as he was able to grasp their buttocks, pretending to be having difficulty getting his grip and having to readjust his hands over and over.

Shortly thereafter, Jerry Sandusky started calling on this boy, inviting him to work out at Penn State, play basketball and racquetball.  The witness said it always happened the same way.  They would go into the coaches locker room to change into their shorts – go play basketball or racquetball, then go back to the coaches locker room to shower.  The first few times, nothing happened.  But soon, Jerry started engaging in “horseplay” with the boy, initiating contact by “boxing” with open hands, sort of slapping each other.  Jerry would take soap from the dispensers hanging in between the showers and throw it at the boy, making it into a game of soap wars.  This eventually led to Jerry soaping up the young boy’s body and placing the young boy’s hands on him.  At one point, the witness said Jerry wasn’t really into touching him, but rather preferred when the young boy touched him.

The witness testified that the coaches locker room had a key-code lock on it and that you could hear when someone was entering.  The witness said on a few occasions, other coaches were in the locker room.  Two interesting incidents were described -

1)  Jerry Sandusky, the witness and Jerry’s son, Matt Sandusky had gone to work out/play racquetball or basketball together.  When they went to the coaches locker room to shower, Matt went straight into the showers.  Jerry and the witness came in a bit later.  The witness said shortly thereafter, Jerry started the soap game, pumping some into his hand and throwing it at the witness.  He said Matt looked nervous, turned off the shower and left them alone.

2)  On another occasion, Tom Bradley entered the shower while Jerry and this young boy were in there. The witness said he couldn’t know what was in Tom’s mind, but that he thought maybe Tom was suspicious something may have been happening, because he stayed in the shower until they left.


When asked more specifically about the escalating behaviors of Jerry Sandusky, the witness said that the soap wars soon became wrestling matches, wherein Jerry Sandusky would get him down on the floor.  Often times, he would position the witness so that his face was in between Jerry’s legs, with his penis near or touching his cheeks.  Jerry would put his face in the boys crotch kissing his inner thighs, “like you would a girl,” the victim testified.  On two occasions, Jerry Sandusky tried to insert his finger into the victim’s anus. And on one occasion, he wrestled the victim down to the ground in the shower onto his stomach, got on top of him, and tried to insert his penis into the victim’s anus.  The victim testified that he wiggled his way out from underneath Jerry and walked out of the shower.

The “Love” Letters

The prosecution put into evidence several hand written letters from Jerry Sandusky to Victim 4 and had the witness read portions of the letter aloud.  An excerpt of one follows:

“I know that I have made my share of mistakes. However, I hope that I will be able to say that I cared. There has been love in my heart.My wish is that you care and that you have love in your heart.  Love never ends.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  I believe that it can overcome all things.

Love Jerry”

The witness referred to these letters as “creepy.”

In addition to several letters with similar messages, the prosecution presented a contract signed by the witness and Mr. Sandusky.  In this “Program,” Jerry Sandusky promised the victim payment for goals achieved.  From ABC News:

The witness said the offer in 1999 was called the “Program” and was ostensibly made to ensure that the boy would continue with his studies and athletics. It promised $1,000 for every year of education the boy pursued after high school, plus additional money for seeing Sandusky, going to hockey practice, and working out 3 times a week, he testified.But Victim 4 said the proposed deal came as he tired of years of sexual abuse, as often as three times a week for three years. When asked by Sandusky’s lawyer Joseph Amendola whether the offer was made in good faith, the witness rejected that suggestion.

“No, no. You’re not understanding. This is when I’m trying to get away from him. I signed it to shut him up. And that’s not the only thing it’s offering me money for… It’s not that simple, not in my mind, sorry,” he said.

My opinion of the cross-examination was that it was weak at best.  Amendola appeared to be grasping at straws, often asking questions that the witness emphatically said “No” to – for example, in trying to tie this witness to another witness he asked about them living in the same apartment complex and wanted to know from the witness when he became aware of this other accuser.  The witness stated that he wasn’t a really nice guy growing up, and while he did, in fact, know the other witness, he said that he bullied him as the other witness was a few years younger than he was.  In fact, Victim 4 said, if you asked the other witness, he would probably say he despised him because of the bullying.

Witness 1 Defense 0

He laid Sandusky out, often staring right into the defendant’s face, calling him by name and controlling Amendola on cross examination like it was actually he that was the experienced defense attorney.He expressed repeated regret at not running from Sandusky, but noted it was because of fear, confusion and an acute understanding that he’d be mocked at school.

“It’s not that simple, you just [can't] say, ‘OK, I’m done.’” There was also the odd mix of being so excited about getting to be part of the Penn State program (“I was like the mascot”) that he could block out the shower sessions.

“I thought, I didn’t want to lose this,” the witness said. “This is something good happening to me. I didn’t have a dad.”


As always, I’m constantly watching what happens in the “down times.”  When recess would end, the witness would be the first one back, taking his place in the witness chair.  Sandusky would enter from a back room, walking right in front of the witness.  I watched the young man closely as Sandusky passed within 2 feet of him, rounding the corner and proceeding to his seat at the defense table.  I saw the witness tense up, his jaw tightened, and his look was that of disdain.  His eyes never left Jerry Sandusky as he walked by, following him all the way across the room to his seat.  He then exhaled, heavily, a deep sigh.

The witness did an excellent job, was very composed and answered everything forthright.  It was his truth and he was telling it.  I do not doubt one thing this young man said.  He was a bit nervous, often wiping his hands on his pants, pushing down towards his knees, drying his palms.  It appeared at times he was holding his breath, as he would exhale forcefully, sometimes into the mic, a deep, heavy, laden filled sigh.  I sensed that while he didn’t WANT to be there, he knew he NEEDED to be there.

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In Judges Chambers with Jerry Sandusky

RebeccaBerry : June 28, 2012 5:42 pm : Uncategorized

For the past two days, I sat 10 feet away from accused pedophile, Jerry Sandusky, his attorneys Joe Amendola and Karl Rominger; from the AG’s office, Joseph McGettigan, III, (another attorney not pictured – Frank Fina I believe); and Judge John Cleland.

No pictures were allowed, but Art Lien, from was in chambers with me on day one and drew this scene to give you some perspective of what it looked like.

I arrived at the courthouse early Tuesday morning to ensure I would be one of the first five admitted as “Public.” (I was second in line). The young gentleman who was first in line is starting Law School in the Fall at American University and is finishing up his studies at Penn State this summer.

