The public has been focused for months on Jerry Sandusky and Penn State's handling of his sordid activities with young boys. Now attention is moving to what happens next - focusing on the victims of child abuse and their healing.
Brian Gergely of Ebensburg is in the process of publishing a book about his experiences, "The Last Altar Boy." It is about his struggles to overcome the abuse he suffered as a child from the very priest who baptized him.
His book centers on "his journey to forgive."
It takes him 31 chapters and 200,000 words to wend his way through his problems with drugs and alcohol to eventually find a new path leading to recovery.
Gergely calls his book "positive," saying it outlines his main theme -that it is possible to have a good life despite abuse that occurred so many years ago.
"It's a different route [to healing], instead of going to hell," Gergely, 42, said.
His focus is on Sandusky's victims, the eight Second Mile participants who came forward in June to testify against the retired Penn State defensive coach. Sandusky was convicted on 45 charges and is awaiting sentencing.
Gergely's message to the victims is that they are all young, and, with help, "The sky's the limit."
He said his life has been "a wild experience. ... At the beginning, it was the end. At the end it was the beginning."
Gergely's made his comments after Thursday's release of the Freeh report, which was critical of Penn State President Graham Spanier, Athletic Director Timothy Curley, Vice President Gary Schultz and coach Joe Paterno for glossing over at least two incidents involving Sandusky sexually abusing young boys in the showers of the Lasch Football Building.
Gergely said he was "not shocked" at Paterno's part in the overall cover-up of reports about Sandusky's abuse.
"His ego must have been so inflated he couldn't come down to a child's level [to understand the effects of abuse]," he said.
Gergely's message is much the same as that from survivors Matt Bodenschatz, a Penn State student and spokesman for the Voices For Victims Campaign, and Christian Anderson, the president of MaleSurvivor of Washington, D.C.
The Sandusky situation could have been an issue about the offenses of only one man, said Bodenschatz, but because the highest officials at Penn State "willfully disregarded opportunities to meet simple, easily understood obligations placing child protection above all else," the issue became about them as well.
"Despite being children within easy reach of many supposedly great local figures, [the children] were offered no outstretched hand. They were left to save themselves. That's a fact that didn't have to be, but one that remains true even today," said Bodenschatz.
The Freeh report is an opportunity, he said, to appreciate what Sandusky's victims overcame and accomplished "despite a tidal wave of cowardice, self-interested influence and privilege, and wrongheaded self-reverence," he stated.
He wants the victims to realize "anonymous doesn't have to mean alone."
Anderson said he is a survivor of abuse, but he said it took 20 years for him to talk about what happened and to deal with the issues.
If victims find the courage to speak up and get help, "it is possible for every survivor to heal," he said.
He noted that "the Penn State community is also a victim here. They have a healing journey they need to go on." The present represents "a unique opportunity for Penn State itself to create a new atmosphere of support for victims," he said.
He said removing Paterno's bronze statue outside of Beaver Stadium "does not provide support for anybody."
"If I had a crystal ball, I'd like to see in 50 years a statue to the survivors who made a difference - the eight young men who changed the world a couple weeks ago" by testifying at Sandusky's trial, Anderson concluded.
One of those young men, a recent high school graduate, has begun the long road to recovery, according to his attorney, Michael Boni of Bala Cynwyd.
The young man, identified as Victim 1, gave riveting and emotional testimony about Sandusky's relentless abuse during the first week of the trial. Boni said the man is taking his therapy "very seriously" and is involved with a program called the "Let Go, Let Peace Come In Foundation," a nonprofit group that lends support to survivors of child sexual abuse.
Boni said the group was founded by a successful businessman, Peter S. Pelullo, himself a survivor of abuse.
"It can take a lifetime to work through these issues. ... That's not to say you can't recover from it ... that you can't lead a successful life," he said Friday.
The Freeh report was reviewed by Victim 1 and his mother. Boni said that the mother texted him while reading the report, noting she "felt absolute fury" after finding out Paterno was among those who failed to take steps to protect children from Sandusky.
Boni is quoted by ESPN as saying, "She is just filled with hatred toward Joe Paterno. She just hates him, and reviles him, and pins total blame on him for what happened to her son."
Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.