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Matthew Sandusky Advocates For Empowerment To Prevent Sexual Assault

Matthew Sandusky
Erin Mairose

Matthew Sandusky is an advocate and survivor of childhood sexual abuse. Between the ages of eight and 17, he suffered abuse at the hands of his adopted father Jerry Sandusky. The former Penn State football coach was convicted in 2011 on rape and abuse charges.

Matthew Sandusky was the keynote speaker at a child sexual assault conference in Sioux Falls August 18th.   He says community members need to become figures of empowerment to prevent childhood sexual assault.

He says his mission is to help sexual abuse victims find justice, healing and support.

“In 2011-2012 when the trial came and I heard a young man speak, it was in that moment that I realized I was not the only one that this man had done this too. It was in that moment that I was empowered to speak my truth and disclose to the police. It look me a long time, many years of soul searching looking at myself and trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. It all culminated in that moment as I stood before a mirror and decided I would disclose,” says Sandusky.

After reporting his abuse, Sandusky started the organization Peaceful Hearts Foundation.  The nonprofit works to improve the availability and quality of resources for abuse victims and family members. He says almost 93 percent of all childhood sexual assault is perpetrated by someone the child already knows and trusts.

Randy Seiler is the United States Attorney for the district of South Dakota. He says prosecuting abusers is difficult because success in abuse cases often depends on young children being empowered to seek justice.

“When children testify, this means opening up and talking about embarrassing, difficult experiences. A very hard thing for any of us to do, but especially for those who are young, without family support, and traumatized,” says Seiler.

Seiler says in South Dakota, 4,000 children are impacted by sexual abuse each year. 

This is the third conference on justice and safety issues hosted by the U.S Attorney’s Office, the Children’s Home Society and Avera.