We proceeded into the large courtroom and watched as all 209 prospective jurors were checked in. Around 8:45 a.m. the prosecutors, Jerry Sandusky and his defense team entered and sat at the front of the courtroom. Soon after, Judge John Cleland came in and spoke to the jury pool.

Typically, Judges will speak to them from the bench, wearing their robes – but Judge Cleland, instead, came in without his robe on and spoke to the jury pool standing in the front row of benches.  He thanked them for their service and spoke about the history our legal system comes from, dating back a thousand years.  I watched the jury pool’s reaction to him with interest, and you could sense a palpable change in the atmosphere from “I don’t want to be here” to “It is my civic duty to be here.”  Body languages changed as people leaned forward, captivated by his words.

Judge Cleland then explained that the selection process would be broken up into three parts.  Phase I would be completed with the check-in in the large courtroom.  Phase II would consist of blocks of 40 jurors being called into a smaller courtroom down the hall where they would be asked a number of general questions and answer by raising their cards (each juror was assigned a number to protect their identity).  At this phase, some would be excused by the judge for financial hardships, medical conditions, and other factors deemed worthy by Judge Cleland.  Finally, in Phase 3, one by one each juror would enter the scene above and be asked another set of questions by Judge Cleland as well as follow-up questions by both the defense and prosecution.

At the conclusion of this Q&A session, the judge would confer with the attorneys and let the prospective juror know right then whether they were selected or not.

An officer of the court approached the row of chairs we were sitting in and pointed to the young man sitting next to me.  She said, “Judge Cleland has selected you to view Phase II of the trial.”  She then pointed to me and said “The Judge has requested you to be in chambers for Phase III.”


We proceeded to the back hallway behind the bench and I was instructed to enter the Judge’s Chambers where a set of four chairs were set up along a side wall. Two for the pool reporters that would be there (they had a lottery system and would sit in 1/2 a day before rotating), one chair for the sketch artist, Art Lien, and one for the Public.

I am the Public and I had a front row seat to all of day one (9 jurors selected) and 1/2 of day two (4 alternates selected) in Judges Chambers. (On Day 2, the young pre-law student requested that he see phase III for the first part of the day – so I went to Phase II for the morning, but was back in chambers for the remainder of day 2.)

My Impressions

I, of course, was surprised by the rapidity with which they were able to seat a jury. The mood in chambers was amicable, the lawyers treated each other very respectfully, and Judge Cleland was firm but fair in his dealing with both the prosecution and defense in their challenges for cause as well as with each individual juror. Let me take a moment to say that I am fully convinced that Judge Cleland is the best judge to handle this case. In watching him work over these last two days, I know full well that both the alleged victims in this case as well as Jerry Sandusky will benefit from his careful, thoughtful, measured consideration of all facts and will be treated fairly by this judge. To say I am impressed is an understatement. If I was on trial, this is the judge I would want on the bench.

The judge asked the same questions of each juror (I won’t bore you with them here, they are in the MSM if you’re interested) and then would allow both the prosecution and defense to ask any follow-up questions from either the questionnaire, their positive responses to questions in Phase II or to expand upon something they just answered in Phase III. Amendola’s questions typically centered on jurors with children, focusing on the age of any boys they might have. If they had boys in the age range of say 8-17, he would ask them if they would have trouble hearing about alleged sexual acts allegedly perpetrated by Mr. Sandusky on boys of that age group. If they had boys in the age group of say 20-30, he would say you will be hearing stories from young men who are now in that age group, alleging acts of a sexual nature allegedly perpetrated by Mr. Sandusky when they were children – and would the juror be able to be fair. For the most part, Mr. Amendola tried either for cause or by using one of his peremptory strikes (each side had 7 for the initial 12 jurors, 2 for the 4 alternates) on most jurors who had boys in those age ranges.

I remember going home at the end of day 1 surprised at the demographics of the initial 9 jurors. Out of the 5 men, only 1 or 2 were over the age of 35-40, the others were quite young, early to late 20′s, possibly early 30s. Three of the women chosen were middle aged, with the fourth being very young – I would place her at middle 20′s at best. But when I returned on day 2, sitting back in the courtroom and thinking about the events of the day before, it hit me. These younger jurors don’t have any kids – (okay, perhaps that was evident to all of you – but I was up at 4:30 every morning, had not had coffee for the past 3 days and was at the courthouse for 11 hours on Tuesday and 10 hours on Wednesday! So give me my light bulb moment)

If you want a more detailed description of each juror as they were selected, Sara Ganim’s report is here.


What surprised me

Jerry Sandusky’s active involvement in the selection of jurors. I, of course, watched closely any and all mannerisms and reactions of Mr. Sandusky. One thing I noticed immediately was that in any courtroom he was in, Phase I, Phase II or Judge’s chambers (Phase III), his chair was noticeably shorter than Mr. Amendola’s or Mr. Rominger’s. He sat hunched over, as if trying to convey a diminutive stature. And Mr. Sandusky is not a small man (I would guess over 6′), but it appeared to me that he was trying to make himself as small as possible. There was one juror Amendola wanted to strike for cause because of her husband’s relationship to John McQueary and Dr. Dranov; however, Judge Cleland denied the request. Amendola was going to use one of his strikes against her, but Jerry Sandusky leaned over and said to keep her.

One of the most interesting things I saw was during one of the breaks as they were deciding the final 2 alternates for the jury. Jerry Sandusky was conferring with his attorneys about the jurors coming up next. There were two women and one man next in line and they wanted the man no matter what. They were talking about tactics to employ to ensure this man got on the jury. At this point, the prosecution had used both of its peremptory strikes and the defense had one left. Rominger was certain that one of the two women would be struck for cause and at the very worst, they would end up with one of the next two women and the gentleman they wanted, Juror 15 as he is now known – from Sara Ganim’s report linked above:

Juror 15 (alternate): Walked in and immediately smiled brightly at Sandusky. A man in his 50s with close-cropped brown hair. Attorneys and Sandusky whispered in strategy to get him on the jury. Has two boys, ages 29 and 30. Works in Reading, Pa., so is out of town during the week. Is a graduate of Penn State. His wife is director of Upward Bound, a Penn State program geared at getting high schoolers ready for college. Is a football fan, mostly in the 1970s.

