Sandusky Victim 1 Steps Out of Shadows, Says Justice Took Too Long
(NEW YORK) — He was known only as Victim 1 in one of the most infamous child sexual abuse cases in history. But this week, Aaron Fisher revealed his identity to the world and, in an exclusive interview with 20/20’s Chris Cuomo, told the story of those he said stood in his way as he struggled to bring now-convicted child predator Jerry Sandusky to justice: officials at his own high school.
“Here I am, beside my mom, crying, telling them and they don’t believe me,” he said in an interview with Cuomo airing on 20/20 Friday night at 10 p.m. ET. “I knew they wouldn’t.”
Fisher has detailed his struggle to have his allegations against Sandusky, formerly a revered Penn State University football coach, taken seriously in a new book, Silent No More: Victim 1’s Fight for Justice Against Jerry Sandusky, published on Friday.
He was 11 when he met Jerry Sandusky in the summer of 2005. Fisher was selected to attend a summer camp run by Sandusky’s charity organization for disadvantaged children, The Second Mile, on Penn State’s campus.
Fisher said Sandusky immediately took a special interest in him. He encouraged Fisher’s athletic interests, taking him to both college and pro sports events.
“We sat in box seats,” said Fisher. “He was just kind of like a giant stuffed teddy bear. He seemed like the all-natural father figure — something that most kids wished their dads did.”
Fisher came from a struggling family and didn’t have a father at home. Dawn Daniels, Fisher’s mother, recalled the times Sandusky took the boy away for the weekend to give her a break.
“Everybody knew who he was,” said Daniels. “He’s a great guy. Everybody, even my own father, said he does great things for kids.”
Sandusky’s reputation had preceded him and put Daniels at ease as far as allowing her son to spend so much time with Sandusky. But according to Fisher, Sandusky slowly turned from a “father figure” into something much darker.
“He’d put his hand on my leg while we were driving,” Fisher said. “My family never did that, so it was kind of weird.”
By the time Fisher was 12, Sandusky was sexually assaulting him. Fisher said fear, shame and confusion prevented him from seeking help and telling anyone about his tormentor.
“There were so many emotions and thoughts running through my head,” he said. “Being a kid, you never know what to do, and you don’t know who to tell because you don’t know who you can trust.”
Fisher said Sandusky began seeking him out at his own high school, Central Mountain High School in Lock Haven, Pa. Sandusky was a volunteer football coach there and would pull him out of class, with school officials’ blessing.
Daniels said the school never notified her about all of the classes her son missed because of Sandusky and Fisher said no teacher or administrator ever questioned Sandusky’s motives.
It grew to be too much and Fisher said he tried to do everything in his power to stay away from the ex-Penn State coach, sometimes hiding in school bathrooms rather to avoid meeting with Sandusky. But Sandusky only grew more aggressive, Fisher said.
By the time Fisher was 15, he reached a breaking point and finally summoned the courage to tell his mother and the school’s principal, Karen Probst, that Sandusky was sexually abusing him. But the mother and son say they were shocked by the principal’s response.
“They said that Jerry has a heart of gold and that he wouldn’t do those type of things,” Daniels said. “They tell me to go home and think about it.”
Daniels did not follow their advice. Instead she says she told Probst that she would be notifying Clinton County Children and Youth Services of the allegations directly.
Daniels and Fisher later learned that Central Mountain High School officials did call CYS, but they say the call only came after the mother and son left the principal’s office. School officials are legally mandated to report all allegations of child sex abuse and have said that the allegations were reported immediately.
For Fisher, the initial suggestion that those meant to protect him did not believe his story was crushing.
Clinton County CYS psychologist Michael Gillum was one of the first to handle Fisher’s case.
“It was obvious to me immediately that he was upset, that something had, in fact, happened to him,” Gillum told 20/20.
Gillum said he was shocked by the claim that Central Mountain’s principal, Probst, had told Fisher and Daniels to go home.
When confronted outside the school by 20/20, both Probst and football coach Steve Turchetta — who pulled Fisher out of his classes for meetings with Sandusky — declined to answer questions. In grand jury testimony, Turchetta said that he took kids out of class for those meetings even though he developed suspicions about the relationships.
Much to Fisher’s dismay, coming forward with the allegations was only the beginning of a long battle to bring Sandusky to justice.
Sandusky was interviewed by CYS, but he laughed off the allegations, painting Fisher as a troubled kid, Gillum said.
Meanwhile, the police made Fisher retell his story four times over the course of three years. He was forced to go before two grand juries. Yet still, the attorney general prosecuting the case said authorities needed more victims to charge Sandusky.
Finally, in 2011, there was a break in the case. Allegations surfaced from a Penn State coach, Mike McQueary, that he had witnessed Sandusky molesting a boy in a university locker room years earlier.
On Nov. 5, 2011, just before Fisher’s 18th birthday, Jerry Sandusky was arrested following an indictment by a grand jury on more than 40 counts of child sexual abuse. In June 2012, Sandusky was tried and convicted on 45 of 48 counts. He was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison, a virtual life sentence for the 68-year-old man.
“I wasn’t expecting it,” Fisher said, “I was kind of thinking that he’d get off scot-free with this.”
Though the conviction was a victory, Sandusky was not the only adult who Fisher felt betrayed his trust. Fisher still has questions for the teachers and administrators at his high school.
“It’s a fact that I lost a good portion of my childhood,” he said. “I endured heartaches and numerous amounts of people who didn’t believe me and walked away from me.”
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