To all the men who have been too ashamed to come forward and get help:
- We believe you.
- It's not your fault.
- You are not alone.
- Help is available.
Here is a national hotline number for Adults Molested As Children United (AMACU): 1-408-453-7616 and for The National Sexual Assault Online Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (which will connect you with a local agency), or use their online hotline through the Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network (RAINN).
Leonard's autobiography, where he first disclosed that he is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, is called The Big Fight: My Life In and Out of the Ring.
Let's begin with just a small section of an article from The Philadelphia Inquirer.
October 31, 2012 | By Don Sapatkin, Inquirer Staff Writer
Boxer Sugar Ray Leonard speaks with reporters after his speech on being an adolescent… (RALPH WILSON / Associated…)
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - Sugar Ray Leonard still hasn't told his parents or his 11-year-old son, and Monday was just the second time that he spoke publicly about being sexually abused as an adolescent. He had not written a speech, and he momentarily grasped for words.
During a 30-minute talk before a room full of experts and advocates, however, the boxing legend moved quickly from uncertainty to clarity - "I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse" - and then a declaration that surprised even organizers of the Pennsylvania State University conference.
"I'm going to be the poster child. I'm going to speak up. And speak out," he said.
* * * * *Here is a longer article from The Huffington Post (via Reuters) that focuses entirely on Leonard's comments.
By Mark Shade
STATE COLLEGE, Pa., Oct 29 (Reuters) - Boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard recounted his own sexual abuse by coaches he trusted, telling a Penn State audience on Monday he hoped to encourage other victims to report abuse to police.
Leonard spoke at a sold-out conference on child sex abuse hosted by Penn State weeks after former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, 68, was sentenced to prison for 30 to 60 years for sexually assaulting 10 boys he befriended through his charity for at-risk youth.
Leonard, 56, who retired after winning world boxing titles in five different weight classes, said as a youth he was sexually assaulted by men he trusted as his boxing coaches.
"Trust is a very sacred thing, especially for young people, kids, or a young boxer, so I trusted these people, these individuals who impacted my life," said Leonard said. "They told me everything I wanted to hear, and more."
The former champion said he used drugs and alcohol to "numb" his shame of being a victim of child sexual abuse.
"I beat myself up for years," said Leonard as the two-day conference got underway with Hurricane Sandy quickly approaching Pennsylvania.
Now Leonard said he wants to step into the spotlight as a leader in the fight against child sex abuse in the hopes it will help other victims find the courage to report crimes to police.
"I'm going to be the poster child. I don't care," Leonard said to applause.
"I will be that leader. I will stand right there and say, 'Yes, something must be done now. Not later, now,'" Leonard said.
Without mentioning Sandusky by name, Penn State President Rodney Erickson told the audience in opening remarks that he hoped the silver lining of the abuse scandal is that more victims will come forward rather than keep the secret to themselves.
"I hope that even more survivors will take their first steps towards recovery with the confidence that their family, friends and community will believe and support them," Erickson said.
Erickson took office after Penn State's president, Graham Spanier, and legendary football coach Joe Paterno, who has since died, were fired in the wake of Sandusky's arrest last November. An independent report by former FBI chief Louis Freeh concluded that four former university officials - Spanier, Paterno, vice president Gary Schultz and athletic director Tim Curley - were alerted to Sandusky's abuse but did nothing to stop it or report it to authorities.
Since Sandusky's sentencing, The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, or RAINN, says the volume of calls to its sexual assault hotline has increased 47 percent. (Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Sandra Maler)
* * * * *
This long story from the mentions Leonard at the beginning but then goes into facts and figures about abuse - not a bad tactic. Readers will look at the article because of Leonard's name recognition, then they will learn some things they may not have known.
Boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard says it was trust that made him susceptible to sexual abuse by men in his life, a trauma that he kept hidden for years.
Those separate assaults by a coach and by another man as he trained for the Olympics was something he didn't speak about for years, turning instead to alcohol use.
"There was no manual. There was no pamphlet," Mr. Leonard said as Penn State University's Child Sexual Abuse Conference began Monday. "I never heard anyone talk about this. So to me it only happened to me. I was the only one who was victimized by abuse, sexual child abuse."
He now has been sober for six years and wrote about what happened to him in an autobiography. But he said Monday that when accusers came out against Jerry Sandusky, he cried as he thought about what they endured.
His message to victims and those close to them is to maintain a support system that lets children know it's OK to talk to others about what happened to them.
"The killer is silence," he said. "When you're silent, that eats your insides, it tears at your heart. … It's such a toxin, such a poison. It will never go away until you find it in your heart to speak up and speak out against it, or about it."
His story was among those shared as the two-day conference got under way in State College, where child-abuse experts and survivors offered their perspectives on how better to prevent abuse and help victims move forward.
The conference is part of the university's ongoing response to last year's criminal charges against former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky and two Penn State administrators.
Sandusky, 68, was convicted on 45 counts related to sexually abusing young boys he met through his nonprofit organization The Second Mile, a charity for at-risk youth. He was sentenced to at least 30 years in state prison. The two school administrators were charged with perjury and failing to report abuse and are scheduled to stand trial in January.
"Child abuse is a tragedy for children, for families and society," Penn State president Rodney Erickson told the more than 400 attendees. "And the time to step up the effort to stop it is now."
Much of Monday's session focused on the research that has been done on child sexual abuse and prevention strategies.
University of New Hampshire researcher David Finkelhor said efforts to boost public discussion of abuse have reached "a tremendous milestone," but said clear statistics on the issue are still lacking.
About 68,000 cases were substantiated by child protection agencies during 2010, he said, contrasting it with a federal study in 2006 projecting that 180,000 cases were reported to community professionals that year and another estimating that 1.6 million abuse incidents involving juveniles occurred last year.
"For the purposes of understanding and tracking, we really could do a whole lot better," Mr. Finkelhor said.
He also said communities like Penn State are not alone in dealing with incidents that can affect many more people than just victims and perpetrators.
"Sexual abuse does a lot of collateral damage that often goes unrecognized beyond the harm to the direct victims and their families," Mr. Finkelhor said. "I think it's not uncommon in the wake of sexual abuse for whole communities to lose their sense of trust and comfort and sense of ordinariness."
Looking forward, Keith Kaufman of Portland State University said prevention could be improved by finding creative ways to reach parents, encouraging school policies that foster positive relationships, and boosting research on both victimization and offender prevention.
While campus classes shut down early Monday as Hurricane Sandy barreled toward Pennsylvania, the conference is expected to continue today with some sessions being live-streamed at protectchildren.psu.edu.
Among the scheduled speakers is Elizabeth Smart, who was kidnapped and sexually assaulted as a child.