However, as the Judge was asking one of the questions, he misspoke and was corrected by Jerry Sandusky. Paraphrasing here:

Judge: The burden of proof in this case is on the commonwealth, to prove to you beyond a reasonable doubt, their case. The defense doesn’t have to put on any evidence. Some people think “well, I will listen to both sides and then determine guilt or innocence.” However, the defense doesn’t have to prove anything, the burden of proof is on the prosecution. If the prosecutor fails to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, even if the defense doesn’t present any evidence, you will have to come back with a guilty [sic] verdict, do you understand that?

Juror: Yes Sir

Sandusky: Um, Judge – I think you said that wrong, you said guilty but you should have said NOT guilty.

Judge: Did I say that wrong? let me restate, you will have to find the defendant not guilty if the prosecution fails to convince you beyond a reasonable doubt, do you understand that?

Juror: Yes Sir

Sandusky: I’m sorry to interrupt

Judge: No, you have a stake in this too, that’s fine.

This was the one and only mistake I ever saw Judge Cleland make in the two days I sat in his presence. And, again, I can’t say enough good things about this man. Throughout the two days, watching him gently guide each juror through this questioning, dealing with both sets of lawyers, keeping everything running smoothly, keeping in mind the hundreds of other jurors waiting their turn and taking the time to go out and update them of where we were, allowing 1/2 of them to leave on the first day, it was a privilege to be in judge’s chambers and to witness our legal process at its finest.

On day one, Jerry Sandusky’s demeanor was meek. He did not look around much, we only made eye contact maybe 3 times. He focused on the notebook in front of him that had the juror’s questionnaires and would look directly at each juror as they answered questions. During breaks, as they would walk by us to go into the hallway, McGettigan, Amendola and Rominger would stop, chat with the three of us, ask us how it’s going, etc., but Sandusky would walk by, head down and say nothing. To me, he seemed like a little kid who had been sent to the principal’s office; in the way he sat, hunched over, in the way he shuffled out the door for breaks, not looking at anyone, and in the way he flipped back and forth in the binder, like a child trying to distract himself.

On day two, he was a bit more animated. I understand in the morning session, he actually talked to the two pool reporters and the young pre-law student asking them how they got stuck with him, or something of that nature. But this is the only time I’m aware of that he spoke to anyone other than his attorneys or the judge. He seemed more upbeat on day two, flashing a smile now and then. But my overall impression mirrors perhaps Jerry Sandusky’s impression of himself; in his own words, from his book “Touched”

“Here I was, a grown man and a coach for a nationally respected football institution, and I had reverted back to the days of my mischievous youth. I had always professed that someday I would reap the benefits of maturity, but my lifestyle just wouldn’t let me. There were so many things I had done in my life – so many of them crazy and outlandish. But I have always had fun, and one thing is for certain: My time on this earth has always been unique. At the times when I found myself searching for maturity, I usually came up with insanity. That’s the way it is in the life of Gerald Arthur Sandusky.” — Chapter 2/Tylerdale

Why did I go

Judge Cleland has ruled that the victims are not allowed to use pseudonyms and will be required to state their full name for the record. Every reporter who asked me why I was there I told them the same thing.

If you are going to release their names, then release mine. Because I, too, am a victim of child sexual abuse. But there is no shame in being a victim. Let’s place the shame and blame where it belongs, squarely on the shoulders of the pedophiles. I stand in solidarity with the victims.

I am happy to report that every reporter I spoke with said they were not going to release the names of the victims. So as far as I know, the MSM has decided to protect their anonymity. If a name is released, several reporters told me it would be by a blogger. I hope anyone reading this that attends the trial and hears the names of the victims will respect their privacy and NOT put their names in the public realm.

I was stopped on Monday night by a reporter from the AP who asked me my thoughts on the Sandusky trial and why I was there. (I’m the second one on the tape.)

I will be back on Monday for the start of the trial.

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The Oppressor’s Language Sometimes Sounds Beautiful: Let us move on.

RebeccaBerry : May 7, 2012 9:38 pm : Uncategorized

I will not say again
I sat on his lap. 

He had me on his lap. 

You were not raped; he raped you.

Memory moves as it can, 

freedom is yours
to place the verb.

and yes, the oppressor’s language 

sometimes sounds beautiful, 

always dies hard. 

Let us move on.

— Margaret Randall

The journey that began on January 22nd, 2012 started as personal outcry. The diary I wrote on that day was an impulsive act of defiance against a culture of denial and ignorance about the reality of Child Sexual Abuse. It was also an act of public testimony to a private trauma. I never envisioned it would become anything more than that. Ultimately it did-not because of me, but because of the hundreds of people who responded and said “it happened to me too”. Or their mothers, their sisters, their brothers and their friends. The testimony of survivors, as well as those from the grave. Ghosts of the past emerged. Keep talking, they said. Don’t stop.
So over the past months, that’s what I’ve been doing. Not just me, but several other people who have become involved. We have been working, day and night, on creating something from the ashes of tragedy-working on it long before we even knew what it would look like, continuing to work without the benefit of knowing what it will become-yet knowing somehow that it is absolutely necessary. That it is worth the sleepless nights, the triggers, the setbacks-it’s necessary. It’s not a choice-it’s a calling. It’s an obligation.

You may have seen examples of some of the work we have been doing-In the diary Introducing TREE Climbers, I spoke about the journey we have taken so far, and what our vision was. I talked about my lost friend “Rosa”, a girl who was abused in ways that defy the imagination, but still held her head high. Who still could smile and see the capacity for good, and wrote poems so beautiful that they made me cry even though she was considered illiterate and borderline mentally retarded.

I also said I was going to be rolling out a 5 part series on the history of child sexual abuse as a political issue. At the time, I had all but finished this series-and my plan was to put out one installment every few days. To build interest, momentum, and ultimately transform TREE Climbers into what we have envisioned- not just a support group, not simply a non-profit, but the beginning of a social movement to end the sexual abuse and exploitation of children.

But I only published Part 1-and then I stopped. And I haven’t been able to bring myself to post the rest of it. People keep asking me why, so I’ll do my best to explain.

I’m afraid.

It’s that simple, really. I’ve poured my heart and soul into this series for months. And more importantly, I’m not telling my own story here-I’m telling the story of others. People who have all been forgotten by history. And I’m afraid that I’m not going to do them justice. And more than anything I’m afraid that people won’t care. Because I’m talking about events long past, involving something that you cannot even see.

