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Child sexual abuse is ‘an epidemic,’ advocate for awareness says

By Matt Carroll, McClatchy Newspapers –

BELLEFONTE, Pa. — An 18-year-old man’s allegations that Jerry Sandusky sexually abused him as a child led them both to a Centre County, Pa., courtroom Tuesday.

While his statements sparked the investigation that led to charges against the former Penn State coach, the man emotionally described Tuesday how hard it was telling his story at all.

“I just wanted to stop everything I was doing and forget it ever happened — I was scared,” he testified on day two of the trial for Sandusky.

That doesn’t surprise Al Chesley, a former NFL linebacker-turned-national advocate for child sexual abuse awareness.

He’s been there — himself a victim of sexual abuse as a child.

“In your mind you’re never planning on telling anyone,” Chesley said Tuesday afternoon outside the Centre County Courthouse.

Just moments before, inside the building, the witness known as Victim 1 was asked by defense attorneys to explain apparent discrepancies in his previous statements about the alleged abuse.

The witness said he was scared and embarrassed, especially of talking in front of strangers about what he says happened.

Chesley, who was sexually molested when he was 13, said it’s a common reaction for child victims of sexual abuse.

“It’s something you are going to keep secret,” Chesley said. “You want to take it to the grave.”

The witness, who met Sandusky through The Second Mile foundation and was allegedly abused when he was 11-15 years old, broke down on the stand Tuesday when describing what he said happened.

He testified he remembers crying before a grand jury when he told the full story of what allegedly occurred between himself and Sandusky.

“I knew what I had to do,” he said. “I knew one way or the other I was going to be stuck with it. I had to tell the truth.”

Chesley said it takes strength for victims to come forward and tell strangers, or anyone, about sexual abuse.

“I can’t fathom a kid having to do that,” he said. “I still get emotional. I’m getting emotional as we speak.”

Chesley, who has had about 40 years to heal, said the witnesses’ ages, and closeness to the alleged abuse, make it even harder.

“He’s just beginning to heal,” Chesley said. “The more he talks about it, the more he’ll heal. He’ll get some relief just talking about it, knowing that he stopped this (from happening) to other children.”

State prosecutors allege 10 young men, including Victim 1, were sexually abused by Sandusky over a span of 15 years. Sandusky has repeatedly denied the charges.

Chesley, who played in parts of five seasons in the NFL, said the Sandusky trial has called national attention to child sexual abuse.

“People don’t realize it’s an epidemic,” he said. “It’s so sad.”

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