For the past four years, since he first came forward to say that former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky had sexually abused him, he’s been known as Victim Number 1.
But now, the young man who was a key witness in Sandusky’s trial is ready to share his name, the horror of the abuse he suffered and how he found the courage to speak out.
Aaron Fisher, 18, has written a book, Silent No More: Victim 1’s Fight for Justice Against Jerry Sandusky, with his psychologist, Mike Gillum, and his mother, Dawn Daniels, to be published on Oct. 23 by Random House.
“Saying sexual abuse has happened was hard,” says Fisher in an exclusive interview with PEOPLE, on newsstands next week. “But I wanted to help people see that it is better to come forward and tell somebody than to be silent.”
It took Fisher – who says he was abused by Sandusky from the ages of 12 to 15 – three years before he found the courage to tell his mother and officials at his high school. By speaking out, he helped launch the investigation, which eventually led Sandusky to be convicted on 45 counts of sexual abuse. On Oct. 9, Sandusky was sentenced to 30-60 years in prison.
A New Beginning
After the sentencing, Fisher spoke to the other Sandusky victims and their families who had assembled in a private room and said he was no longer angry at them for not coming forward earlier, which might have spared him and others from Sandusky’s abuse.
“I said, ‘I know what you guys went through,’ ” he tells PEOPLE. “I got some hugs and some handshakes and there were tears.” It was a huge step. As Gillum, who has been working with Fisher since 2008, notes, “We had a very long battle to see justice done.”
For Fisher, who is planning to study criminal justice in college next year, going public is the beginning of a new chapter in his life, one he is eager to start. “I’m happy it’s over,” he says.
Fisher offers this advice to other victims of abuse: “Make sure you don’t give up on doing the right thing, because for every time you stay quiet, there’s the person who did something to you, doing it to somebody else. Instead of being a victim, you can be a hero.”
For an excerpt from Silent No More: Victim 1’s Fight for Justice Against Jerry Sandusky and an interview with Aaron Fisher, pick up next week’s PEOPLE