How Do We Help Unhealthy Adults Who Abuse Children?

Until now, I have focused the majority of my research on the “who, what, when, why and how” of child molesters. Recently, I was reading Game Over, written by Bill Moushey and Bob Dvorchak, when I stumbled upon the chapter titled “Sandusky Speaks”. The entire chapter is an account of a series of interviews that Jerry Sandusky did shortly after he was arrested on November 5, 2011 for forty counts of abuse against eight children from 1994-2009 (Sandusky was later charged with an additional eight counts in December 2011). As I was reading through the chapter I began to ask myself why Sandusky whole-heartedly believed that he was completely innocent. Did he truly believe his own words? Did he really think that he could convince everyone (or anyone, for that matter) that he had not knowingly committed the crimes that he was arrested for?

Was Jerry Sandusky really that foolish?

Bob Costas, right, talks on the phone with Jerry Sandusky during this NBC interview on November 14,2011. To Costas’ left is Sandusky’s lawyer, Joseph Amendola.

Below read various highlights from a November 14, 2011 interview on NBC with host Bob Costas, Jerry Sandusky, and his lawyer, Joseph Amendola. It is important at this point to note that normally criminal defense lawyers do not render much information on their clients before trial, but Amendola wanted to direct a “public frontal assault” against the prosecutors and the accusers who brought the charges against Sandusky. Only minutes before the interview was slated to begin, Amendola revealed to Costas that some of the young men listed in the grand jury presentment would testify that Sandusky had not violated them. Then he surprisingly asked Costas if he would like to interview Jerry Sandusky. This all happened so close to airtime that NBC didn’t have much time to promote the interview.

Costas opens the interview bluntly:

“Mr. Sandusky, there’s a forty-count indictment. The Grand Jury report contains specific detail. There are multiple accusers, multiple eyewitnesses to various aspects of the abuse. A reasonable person says where there’s this much smoke, there must be plenty of fire. What do you say?”

Sandusky replied, also bluntly: “I say that I am innocent of those charges.”

Later, Costas asks: “Are you denying that you had any inappropriate sexual contact with any of these underage boys?”

Sandusky: “(After a bit of hesitation) I, yes, yes, I am.”

Of the 2002 incident from the shower of the Lasch Football Building at Penn State, Costas asks: “What did happen in the shower the night that Mike McQueary happened upon you and the young boy?”

Sandusky’s less than confident response was: “Okay, we-we were showering and-and horsing around. And he actually turned all the showers on and was-actually sliding-across the-floor. And we were-as I recall possibly like snapping a towel, horseplay.”

Later in the interview, Sandusky has denied all of the counts of abuse that Costas has brought up for conversation, so Costas pressed on and asked: “It seems that if all of these accusations are false, you are the unluckiest and most persecuted man that any of us has ever heard about.”

Sandusky laughed and said that these hadn’t been the best days of his life, “I don’t know what you want me to say.”

Sandusky took a break and Costas turned his attention to Amendola, asking (and challenging) him if he would ever allow his own children to be alone with Sandusky. Amendola answered without hesitation: “Absolutely. I believe in Jerry’s innocence.” Costas then asked Sandusky if Joe Paterno had ever spoken to him about the allegations regarding his behavior and Jerry said he [Paterno] never had.

Costas pressed Sandusky a bit harder, asking him about his involvement in the unfolding scandal, saying: “Do you feel guilty? Do you feel as if it’s your fault?”

Sandusky replied: “Guilty? No, I don’t think it’s my fault. I obviously played a part in this.” He then said: “… I-you know, I shouldn’t have showered with those kids. You know.”

When Costas flat out asked Sandusky if he was a pedophile Sandusky simply replied no. But, when Costas asked Sandusky if he was sexually attracted to young boys, to underage boys, Sandusky’s reply was: “Sexually attracted, you know, I enjoy young people. I love to be around them. But no, I’m not sexually attracted to young people.”

The interview ended and immediately the internet and social media blew up with people wondering why in the world Amendola would allow Sandusky to take and answer unprepared questions related to the allegations against him on national television. Consequently, the most puzzling part of the interview was why it took Sandusky so long to answer the question about sexually desiring young boys. When asked during a New York Times interview two weeks later why he did not quickly and directly answer the question, Sandusky responded: “I’m sitting there saying, ‘What in the world is this question?’ If I say, ‘No, I’m not attracted to boys,’ that’s not the truth, because I’m attracted to young people-boys, girls.” To which Amendola chimed in: “Yeah, but not sexually,”

I think the basis of me writing this piece and pointing out key parts of the NBC interview can be best summed by Marci Hamilton, CEO and Academic Director at CHILD USA, whom is also a lawyer and expert in child abuse cases:

“The beauty of this was the once he began talking about taking showers with children, anyone who listened would see he doesn’t get it, that’s he’s so deeply involved in the world of child abuse and his own narcissism that he has an inability to understand how his message plays out with healthy adults. It is very typical [of child predators].”