And as history has shown us-being forced to see what has been kept hidden is often the only true catalyst for social change.

For the civil rights movement, it was the murder of Emmitt Till. Emmitt Till was not the first boy to be given a death sentence for the crime of looking at a white woman. Nearly 3,500 African Americans were lynched in the United States between 1882 and 1968. Many of these victims, like Emmitt Till, were children. When Emmitt Till was kidnapped, tortured, shot in the head at point blank range and then thrown into the Tallahatchie River with a cotton fan tied around his neck, he could have easily become another sad statistic. But his mother, Mamie Till Bradley, refused to let her son’s death go unnoticed. And more importantly, she refused to hide the truth about what was done to him. She held a public memorial service, and took the unprecedented step of showing his body in an open casket, in the same condition she found him. When asked why, her answer was simple: “I wanted the world to see what they did to my baby.”


For the Vietnam Anti-War movement, it was the Mei Lei massacre. Hundreds of thousands of innocent Vietnam civilians, many of them children, had been slaughtered before the horrors of Mei Lei came to light. Returning veterans, in an act that was also unprecedented, joined the anti-war movement. They turned in the medals they were awareded for bravery and valor and gave public testimony of the atrocities of war, including their own war crimes. Despite the attempts of the Johnson and Nixon administrations to downplay the casualties and the human toll, with the advent of photojournalism the cruel and devastating reality of warfare was, for the first time in history, undeniable. And never was it more evident than when the photographs from Mei Lei were finally



These are horrible images. Many decades later, they are still difficult to look at. But they served a purpose-they forced the public to confront atrocity, and the anger and outrage these images inspired became the catalyst for both the peace movement and the civil rights movement to reach their tipping point. By forcing the public to confront that which has been hidden, images serve as living testimonies for those who cannot speak for themselves.

But what do you do when the atrocity is one that you cannot see?

The sexual abuse of children is devastating and prevalent. But it is also very well hidden. The crime itself almost always takes place in isolation. There are often few, if any, physical signs of abuse.

And unlike Emmitt Till, or the Mei Lei massacre, there are no images. The only photo documentation of child sexual abuse is child pornography, and to show it publicly would be a grotesque form of re-victimization. And even professionals who have to view child pornography as part of the investigative process often report being disturbed by seeing children giggling and smiling as they are being abused. Sexual offenders turn abuse into a game, and go to great lengths to get their victims to see it the same way. They point to the involuntary physical responses to stimulation as proof that their victims are enjoying the experience, and then use this as a way to keep them silent. This is especially effective with male victims, who are often afraid of being seen as gay.

As Judith Herman writes in “Trauma & Recovery”:


“Participation in forbidden sexual activity […] confirms the abused child’s sense of badness. Any gratification that the child is able to glean from the exploitative situation becomes proof in her mind that she instigated and bears full responsibility for the abuse. If she ever experienced sexual pleasure, enjoyed the abuser’s special attention, bargained for favors, or used the sexual relationship to gain privileges, these sins are adduced as evidence of her innate wickedness. The child entrapped in this kind of horror develops the belief that she is somehow responsible for the crimes of her abusers. Simply by virtue of her existence on earth, she believes that she has driven the most powerful people in her world to do terrible things. Surely, then, her nature must be thoroughly evil. The language of the self becomes a language of abomination. Survivors routinely describe themselves as outside the com-pact of ordinary human relations, as supernatural creatures or nonhuman life forms. They think of themselves as witches, vampires, whores, dogs, rats, or snakes. Some use the imagery of excrement or filth to describe their inner sense of self. In the words of an incest survivor: “I am filled with black slime. If I open my mouth it will pour out. I think of myself as the sewer silt that a snake would breed upon” […}The profound sense of inner badness becomes the core around which the abused child’s identity is formed, and it persists into adult life”

And this is the gravest injury that many abused children are left with. Physical wounds heal over time. That sense of “inner badness”, the feelings of being “contaminated” and “different” remain persistent and pernicious. Depression, feelings of worthlessness, self-injury, and despair can continue into adulthood. Ultimately, they can become lethal.

Below the fold is my attempt to help you see those hidden injuries-and maybe help those of you who still don’t get it to finally understand what we are fighting against.
This is Vale:


This image is from the blog of my friend, For The Boys, From This Mom.

Vale is 14 years old in this picture. He is anorexic. He is anorexic because he hates his body-because his body has been raped.

This is a picture that Vale’s sister drew

In the words of her mom:


Do you have any idea how much I was leveled when I saw what she wrote? After sitting down with her and speaking with her, she expressed how she wished she could die. My 11 year old. Wants to die. Now I don’t think it’s a literal wish to kill herself, and she’s said that she doesn’t really want to hurt herself, but I think the expression of her heart is that she would rather die than continue the path that she is on.

She is so continually afraid that Vale is going to die that she seems to be beside herself. She sits next to Vale during the school day, so when he wears a t shirt she sees his scarred arms, and that troubles her quite a bit. She has a very sensitive soul, so those scars are a constant reminder of the distress that Vale is in.

Yes, of all my children, Dolorosa is the most dramatic. Yes, of all of them she would be the most sensitive, she can’t watch Monsters, Inc. because it’s too frightening for her. But still…to have such a heavy impact. Vale’s perp damaged that precious child so badly, but he’s damaged so many other people as well. It’s as if he shot Vale with scatter shot, and we are all collateral damage.

These are the scars on my wrist from one of my 3 suicide attempts.


This is my face after my boyfriend grabbed me by my ponytail and repeatedly slammed my face into the wall of our apartment-breaking my nose, and chipping 2 of my teeth.


Neither of these injuries were directly caused by sexual abuse-but sexual abuse still caused both of them. Because it made me feel worthless-so worthless that I wanted to die. So worthless that I could love a man who would do that to me-I could ONLY love men who would do that to me.


This is all I have to show. At least for now.

Sexual abuse only comes to the surface when those who have been victims of it speak out. And to speak out is an act of defiance-defiance, first and foremost against your abuser, who has often conditioned you into silence. Depending on the identity of your abuser, you are simultaneously committing an act of defiance against your own family and community. It is defiance against the human instinct to deny and repress human atrocities-something that operates on both an individual and societal level. It forces the bystander to become a witness- thrusting them into a conflict between victim and perpetrator where they are forced to choose a side. As Judith Herman wrote “It is very tempting to take the side of the perpetrator. All the perpetrator asks is that the bystander do nothing. He appeals to the universal desire to see, hear, and speak no evil. The victim, on the contrary, asks the bystander to share the burden of pain. The victim demands action, engagement, and remembering.”

