Matt Sandusky is speaking up. After years of keeping quiet, the 35-year-old adopted son of disgraced former Penn State football coach and convicted sex offender Jerry Sandusky has become a powerful voice of change on a number of fronts. Sandusky, a victim of his adopted father himself, is now an advocate for child sexual abuse prevention. He has launched a website, peacefulheartsfoundation.org, and his mission is to eliminate the serious issue through media engagements, community events, informational campaigns, education programs and legislative action. The married father of four has also partnered with Darkness to Light (D2L), an internationally recognized and awarded nonprofit, that's goal is to create meaningful change in the way societies address the appalling epidemic. One in 10 children in the United States alone have been affected.
Yahoo Sports sat down with Sandusky and D2L President and CEO Jolie Logan prior to a screening of the new film "Happy Valley," a documentary that examines the scandal in State College, Pa. that turned the college football world — not to mention the lives of countless individuals — upside down. The meeting was arranged by award-winning filmmaker Mike Tollin. Tollin is a co-founder of Philanthropy and Community Engagement (PACE), a small, private organization dedicated to finding and supporting good works.
Sandusky's appearance in the film directed by Amir Bar-Lev is part of his ongoing healing process. He said he's seen it "four-to-five" times and is just as hard to see every time. That said, he admits, "It's a great film. It has many different perspectives and gives everybody (an) opportunity to state their case clearly." Members of former Nittany Lions head coach Joe Paterno's family are also featured. For the record, Sandusky does not hold any ill will or hard feelings towards them and thinks Paterno was a "great coach."
The victim-turned-advocate heartbreakingly describes the moment he decided to stop the lies in the film. He originally attended the 2012 trial in support of his adopted family (Jerry and wife Dottie had six adopted children — five boys and one girl). But upon hearing Victim No. 4's testimony (who he had played racquetball with from time to time), the younger Sandusky felt like he was hearing his story. In the next couple days, Sandusky decided to break his silence. "I felt empowered enough that if he could get up there and do that, what was I going to do?" Sandusky told Yahoo Sports. "He was in an open courtroom and had the courage to face his abuser. For all these years I had hidden it and kept it away. It really culminated with me standing in front of my own mirror, looking at myself, and asking myself that question, 'What was I going to do?' As time has gone along, I do realize that every time I get to tell my story how freeing that is. It's what keeps me going." One of the groups that Sandusky reached out to was D2L.
Logan praises Sandusky's courage. "Matt serves as such a great inspiration for other survivors and I hope that that's what people hear when he tells his story. That they hear hope and they know they're not alone," Logan said. "I'm most proud that Matt is turning this into something positive. That he's dedicating his life to making a difference and to being a voice for the more than 42 million survivors of sexual abuse that are out there."