I have already uncovered that Jerry Sandusky liked himself a lot and thought very highly of his abilities; so being called a narcissist by Ms. Hamilton did not really surprise me. But, could that personality trait really have shaded his ability to recognize that his behavior towards children was unhealthy?

I began to ask myself another question: Is it possible, once identified, to help unhealthy adults and stop them from committing acts of crime against children before getting to extreme that the Jerry Sandusky case did? From my prior research, we already know how difficult it actually is to identify a child molester — both in terms of the general public and for the purpose of presenting charges in a criminal investigation. But, my hope is that the general public is becoming more educated than ever before in identifying potential child molesters. In a best case scenario, these individuals would be identified, and even if charges could not yet be done for whatever reason, they could still be mandated to some type of counseling to help their condition.

I think all of the cases that I have studied show a similar pattern: Because of how long investigations take to complete and then execute, the accused child molester has been given the opportunity to live their lives almost fully uninterrupted and, thus, almost always has the opportunity to keep committing crimes. How, as a society, do we find the middle-ground where we can continue to investigate and look for clues to strengthen the case, but also try and help the individuals who so badly need it, yet fail to recognize there is anything wrong with them in the first place?

I am not sure there is an easy answer to this or any of the questions I’ve presented today. I do hope to come up with solutions to examine in the future. I find it hard to believe I am the only person who has ever asked these questions before.

We can make our homes and communities safer for our children, but we are going to have to work for it, otherwise the child molesters will continue to outwork us and commit these horrible crimes.


Jerry Sandusky: A Profile Of One Of The World’s Most Infamous Pedophile

Jerry Sandusky’s booking photo after he failed to make $250,000 bail in December of 2011.

I doubt there are many people outside of State College, Pennsylvania, who knew Jerry Sandusky’s name before November 5, 2011. Yes, he helped “create” Linebacker U and was a part of both of Joe Paterno’s two National Championship football teams, but I would challenge anyone to name the current five best coordinators of any team at the college or pro football level. And I will take it to the next level: name coordinators who have been retired for more than a decade. The point is that no one gave a shit about Jerry Sandusky before November 2011 and I think that point rings even truer today.

I will spare you a long narrative on the life of Jerry Sandusky, and instead stick to nailing the “highlights” of his otherwise sad and disturbing life. Sandusky served as an assistant at Penn State from 1969-1999 where he then took an emeritus position after learning he would not be the next head coach. Paterno did not like Sandusky and the often openly argued. In 1977, Sandusky founded The Second Mile, which was a non-profit charity serving underprivileged and troubled youth in the state of Pennsylvania. After retirement from Penn State, he published an autobiography, ironically enough titled Touched: The Jerry Sandusky Story. He was described by many as a “lovable goofball”, often seen horsing around, made a lot of prank phone calls, and was always talking about the mega water balloon fights he orchestrated while in college.

Yeah, Jerry was a big deal.

Anyway, before we work our way towards Sandusky’s process as a pedophile, here is a little bit of insight into The Second Mile:

  • As mentioned prior, The Second Mile was created in 1977 with the help of Sandsuky’s wife, Dottie.
  • The foundation had a budget of millions of dollars and their programs reached tens of thousands of children.
  • Vulnerable children were located by outsourcing with child-care professionals.
  • In 1990, The Second Mile received one of President H.W. Bush’s Points of Light awards, which is hilariously not even listed anymore on the PoL history website. Isn’t it great how people try to pretend like things never even happened? Negligence and ignorance is exactly what allowed Jerry Sandusky to roam free for years!

The Second Mile foundation was an extremely important aspect in the grooming arc set up by Jerry Sandusky. Grooming is defined by psychologists as the process by which child molesters ingratiate themselves into communities they wish to exploit. In this case, what better community for Sandusky to exploit than his very own? For years, Sandusky was setting up a pipeline of young troubled boys and nobody thought twice about his behavior.

However, there were warning shots fired on more than one occasion. But like I said before, Sandusky, as do many pedophiles, had a process. It is this process that fools so many of us. It is the grooming process that covers up all of those warning signs and never allows for allegations to become anything more than isolated incidents.