This is not just true of Child Sexual Abuse-it is true of every type of human atrocity. The need to deny, displace, sanitize and ultimately forget horrific events has been played out, again and again, throughout the course of human history. When the survivors voice is marginalized-when their status is already devalued (i.e. a woman, a child) it is easy to do so. Marginalized people can be discredited easily, and written off entirely.

Occasionally the voices of survivors become impossible to ignore though-and when that happens we may respond, but also rush to sanitize their experience and turn it into something more socially palpable that does not threaten the status quo. The atrocities of slavery were banished from our consciousness with the emancipation proclamation, and it’s empty promises of reparations. Native Americans were given their reservations. Returning war veterans get their GI bills, their parades and memorials. When these gestures fail to satisfy and that anger continues, the reaction is one of weariness and disgust-you got what you wanted, why are you still carrying on about? The anger of the survivor, their dissatisfaction becomes a testament to their own moral failings. It is assumed that they must simply enjoy being seen as victims.

And this is what I have to confront every time I write about it. Because I am not over it-I’m still angry. I can’t stop talking about it. And every time I do, I run that risk-I can hear the unspoken reactions in my head. Oh here she goes again, talking about this. She must really be reveling in all this attention.

What people may not understand is that I fucking HATE this. Even though I write about it constantly, I take no pleasure in talking about my abuse-every time I do it triggers me. My visable scars are a source of shame for me to this day-every morning I have to look at the nose that is slightly off kilter and the scar on my lip, the lines from where that razor cut into my flesh, and I have to confront it again. Every day. It is humiliating to share these pictures publicly. I will probably end up deleting them shortly-but for the time being, you can have a glimpse into what this does to you.

Like most people, I really just want to be normal. But I know I never will be.

In the words of Lawrence Langer, a Holocaust Scholar: “The survivor does not travel a road from the normal to the bizarre back to the normal, but from the normal to the bizarre back to a normalcy so permeated by the bizarre encounter with atrocity that it can never be purified again. The two worlds haunt each other.”

But I don’t know how much longer I can do this. Financially, personally, I just don’t know anymore. Because the crime you cannot see leaves very real scars-which can easily break open and become festering wounds again. I’m trying to deal with it while keeping up my momentum, but sometimes it’s just too much. And I just want to go back to that life I had before- keeping all of this buried, going through the motions, and existing. I want to slip back into that comfortable numbness again. The only thing that stops me is the fact that so many people are depending on me to keep this going-but I have to be honest, I’m going to collapse under that weight soon.

There is no conclusion to this diary-just a call for help. Please don’t let our voices go unheard. See the crime that remains invisible. Bear witness and then join us to fight for something approaching justice.

But whatever you do, please don’t ask us to move on. Some of us never will.

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Jerry Sandusky Was Running An Overnight Football Camp For Kids On Penn State Campus in 2009

RebeccaBerry : May 7, 2012 4:45 am : Uncategorized

Oops, my bad…this actually isn’t “breaking” news at all. It was reported by the website Deadspin on November 6th, 2011 and for whatever reason it never got picked up. I just happened to run across this story in the process of researching something else-even my friends who live in PA and have been following this story closely had no idea.

But yes, it appears that after learning that Jerry Sandusky was raping children in their locker rooms, Penn State officials did what any reasonable institution would do-they asked Jerry to hand over his keys and please kindly take his forcible sodomy to a more discreet location. Like, say, their satellite campus in Erie PA:

According to the organizations now defunct website:

The goal of the camp is to learn as much about the game of football while having an enjoyable experience. Jerry Sandusky’s personal experience and his excellent staff will cater to each individual camper helping them to reach their personal potential. With a variety of individual drills for every position team drills, and games, the participants will be able to build a solid fundamental background for which they can carry the rest of their lives. They will walk away with many of the ideas and concepts Jerry Sandusky has used during his brilliant career. A career that included two national championships and 28 bowl appearances! Lessons on life discipline, teamwork, trust, and loyalty will be stressed in motivational speeches by great guest speakers and selected video presentations. Regular camp instructors will include members of Jerry’s family, other college and high school coaches, and former Penn State players.

Included in the brochure for the sleepover camp is this legal disclaimer:

“It is understood that Penn State Behrend, the directors, or anyone connected with the college will not assume any responsibility for accident (medical or dental) or any other expenses incurred as a result of accidents. The college is not responsible for lost equipment.”

And apparently, not responsible for lost childhoods either.

It is worth noting that Deadspin, which describes itself as “Sports News without Access, Favor, or Discretion” PSU hired it’s elite Public Relations team to handle media coverage, among other things.

It is safe to say that the Public Relations campaign worked-something that PSU president Rodney Erickson seemed positively giddy about mere days after Jerry Sandusky was charged with multiple counts of child rape-he triumphantly stated “We are taking control of our narrative”

He might not have control over that narrative for much longer, though.

Indeed, as the Sandusky trial gears up we are learning more and more about the other players in this horrific saga. In March,Federal Authorities began their own investigation into Penn State Cover-ups, bribes, fraud, misuse of government funds appear to be the focus of their investigation.

At the center of all of this is the often overlapping interests of Penn State and Second Mile, Jerry Sandusky’s charity, and their ties to the big name donors and politicians who sat on their respective boards. At the top of this sordid totem pole is Governor Tom Corbett who was both acting Attorney General AND receiving generous campaign donations from both institutions and their alumni while his office was conducting the Sandusky investigation. Something doesn’t smell right there, to put it mildly.

But priorities, people. Priorities.As Roxine diaried about earlier, PSU has just elected 2 new members to their board of trustees, and they know that some things just take precedence over figuring out how a serial pedophile was able to use their campuses as his personal playground for over 2 decades and maybe, ya know, doing something about it:


“I don’t think we can get the alumni behind any of the other issues until we get the Paterno issue resolved,” [newly elected board member Anthony Lubrano] said after today’s meeting. “That’s really the elephant in the room.”


“Let’s just admit that we made a mistake, apologize, and then we can move on,” Lubrano said. “Because if the alumni are happy they’re going to give and they’re going to help us bridge the obvious budget gaps we’re going to have because the state is going to cut appropriations.”

