In a new documentary about the victims of sexual abuse from Jerry Sandusky, his adopted son Matt speaks about living with the former football coach and serial child molester.
The film is called “Happy Valley”, and it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on Sunday. Within the film Matt, 34, speaks about how he was abused and his emotional journey that led him to testify against his own father, one that couldn’t have been easy on him. He’s one of 6 adopted children in the Sandusky family, but the only one to come forward with allegations of abuse.
He has recently petitioned to change the name of himself, his wife and his four children to leave the Sandusky name behind and start fresh.
He said the reason he’s come forward and told his story for the movie is to empower other victims of abuse so that they too come forward and face their fears, saying that he hopes that other people will start to understand what he’s gone through.
He describes what it was like to be plucked from virtually nothing and brought into an affluent family and to live with local celebrities after living in poverty as a deprived child.
“His name was a golden ticket. It was good to be next to him, to feel powerful, to feel that people envied me instead of looking down on me,” Sandusky said
He also said that if people thought of Joe Paterno as god that his father was like Jesus. That they thought they were above everyone and powerful, and they thought they could do no wrong because of the powerful positions they had within the Penn State football program. But with such notoriety came the duty to protect those within the family, and that’s why he felt betrayed when he came forward. However he said he refused to be a “coward” and let them bully him into not saying anything. He said his story is about “righting wrongs”, and that he knew his confession would bring integrity to the other victims stories.
Within the 100 minute film Matt reveals that he was abused over the course of 7 years between the ages of 8 and 15, and that his decision to tell his story on film wasn’t an easy one. The film explores whether or not Jerry Sandusky- convicted of 45 out of 48 charges- molested young boys throughout his entire career.
He said the purpose of his role in the film is to tell the story of a survivor, “to give a survivors voice.” He believes its important for survivors of abuse to have control of the time and the place in which their stories are told, and that it was because of the other survivors that he found the courage and the strength to come forward.
‘There were many victims in this case who came forward for the trial — I have immense respect for their strength — and because of those guys, I had the courage to come forward to the authorities to tell what I had to tell — the truth.’
His story first became famous when an audio tape of his interview was leaked to the press, within it Matt’s voice was heard recounting the chilling details of his abuse. He said his father would enter the bedroom at night and rub his stomach and his body, then move down towards his genitals. He also said the encounters would start with his father “blowing raspberries” on his stomach. He recalled curling up into the “fetal position” to try to avoid the contact from his father, saying it was “very uncomfortable.”
‘It just was, just became very uncomfortable. You know, just with everything that was going on,’ he said on the tape.
‘What was, what was going on?’ a police detective asked.
‘With like the showering, with the hugging, with the rubbing, with the just talking to me. The way he spoke. And just, the whole interaction with him alone. Anything, anytime we were alone just those interactions …’
Such an encounter would be enough to send chills down the spine of anyone, let alone a young boy who is trusting of his father. The interview continued and Matt said that he couldn’t remember any acts of penetration or oral sex being committed on him, which was unlike many the of the victims who his father had abused, they had testified that he had done those things to them.
Initially Matt had started out as a defense witness but came forward with his story without ever having to take the stand, it was done through lawyers instead.
Matt is now trying to start a non-profit advocating for abuse victims in the State College area. He said it’s something he’s determined to do and hopes it will empower other survivors.
His father ended up being convicted on 45 counts with 10 different boys and is now serving a 30-60 year prison sentence. He maintains he’s innocent and has appealed the verdict.
(Read More: Joe Paterno dies at 85)