Breaking a three-year silence, Jerry Sandusky's adopted son Matthew spoke to Oprah about the sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of his father, a man that Matthew and many others once viewed as a hero. Though he originally stood by the former Penn State assistant football coach during a grand jury investigation, Matthew came forward to police halfway through Sandusky's subsequent criminal trial in 2012. It was a pivotal moment not just for the now-married father of four, but also for the case: Because of Matthew's damaging revelations, Sandusky decided not to testify on his own behalf.
Coming forward back then and risking attacks on his wife and children was not an easy decision, as Matthew tells Oprah. Even now, he wonders if it may have been better to stay silent.
"I can handle people attacking me. I handled the abuse. I can take it. [But] my wife is an innocent. My children, they're innocent," he says through tears. "Absolutely, the simpler answer would have been for me to keep it, for me to deal with it on my own. To never tell anybody."
But he didn't keep Sandusky's secret. And now, Matthew shares his story and the sexual abuse he endured for years. Below are seven searing details he revealed to Oprah on Thursday night.
Matthew still remembers the first moment Sandusky made him feel uncomfortable.
"When he picked me up for [a] football game for the first time, he would just reach over and his hand would be on your knee… Where I came from, you didn't even touch each other. You didn't even hug… So a person putting their hand on my knee, especially a grown man who has no relation to me, was awkward and weird. But I thought maybe that's just the way that his family was."
Sandusky tried to mask his inappropriate touching with roughhousing.
"He just progressed through going up my leg at summer camps. Being in your shorts. Throwing you, grabbing on your genitals as he throws you... After we had played racquetball we had to take a shower... During those times is when a lot of the sexual abuse really happened."
Sandusky followed a "bedtime ritual" during Matthew's overnight visits in the home.
"You would always just be in your underwear or shorts to sleep. And then from there, he would go to tickling you. He would go to blowing on your belly. He would go to pulling you off the bed and rolling onto the floor with you and kind of wrestling around. As it progresses, it becomes more sexual in nature. He goes from blowing on your stomach or chest, he moves further south until he's in your inner thighs. And then he moves up to your genital area. And as you go further with that, then it's not blowing anymore. Then it's... it's oral sex."
Matthew tried to use logic to explain away Sandusky's behavior.
"In my mind, the only thing that I could tell myself was that he was gay. That's the only thing that I could tell myself, and I wanted him off of me."
Sandusky used manipulation tactics to keep Matthew silent, even after Matthew's suicide attempt at age 17.
"The manipulation, the control, the hand on the leg anytime I was in the car, him pulling me off to a room anytime I was at the house, he would always pull me into a separate room to speak alone. Those were the times when he's reinforcing. He's reinforcing and checking in with me to make sure that I'm not speaking."
Matthew believes Sandusky convinced himself he was acting out of love.
"I think that he believed the things that he was doing to us, that was love to him. That was him taking care of us. That was him being there for us when no other person would have been. I truly believe that he believed that he cared and that he was loving us."
He is one of the victims to receive part of Penn State's $59.7 million payout, but Matthew says he did not come forward for monetary reasons.
"I took it really personally at first that that's an attack on me that I would do this for the money… I didn't even want to file a claim against Penn State. I didn't want to do those things."