Yes, must make the alum happy so they start opening up those wallets again! That’s what’s it’s all about, isn’t it.

That apology he speaks of, by the way, is not for the victims.

It’s for Joe Paterno.

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Ricki Lake opens up about Child Molestation

RebeccaBerry : April 25, 2012 4:08 pm : Uncategorized

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

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Opening Pandora’s Box: The Forgotten History of Sexual Trauma (Part I)

RebeccaBerry : April 21, 2012 4:30 pm : Uncategorized

This is the first installment in a 5-part series on the history of rape, sexual abuse, and trauma as a social and political issue:

Part 1-Opening Pandora’s Box: The Age of Hysteria
Part 2-Never Hers Alone: Black Women, Rape & Resistance
Part 3-Shell Shock: A Soldiers Declaration
Part 4-Uprising: The Personal is Political
Part 5-Backlash: The Political is Personal

In my last diary in this series, I explained why the history is relevant, and what we hope to achieve by revisiting it:

In Trauma & Recovery, Judith Herman wrote a story that changed my life almost as much as Rosa’s did. Only this story was not about an individual, but a forgotten history. And this forgotten history is what ultimately changed my perspective on an issue that I had always simply viewed as a personal tragedy-I began to see the abuse I suffered beyond my own individual experience, and for the first time through the prism of oppression and social control. One passage in particular stood out for me:

“The knowledge of horrible events periodically intrudes into public awareness but is rarely retained for long. Denial, repression, and dissociation operate on a social as well as an individual level. The study of psychological trauma has an underground history. Like traumatized people, we have been cut off from the knowledge of our past. Like traumatized people, we need to understand the past in order to reclaim the present and the future”

This series is my attempt to do just that.


Part 1: Opening Pandora’s Box-The Age of Hysteria

The hysteric, whose body is transformed into a theater for forgotten scenes, relives the past, bearing witness to a lost childhood that survives in suffering.

- Anna Hurse, “Augustine (Big Hysteria)”


Her name was not really Augustine. Augustine was the name given to her by Jean-Martin Charcot, the pioneering French Neuroscientist who would one day make her famous. Her real name is unknown-as is most of the story of her life before her mother abandoned her on the steps of the Salpetriere-a hospital that warehoused the most wretched among the Parisian Proletariat class. What is know is that when she arrived she was 15 years old, poor, brutally raped by her mother’s employer, and hysterical.

Augustine became one of over 5,000 hysterical female patients warehoused in the Salpetriere, and seemed destined to become just another charity case of the mental wards. Instead, she captured the interest of Charcot, and went on to become his most famous patient, the living embodiment of the mysterious affliction known as “Hysteria”.


Hysteria was an affliction seen primarily in women, and encompassed a variety of symptoms which seemed to have no underlying medical cause. In 1859, it was claimed that a quarter of all women suffered from hysteria- a number that doesn’t seem too outlandish when you consider that the diagnostic criteria. The symptoms of hysteria ranged from faintness, nervousness, insomnia, fluid retention, heaviness in abdomen, muscle spasm, shortness of breath, irritability, loss of appetite for food or sex, and “a tendency to cause trouble”. As one historian put it, hysteria was “a dramatic medical metaphor for everything that men found mysterious or unmanageable in the opposite sex.” It was the catch-all diagnosis of Victorian-era women.

“Hysteria” as a plague on civilization has long been recognized. Historical volumes are filled with examples of women gone mad. Before the advent of science and medicine, their afflictions were seen as the result of supernatural-These women were thought to be infected with dark evil forces or possessed by demons. As the Catholic Church grew in power and influence, hysterical women became a useful scapegoat- their bizarre and troublesome antics were easily explained. They were witches.

As Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English explained in their book “Witches, Midwives, and Nurses: A History of Women Healers”, the labeling of women who did not conform to gender norms as witches served a dual purpose-it not only explained their actions in a way that fit with church doctrine, it redeemed men of the crimes they committed against them-especially rape:

The Church associated women with sex, and all pleasure in sex was condemned, because it could only come from the devil. Witches were supposed to have gotten pleasure from copulation with the devil (despite the icy-cold organ he was reputed to possess) and they in turn infected men. Lust in either man or wife, then, was blamed on the female. On the other hand, witches were accused of making men impotent and of causing their penises to disappear.

In the eyes of the Church, all the witches’ power was ultimately derived from her sexuality. Her career began with sexual intercourse with the devil. Each witch was confirmed at a general meeting (the witches’ Sabbath) at which the devil presided, often in the form of a goat, and had intercourse with the neophytes. In return for her powers, the witch promised to serve him faithfully. (In the imagination of the Church even evil could only be thought of as ultimately male-directed!) As the Malleus makes clear, the devil almost always acts through the female, just as he did in Eden:

All witchcraft comes from carnal lust, which in women is insatiable…Wherefore for the sake of fulfilling their lusts they consort with devils…it is sufficiently clear that it is no matter for wonder that there are more women than men found infected with the heresy of witchcraft…And blessed be the Highest Who has so far preserved the male sex from so great a crime...

PhotobucketDuring the Inquisition, hundreds of thousands of European women who were tortured and burnt at the stake as witches. It is recorded that the assembled fire watchers sang hymns to drown out the young girls screams of agony. (No word on what particular hymns were deemed suitable for the occasion of watching human combustion, perhaps some version of As a Fire is Meant for Burning?) Some historians estimate that up to a million people were executed during the inquisition- Women and female children made up 85% of the executed. Many of them were in fact victims of rape and sexual abuse, who were blamed for infecting their abusers with their infectious demonic influence- in effect causing themselves to be raped-and punished accordingly.

