Sunday, April 07, 2013
Gillum said that after a time, a rallying point for Fisher became his determination that "he didn't want Sandusky to do this to anybody else. He said: 'Mike, he's going to do it to other people. It's important to me that we stop this.'"... Along the way, Fisher had to be be eased through a real fear of retaliation by Sandusky for his reports and, like many child victims of sexual abuse, he had to be assured that none of this was his fault.... In Fisher's case, Gillum said, that involved a long explanation of the grooming process used by pedophiles, to help him understand that he wasn't at fault simply because he didn't try to physically resist when he was 11 years old.
HARRISBURG — It wasn't easy helping Clinton County teenager Aaron Fisher through the process of outing, and then prosecuting former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky.
But Fisher got through it, with the help of his mother, Dawn Daniels Hennessy, and his psychologist, Dr. Michael Gillum, both of whom headlined a benefit Saturday night in Camp Hill for the Children's Resource Center.
Even though she was often filled with personal doubts, Hennessy said she was resolute in telling her son "that this is a fight that you will not lose ... And to win it for all of those who did not have the strength to finish it."
Gillum said the most important ingredient was "unconditional positive regard," essentially his constant reassurance to Fisher that he was his ally in this ordeal and he would be in his corner every step of the way.
Many victims need that sense of trust in someone, Gillum said, if they are ever going to get past their initial reluctance to share the details that law enforcement or child welfare investigators need to bring a perpetrator to justice.
"We really want them to feel that: 'I'm with you. I'm here for you and I'm going to see this thing through with you.' ... If you repeat those and if you're consistent with that with a victim or patient, they tend to do very well in the longer term," Gillum said.
Fisher, who was abused repeatedly by Sandusky for years and whose initial breakdown in a conference with school officials ultimately cracked what would become one of America's most sensational cases of pedophilia, initially was reluctant to admit the full scope of that abuse to anyone.
Hennessy, of Lock Haven, played an important role in that regard in Fisher's case, Gillum said, by going to child welfare officials when school officials initially met her son's allegations with skepticism. Gillum picked up the torch, once he became involved in the case.
By last June, however, Fisher was one of most compelling witnesses against Sandusky, who was convicted of abusing 10 boys between 1994 and 2008.
Now a student at St. Bonaventure in Olean, N.Y., Fisher — who is also one of some 30 men pressing civil claims against Penn State stemming from Sandusky's pedophila — was not present Saturday night.
But that transformation didn't happen overnight, Gillum noted.
Along the way, Fisher had to be be eased through a real fear of retaliation by Sandusky for his reports and, like many child victims of sexual abuse, he had to be assured that none of this was his fault.
In Fisher's case, Gillum said, that involved a long explanation of the grooming process used by pedophiles, to help him understand that he wasn't at fault simply because he didn't try to physically resist when he was 11 years old.
Gillum said that after a time, a rallying point for Fisher became his determination that "he didn't want Sandusky to do this to anybody else. He said: 'Mike, he's going to do it to other people. It's important to me that we stop this.'"
As Fisher's story became known under the alias "Victim 1" through interviews Gillum granted, cards and letters of support from total strangers helped bolster his resolve as well, Gillum said.
Finally, victims have to understand, Gillum said, "that you're not damaged goods" coming out of this process. That's where ongoing support from families and counselors are important, so the victims can develop a healthy picture of their future.
Gillum said the big positive that Fisher can share in now is that the Sandusky case has shined a light of awareness on the scourge of child sex abuse.
"We've seen positive outcomes across the country and even the world about people in the public starting to better understand what you all do and what victims go through," he told the audience, peppered with prosecutors, doctors and counselors.
Hennessy and Gillum are speaking together about their experiences with Fisher now as an extension of the family's healing process. Hennessy said she hopes her son's story will always "inspire other (victims) to speak out, stay strong and get the justice they deserve."
The Children’s Resource Center in the capital city served 845 children in 2012, all referred by police, children and youth services agencies or physicians for abuse-type complaints.
Such children's advocacy centers are seen as effective venues where police, doctors and child welfare personnel can collaborate on cases with minimal trauma to and maximum service for youthful victims.
A state task force examining Pennsylvania’s child abuse capabilities in the wake of the Sandusky scandal has called for the establishment of many more such centers statewide.