If you want to read the gruesome details of many of Sandusky’s interactions with his victims, here is a link to the Grand Jury testimony.

Here is one story of how Sandusky got away with it.

In 1998, Sandusky invited an eleven-year-old boy he met though The Second Mile to a Penn State athletic facility. The two engaged in wrestling and a workout before they showered together. Now, a successful pedophile – I cannot believe there is even such a phrase – does not find his victims by mistake. They will “test the waters” sort of speak. For Sandusky, The Second Mile was a place that gave him easy access to vulnerable children.

Sandusky started with wrestling because he wanted to make physical touch seem normal to the young child. The shower was the next test. After the boy agreed to shower next to Sandusky, he then made his next move and bear hugged as each were naked. Sandusky wanted to see how the boy would react. The boy reacted by telling Sandusky that he felt it was weird.

No worries. Sandusky backed off. This was part of his process. He gave it a week before coming back to the boys’ home. Sandusky wanted to see if the boy was ready to spend time with him again, but instead Sandusky found the boy to be too risky of a “candidate”.

Here is the reason why: The boy’s mother confronted Sandusky and asked him if anything unusual had happened the last time he and her son were together. Sandusky beat around the bush before the mother told him it’d be best if he left her son alone. Sandusky then goes on to tell her things like I’m sorry and I wish I were dead. Sandusky was cleverly setting himself up to be the victim by reacting in a way where he seemed taken aback and ashamed. He understood he had gone too far and was trying to use his old “charm” to keep the mother from asking more questions or going to the police — although little did he know that detectives were in listening to the conversation the whole time.

You might say to yourself: Well, there you have it! Sandusky admitted he was doing inappropriate things with the boy. Why didn’t the police arrest him then? Because as I have mentioned before, prosecutors must gather evidence of sexual abuse. While Sandusky made an admission of wrong-doing on some level, it was by no means evidence of sexual abuse.

Pedophiles do not go for the homerun right away. The explore their options and feel things out — literally. The problem with this specific situation is that the prosecutors got involved too early. Again, you may be asking yourself: Why is it too early? Can it ever be too early when it comes to protecting children? Well, the simple answer is yes. But, as we can see, the vetting process for prosecutors does not line up with the grooming process of the pedophile. This is where the first major hurdle comes into play and is one of many reasons why it is not easy to identify pedophiles.

That specific allegation involving Sandusky was, sadly, too vague. Things get even more complicated when the boy tells his psychologist that he felt like the luckiest kid in the world to get to sit on the sidelines at Penn State football games. The boy’s mother began to question her own sense. Was she overreacting?

The psychologist who interview the young boy, Alycia Chambers, wrote a report on the case and gave it to the [Penn State] University Police Department and Child and Youth Services. According to her notes:

“Sandusky’s behavior met the definition of a ‘likely pedophile’s pattern of building trust and gradual introduction of physical touch, within a context of a ‘loving,’ ‘special’ relationship.’”

However, Jerry Lauro, disagreed. Lauro was the caseworker assigned to the incident by the Department of Public Welfare in Harrisburg and said:

“the incident fell into a ‘gray’ area concerning ‘boundary issues.’”

A final psychologist, John Seasock, declared:

“There seems to be no incident which could be termed as sexual abuse, nor did there appear to be any sequential pattern of logic and behavior which is usually consistent with adults who have difficulty with sexual abuse of children.”

Only one out of the three psychologists thought Sandusky was grooming this young boy and recognized his behavior for what it actually was. The other two psychologists seem to give concrete conclusions that Sandusky’s actions were either (i) falling into a “gray” area or (ii) that his behavior did not indicate at all that he was sexually abusing the child.

After the investigation was over, Gary Schultz, Penn State’s Senior Vice President for Business and Finance, e-mailed Graham Spanier, the University’s President, and Tim Curley, the school’s Athletic Director, and told them that the investigators were dropping the whole matter. Sandusky, Schultz wrote, “was a little emotional and expressed concern as to how this might have adversely affected the child.”

Jerry Sandusky: One

Everyone else involved: Zero

The Story Of How One Child Molester Got Away With It

I bet that is the scariest title to a post that you have ever seen.

There is this great article from The New Yorker that was written in September of 2012, almost a full year after Jerry Sandusky was arrested. Sandusky was a former defensive coordinator at Penn State and had run The Second Mile since 1977, which was a charity that helped at-risk kids. After his arrest, America was (once again) introduced to the world of pedophiles and all the ugliness that comes with them.

