It may be a routine legal procedure, but as many as 10 very personal dramas could play out Tuesday when the young men Jerry Sandusky is charged with sexually abusing share the courtroom with him during a preliminary hearing.

The charges against the former Pennsylvania State University assistant football coach cover alleged incidents that date to the 1990s. His accusers are now in their late teens and 20s.

This will be the first time since his initial arrest last month - perhaps since the incidents themselves - that the alleged victims and Sandusky will see each other in person.

It's impossible to predict how they will react.

"I do think it's important to recognize that everybody goes in with their individual subjective experience and history that makes a tremendous difference in their reaction," said Steven Berkowitz, associate professor of clinical psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania and director of the Penn Center for Youth and Family Trauma Response and Recovery.

Speaking generally, Berkowitz said, abuse victims can feel "empowered and positive that they're being heard."

Research has shown that "testimony therapy" can relieve some victims of symptoms they have suffered since the trauma. Symptoms include "intrusive thoughts about the events," difficulty in forming lasting relationships, or alcohol and substance addiction, he said.

At the other extreme, just seeing the accused perpetrator can worsen symptoms, while others just feel angry at the sight of their abuser.

Susan Cornbluth, a clinical psychologist who teaches at Temple University and studies foster and abused children, said even those victims who have aged into adulthood can be overwhelmed with panic and experience sweaty palms and a racing heart, or might mentally separate themselves from the court proceeding. They might not be able to go through with testifying.

Frank Cervone, executive director of the nonprofit Support Center for Child Advocates, recalled trial experiences for about 30 cases in which children - younger than the accusers who will face Sandusky - froze on the witness stand when facing the person they said hurt them, though they had provided credible details of incidents in interviews with their therapist or lawyer.

Older victims are better able to handle a court proceeding, Berkowitz said, and understand explanations of what will happen in a trial.

The passage of time can be helpful "to most of these folks," he said, "particularly if they have not had traumatic events in their lives and have had some successes."

Contact staff writer Carolyn Davis at 215-854-4214, cdavis@phillynews.com, or @carolyntweets on Twitter.