It should be noted that in addition to women and female children, male victims of molestation were also targets of the inquisition:


Nearly all of almost 500 cases of sodomy between persons concerned the relationship between an older man and an adolescent, often by coercion; with only a few cases where the couple were consenting homosexual adults. About 100 of the total involved allegations of child abuse. Adolescents were generally punished more leniently than adults, but only when they were very young (under 12 years) or when the case clearly concerned rape, did they have a chance to avoid punishment altogether

A Womb of her Own

It was not until the advent of modern medicine that an alternative theory for hysteria was formulated. Medical doctors in ancient Greek concurred with the churches view that the bizarre behavior of hysterics must have something to do with “female problems”. But it was the Greek Philosopher Plato who ultimately came up with the theory of the “wandering womb” as the underlying cause of hysteria

Plato described the uterus as a living being unto itself-a kind of wild animal inhabiting a woman’s body, on an endless quest to make itself pregnant. If the uterus was “neglected” by the over-stimulation other less important female organs (i.e. the brain) it would detach itself from the pelvic cavity and go on a meandering journey throughout the body, wreaking all kinds of havoc along it’s way. Eventually, it’s journey would end in the brain where it would sit and greedily sponge all of the bloodflow. By blocking the circulation, the brain would then atrophy- which in turn resulted in the strange neurological symptoms of hysteria- the fainting spells, the convulsions, and the trance-like alterations of consciousness. Every ailment afflicting women could therefore be attributed to a single underlying cause- a displaced uterus.

The treatment of choice for the meandering uterus was a slight improvement over the previous methods of torture and incineration- the cure for hysteria, so said the male physician, was to induce “Hysterical Paroxism” (a.k.a. orgasm) It was thought that this would somehow bring the wandering womb back into its intended cavity, where it would stay until it began to get restless again, and the procedure would have to be repeated.

PhotobucketThe procedure in question was something called “pelvic massage”, which is basically a fancy way of saying playing around with women’s privies. “Pelvic Massage” was performed in homes by (exclusively male) physicians, sometimes for hours at a time with the goal of achieving “Hysterical Paroxism”. The problem with this particular procedure was it was tedious and physically taxing (imagine the hand cramps!). Worse yet- quell suprise!-it often did not work. So, in 1883, to relieve overtaxed physicians of their manual duties, Dr. Joseph Mortimer Granville, a Brit, invented the first AC powered “perceteur”, and from there a new and lucrative cottage industry was born:

From “Love Machines” by Cynthia King

During the last two decades of the 19th century, more than 50 kinds of vibrators were invented. Some combined vibration with music, while others threw ultraviolet rays. The technology really took off in the late 1880s, after the development of AC power.

As AC motors got smaller and more efficient, home vibrators began to shrink, too. But right from the beginning, doctors had tried to warn women away from small-scale versions. To make sure women understood the difference between mere trinkets and medical tools, doctors’ models continued to look reassuringly professional – i.e., large, Photobucketexpensive, and hard to operate. The Chattanooga, which was mounted like a Tommy gun on wheels so that it could be dragged along the body. Selling for $200, it was so heavy that it had to be freighted, according to the Vibrator Instrument Company catalogue. Another popular item was the Carpenter, which hung from the ceiling and looked exactly like an impact wrench.

PhotobucketThe vibrator market soared from the 1880′s until the 1920′s, until it was discovered that some women were using them for non-medical purposes and they disappeared from middle class life. But while the market for treating hysterical women was lucrative for both physicians and the electric companies alike, none of the treatments they peddled seemed to work. Even after experiencing orgasm, women continued to exhibit the peculiar symptoms. Their failure to respond to the prescribed treatment resulted in them being scorned and shunned by the medical community. They were dismissed as malingerers and hypochondriacs who had too much time on their hands and were simply looking for attention. The treatment of hysteria was relegated to quacks and faith healers, and the study of these women was seen as below the dignity of the medical profession. It remained this way until Jean-Martin Charcot brought it out of obscurity and into the mainstream.

“I will make her pain visible to you”

When Charcot first met the girl he would rename Augustine in the Salpetrieire, she was in a terrible state. Confined to her bed she would alternately scream out in pain and then collapse into gales of laughter. Her body would become contorted in grotesque ways that resembled an epileptic fit.

In the process of treating her, Charcot discovered that his young patient was very susceptible to hypnosis, and if put into a trance would obey almost any command. She thus became a very useful object for his public lectures.

The Salpetriere was part hospital, part performance amphitheater. Charcot’s groundbreaking studies of hysteria took place in public lectures that were often attended by, in the words of one historian, “a multi-colored audience, drawn from all of Paris: authors, doctors, leading actors and actresses, fashionable demimondaines, all full of morbid curiosity.” His demonstrations were both a medical and a cultural phenomenon. A transcript from one of his lectures provides a bit of insight into what a typical lecture was like:

Photobucket CHARCOT: Let us press again on the hysterogenic point. (A male intern touches the patient in the ovarian region.) Here we go again. Occasionally subjects even bite their tongues, but this would be rare. Look at the arched back, which is so well described in textbooks.

PATIENT: Mother, I am frightened.

CHARCOT: Note the emotional outburst. If we let things go unabated we will soon return to the epileptoid behavior. . . .

(The patient cries again: Oh! Mother!)

CHARCOT: Again, note these screams. You could say it is a lot of noise over nothing.

Beyond being made into a public spectacle in the lecture hall, Augustine was forced to pose for photographs-in which she recreated her hysterical fits for the camera, usually while wearing very little clothing. These photographs were published along with those of two of Charcot’s other famous hysterics, in which was as much a medical text as it was a kind of Victorian-era soft pornography.


The images of Augustine transcended medicine and became a cultural phenomenon. She presented a fascinating dichotomy-between vulnerability and danger, the beautiful and the grotesque. In one shot she could be seen in the throes of ecstacy, and in the next her face and body would be contorted in rage and seeming agony. She was the living embodiment of everything that men found mysterious about women- distilled into a form that allowed them to observe her at a safe distance.

As time went on, Augustine became increasingly distressed by this objectification and began to resent being treated like a performing seal. In fact her condition only worsened under Charcot’s treatments-but this almost seemed beside the point. She was an object for inquiry and scientific discovery- her plight was not one that men of science like Charcot viewed with any empathy. The same was not true for 2 of Charcot’s contemporaries- Pierre Janet and Sigmund Freud.

Freud & the Aetiology of Hysteria

Freud and Janet-engaged in an intense professional rivalry at the time-were determined to get to the bottom of Hysteria, seeing it as an opportunity to elevate both their burgeoning field and their own professional statures. They both picked up where Charcot left off, and began their own parallel investigations, determined to uncover the underlying cause of hysteria. But in order to do this, they realized that simply observing hysterical women under hypnosis was not enough-they actually had to talk to them. So for the ensuing decade, these distinguished men of science did something quite unprecedented-they actually listened to women.