Malcolm Gladwell’s depiction of the mind of a pedophile is as much interesting as it is haunting. It was after reading this post from Gladwell that I really began to question my own sense of the situation involving Sandusky. I also began to question how the situation was being displayed by the media, up to that point.

I very quickly realized that there was plenty I did not know.

As I began reading Gladwell’s article I was immediately taken aback by the caution used by many of the people involved in the story of a young Canadian physical education teacher. The quick of the story: Three boys confessed to their parents that the man addressed as Jeffery Clay had touched them under their pants. What came next? Not much, except extreme caution from everyone, including a mother of one of the boys who said:

“We were all still trying to protect Mr. Clay’s reputation, and the possibility this was all blown up out of proportion and there was a mistake.”

Later, after learning of a previous complaint made against Clay, the families then took to the superintendent of their school district. Amazingly, he, too, advised caution, saying:

“If allegations do not clearly indicate sexual abuse, a gray area exists,”

As I was reading along I kept asking myself the same question: Why? I fully understood the initial intent of many people to be cautious when it came to declaring Clay to be a pedophile of some sort, but I couldn’t understand why, after multiple complaints from different children, he seemed to be treated with the same caution as he was whenever that first complaint came to light.

Furthermore, I was trying to understand why it mattered that the stories were all vague? Or that there was indiscretion? After all, these were young children who had somehow mustered up the courage to tell their parents that a man much older than them was touching them — at the very least — in inappropriate places.

Come on now! Think back to when you were a child. How hard was it to admit anything to your parents when you thought would get you in to some sort of trouble? The window you broke? The homework assignment you forgot to do and you had to have a parent signature the next day at school? The time you let your little brother get lost at the park? That same window you broke, again?! It was terrifying to tell our parents some of these things, which in comparison to molestation make them seem extremely silly.

Then I read the line that talked about protecting the image and “professional integrity” of the other teachers in Clay’s school district. I was enraged! But, I was hooked. Much like the more recent Jerry Sandusky saga has shown us, there really are two sides to a story — even the ones as disgusting and heartbreaking as these.

You could probably guess yourself that Clay kept his job after initial investigating was completed. It is at that point where the story gets really interesting.

After a new complaint surfaced, Clay, himself, resigned from his position and began to seek therapy for his behavior. I literally shook my head after writing that last line because the story should have ended right there. That is how ridiculous this story is about to get.

In a bizarre plot twist, after himself resigning and admitting he needed to seek professional help for his behavior, Clay somehow ends up getting the upper hand. The community was outraged when Clay resigned, and their feelings were only made stronger after prosecutors deemed the information they had on Clay was not enough to convict. Many teachers thought Clay was innocent. Clay’s glowing reputation alone was beginning to win him the hearts of an entire community and he then threatened to sue the parents of the three young children.

The case was completely dropped.

Clay was set free to roam and continue his behavior at the expense of countless young children, and later he even got his teaching certificate reactivated.

It is this specific story that brings light to the assumption that people of authority should be able to identify and catch predators. Clay reminds us that a pedophile:

“is someone adept not just at preying on children but at confusing, deceiving, and charming the adults responsible for those children.”

small-kids-play-vector-illustration_gj4cogd__lThat quote from Clay is exactly why I believe it is so important to educate ourselves when it comes to identifying predators and protecting children. Pedophiles make things so much more than only black-and-white. They are the very definition of why there is a “gray area” because, according to the law, simply touching children does not mean an individual is a pedophile. For that specific reason it is extremely difficult to gather evidence of sexual abuse.

Pedophiles, in short, seem harmless. They endear themselves to countless individuals. If it was so easy to identify a pedophile, don’t you think somebody would have let us all in on the secret by now?

The sad truth is that there is no secret, and it is extremely difficult to identify these monsters. But it is possible, although Gladwell reminds us that:

“The pedophile is often imagined as the disheveled old man baldly offering candy to preschoolers. But the truth is that most of the time we have no clue what we are dealing with.”

Gladwell’s post cites numerous pedophiles and their processes, proving that this is more of a deranged epidemic than it is controlled with a few random instances.  When it comes to identifying pedophiles we need to be more aware of warning signs, and less accepting of protecting ourselves at the expense of children. We do need to continue to use caution when declaring a person of being a pedophile because livelihoods are at stake, but we must use less caution when we get multiple complaints. If we use that approach we may begin to really zero in on a terrible situation that is staring us right in the face.

No matter how hard this is to do. No matter how hard this is to talk about. No matter how long it takes to get it right. We need to come up with a better and more effective system for identifying child molesters.

That is why we are here. To become better educated and because we care about protecting children.