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Mass hysteria?

Earlier this week, Jerry Sandusky was scheduled to appear in court. He was to be confronted by his alleged victims who have decided to come out into the open, show their faces and go into vivid details of what they allege took place in the form of perpetrated sexual assault. One news reporter commented that Coach Sandusky would not know who his accusers were until he arrived at the courthouse. As it played out, the defense has chosen instead to enter a plea of “innocent” and go straight to trial. Many were surprised, many were disappointed. Most legal commentators felt it was the smartest move Mr. Sandusky’s legal team could have made. Ironically, in a press conference afterward, counsel for Mr. Sandusky glibly commented to the media that if someone believes Jerry Sandusky is guilty, they should call 1-800-REALITY. Turns out that is the phone number for a gay sex line, bringing offense to both straight and gay Americans. Not such a brilliant move, counselor! We will have to give you a “my bad” on that one.

A friend recently pointed out a past case to me, wherein a “victim” raised allegations against an entire group of young college men. It turned out the accusations were false, but unfortunately, damage was done to the school and the men. I do point out, though, that situation involved one accuser coming against a number of purported attackers. In Coach Sandusky’s situation, we have the flip side─there are many making accusations and only one accused of crimes. Maybe there is something to think upon there.

One thing concerns me, and I trust you will hear me out as I play devil’s advocate for a moment. Just as I raised this question during Casey Anthony’s trial, I feel compelled to raise it during the pretrial goings-on with Mr. Sandusky─what if he is innocent of the accusations? Now, in addition to allegations against Coach Sandusky/PennState, we have accusers rising up at Syracuse and the AAU (Amateur Athletic Union), bringing charges against leaders within those organizations.

You see, this is what concerns me most. Psychologists and other mental healthcare professionals are all too familiar with the concept of mass hysteria. It happens a lot with teenage girls (We’re sometimes just wired that way, as generations took turns screaming “aaahhhh” at Frank Sinatra, Elvis and now Justin Bieber, et al). It’s what they say happened back in the 60s the day I journeyed to the Tampa Theater to see the Beatles in “A Hard Day’s Night.” You could not hear anything coming from the screen─no music, no words, no dialogue─just young girls en masse, screaming at the top of their lungs, many weeping uncontrollably and yelling, “Paul, I love you!” That was the closest I came to mass hysteria, and being able to understand it. I didn’t like it. I wanted to hear the movie. I had paid good money to hear the movie and enjoy it, but most of the other teenage girls were going totally nuts around me over the four mop tops from England, making it impossible for me to enjoy the experience. Thus, as I comprehend it, mass hysteria is when a group or crowd jump onto a bandwagon with limited knowledge of where it might be taking them.

The down side of this is the possibilities and/or probabilities that if it all turns out to be untrue, then those of us who have truly endured molestation as children will have a much more difficult time being taken seriously. It will reinforce the silence of victims who are still afraid to speak out, as they think, “Who’s going to believe me? Who’s going to listen?” (Let me assure you all, there will be someone somewhere who truly cares and will always listen, having your best interest at heart. Never feel you must remain silent!)

I said in my last post about this topic that as a former victim I feel I may have a bit of experience in being able to identify the signs of true molestation. This Sandusky thing has a familiar odor. But, we must remember that he is innocent until proven guilty. He will be judged by a jury of his peers, when he is brought to trial. You can bank on the fact there will be State Attorneys out for blood, attorneys representing the victims and a very aggressive defense attorney representing Mr. Sandusky – all doing their jobs.

I just pray that the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth comes forward – without losing ground we have gained over the past years in making advances in the area of breaking the silence that has cloaked sexual molestation for generations.

Carolyn is an advocate for sexual/domestic violence and assault awareness, also focusing on child sexual abuse. She is a Life Direction & Empowerment Coach, working with victims and survivors of molestation, sexual assault, domestic violence or spousal abuse, and bringing training to organizations seeking to help victims. Hennecy spent much time during October 2011, which is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, with media doing radio and television interviews. See Carolyn’s interview with Gayle Guyardo of NBC Channel 8 News Today Early Morning Show and her featured segment on the ABC Action News Emmy Award winning “Taking Action Against Domestic Violence” at orangeblossomwishes.com.

About Carolyn S. Hennecy

Carolyn S. Hennecy - a/k/a southern blonde traveling with sense of humor and a passion for cheesecake, known to be heard several times a day declaring, "JUST PEACHY!" Advocate for domestic violence awareness; member of Sexual Violence Task Force of Tampa Bay Speakers Bureau; spokesperson for American Heart Association; motivational and inspirational speaker; Author of ORANGE BLOSSOM WISHES: Child Molested, Woman Abused - Her Victorious Journey to Freedom (Carolyn's memoirs), she will be featured on the ABC Action News (WFTS Tampa) Emmy award winning primetime special "Taking Action Against Domestic Violence" scheduled to air Friday, October 14, 2011 at 8:00 p.m.



  1. More than half of the victims report something like being afraid of sexual contact, but not actually experiencing any. The actual testimony of McQueary, when he testified, didn’t actually say that he had witnessed any explicit contact.

    It does seem that about half of the accusations are the result of hysteria, and I don’t know about the rest but it is a possibility in my opinion.

    Posted by Tom Bryznynski | January 1, 2012, 7:18 pm
    • Tom, Thanks for your input. I always believe in at least TRYING to see the various aspects of such reports. Your comment is appreciated. I know I WAS a victim of molestation, and while it danced all over the fringes of penetration, that is the one thing that never happened. Even so, I know I was a victim, as were multiple other girls in my family’s generation. And each of them “came out” with their dark, dirty secret only after my book was released and they realized they were not “the only one.” However, to validate your statement, I know hysteria can sometimes enter into such as the Sanduski case.

      Posted by Carolyn S. Hennecy | January 2, 2012, 8:48 am

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December 2011

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