What these listening sessions ultimately resulted in a groundbreaking conclusion-one that both Freud and Janet arrived at independently, but with startling similarities. Hysteria was in fact a condition caused by psychological trauma.

Both Freud (along with his research partner Josef Brauer) and Janet determined that many of the strange symptoms-in particular those that mimicked a neurological disorder such as fainting spells and alterations in consciousness-were in fact an emotional reaction to deeply distressing events. Freud called this phenomenon “double consciousness”, Janet named it “dissociation”. The bodily symptoms of hysteria-such as stomach ailments and insomnia-were physical manifestations of traumatic events that had been banished from conscious memory.

It was Freud, along with Brauer, who followed this thread of inquiry the furthest, and ultimately his research led to an exploration of his patients sexual histories. Charcot and his contemporaries had been dismissive to the idea of sexuality as an underlying cause of hysteria, and Freud himself was initially resistant to the idea that sexual experiences played any role. He would later write: “When I began to analyze.. . The expectation of a sexual neurosis being the basis of hysteria was fairly remote from my mind. I had come fresh from the school of Charcot, and I regarded the linking of hysteria with the topic of sexuality as a sort of insult, just as the women patients themselves do.” But Freud, fueled by his intense curiosity and desire to uncover the truth, eventually overcame his defensiveness. In repeated sessions with his female patients, some of them going on for hours at a time, he probed not their vaginas but the depths of their memories, and listened to what they had to say.

What he heard was horrific. His female patients spoke of lives filled with trauma. Physical abuse and rape were a common occurrence in their lives. Following the thread of memory back, he discovered that for the majority of these women, their traumatic experiences began in childhood, often at the hands of their own fathers and other male relatives. He published his findings in a monumental case study titled The Aetiology of Hysteria, in which he drew this startling conclusion:

Photobucket“I therefore put forward the thesis that at the bottom of every case of hysteria there are one or more occurrences of premature sexual experience, occurrences which belong to the earliest years of childhood, but which can be reproduced through the work of psycho-analysis in spite of the intervening decades. I believe that this is an important finding, the discovery of a
caput Nili in neuropathology.”

At the time of publication, Freud believed that “The Aetiology of Hysteria” would become his crowning professional achievement. Instead, it almost ended his career.


The reaction to the publication of “The Aetiology of Hysteria” was swift and punitive. Freud’s case study was summarily rejected and ignored by his colleagues, and for the first time he found himself ostracized by the medical community that had always treated him like a deity. He was accused of implanting these traumatic stories into his patients minds, and scorned for discrediting the field of psychiatry with his obscure patients and sensational theories. The sexual abuse of children was understood to be an extremely rare occurrence- Freud was suggesting that it was endemic and widespread. Not only that, but his patients were not the misbegotten trollops of the Salpetrieiere, they were daughters of a privileged class. Acknowledging that incest was endemic among these patients meant accepting that some of the most elite and powerful members of the society were sexual deviants who preyed on their own children. Freud himself was troubled by this prospect, and began to backtrack from his initial theory almost immediately. Faced with the professional backlash and the conflict between his theory and his deeply held patriarchal values, he began to question the validity of his patients stories as well as his own conclusions. Within a year of publishing “The Aetiology of Hysteria” he fully repudiated his findings.

Freud’s reversal marked the end of the heroic age of hysteria. The reasons for this extended beyond him alone- The hysteria inquiries had stemmed from a long-running battle between the church and the scientific community. Men of science saw distinguishing hysteria as a problem with psychological origins, as opposed to demonic possession and witchcraft, as a victory of the secular world as well as human dignity. They saw themselves as benevolent rescuers, uplifting women from their degraded condition. But they were also fiercely patriarchal and had no desire to see a social condition of equality between sexes. The study of hysteria had forced these men to speak to women far more than they intended, and ended up revealing far more than they ever wished to know about their private lives. To acknowledge widespread sexual abuse of women and children would validate something that the nascent but militant feminist movement was already beginning to talk about- that the oppression of women and children was a widespread social ill that needed to be addressed. For the medical community, which was already in the midst of a fight to keep women from entering their profession-such an admission would have broad social implications that would ultimately hurt their own position as leaders of a patriarchal society.

There was one component of Freud’s work did end up surviving his scandalous venture into the world of hysteria. Along with Janet, he discovered that the symptoms of hysteria could be alleviated when traumatic memories were recovered and put into words. This became the basis for modern psychotherapy, a pioneering treatment that became the cornerstone of his psychoanalytical theory. But although he continued to explore the sexual lives of his female patients throughout his career, he no longer accepted their stories of abuse and exploitation. He came up with a new theory-that his female patients imagined and desired the abusive sexual encounters they spoke of, and that their psychological distress was in fact a symptom of these unmet needs. Within the climate of anti-feminist backlash, his paternalistic theories thrived and became the basis for modern psychiatry.

As for Charcot, his study of hysteria propelled him to fame, and brought him considerable wealth. Eventually, however, he faced his own form of backlash-primarily from the growing militant feminist movement, who chastised him for, as one feminist author described it, his “vivisection of women under the guise of studying a disease”. Charcot abandoned his studies of hysteria and moved on to new and ground breaking research in neuropathology before he died of a sudden heart attack in 1893. Subsequently, his various theories of hysteria were attacked by his followers and eventually abandoned as well.

His famous patient Augustine, on the other hand, suffered years of confinement and medical torture and repeated escape attempts. Finally, in her twenties, she devised a way to escape without being noticed- she dressed up as a man. With her long brown hair stuffed under a hat, her famous body shrouded in an oversized coat, she simply walked out of the doors of the Salpietre and disappeared into the shadows of the Paris night. Along with her went the discovery of widespread sexual abuse among children, where it remained hidden for almost a century.

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TREE Climbers-Introducing the Movement

RebeccaBerry : April 21, 2012 4:22 pm : Uncategorized


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No One Spoke For Us: For The Children Who Had No Voice and For Those Finally Finding Theirs

RebeccaBerry : March 11, 2012 5:18 pm : Uncategorized

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Comments & Responses

3 Responses so far.

  1. Sally W says:

    You are amazing…as a survivor I will say that this means a lot. We had no one speak for us, now you speak for today and tomorrow’s children.


  2. kishik says:

    This site is an amazing resource for those in need. Thank you Rebecca!! Thank you Roxine!! Thank you for creating TREE Climbers and speaking up for those who have had their voices taken away.

  3. Roxine Behrens says:

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