Sunday, June 24, 2012

Jerry Sandusky and his Adopted Son

Jerry Sandusky is guilty, will likely spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Only a few days ago Sandusky's wife, Dorothy (Dottie) testified that she heard nothing, saw no reason to believe that her mate had been having sex with children in her basement. She apparently knew not to go down to do the laundry.

She's the interesting patient, to me, as an example of dysfunctional loyalty.  Families are so powerful.  It can't be easy being Mrs. Sandusky, never was, that's for sure.  This had to have been her worst nightmare.

It's amazing that some families stick together, though, even as it becomes apparent that a member has done something monstrous, appalling. Regarding Sandusky, even the word evil appliesaccording to Shana Stamm (27), a young woman who remembers hearing his motivational speeches at her elementary school as a child.

He was there to raise money for his charity, The Second Mile. Sandusky set up the children's charity, now we have to assume, to choose from any number of vulnerable, disadvantaged youngsters. A pedophile's dream.  He adopted six of them.

He is guilty of 45 counts of sexual abuse. Eight victims testified against him, none of them his adopted sons.  They told stories like Mr. Weaver's:
Travis Weaver . .(is) suing Jerry Sandusky, (and) told NBC's "Rock Center with Brian Williams" that Sandusky abused him more than 100 times over four years starting in 1992, when he was 10.
Story, after story, after story, after story, after story.  All while one of Sandusky's adopted sons, Matt, looked on at the trial as if he were his father's loyal supporter.

And then:
after a week of tearful, gruesome accounts by eight men that they had been abused as boys by Jerry Sandusky, the former football assistant coach at Penn State, Matt Sandusky . . . offered to testify that he himself had been abused by his father. . .
Matt's biological mother, Debra Long, has come forward to say that she suspected, many years ago, that something was wrong in the Sandusky home, that Matt might be in trouble. Her reports to authorities fell on deaf ears.  She regrets not pushing it, thinks she may have spared her son and subsequent victims so much pain.

Perhaps Jerry Sandusky could have been stopped, even put behind bars, back then.

To bring the story home:

A young woman recently tells me that she is getting a new job.

She has a school teaching transfer from a school in a good neighborhood, with a difficult administration, to a school in a bad neighborhood, with a friendlier administration. She's excited about the change, but worried that she will see many young victims of child abuse.

That goes with the territory, working with kids, but she's afraid to report (teachers are mandated reporters).  She's afraid of the repercussions, revenge at the hands of angry, psychopathic (or almost psychopathic) parents who are likely to get that knock on the door from protective services.

Oh, I remember making those calls, I say, reminiscing, seeing leg bruises the size of baseball bats because they were inflicted by baseball bats.  And that was in a nice, middle-class neighborhood.

I tell her that (a) the statistics on child abuse cross class lines, although there is likely to be more street violence where she's going;

(b) her calls to the Department of Child and Family Services could save lives;

and (c) as we've all come to find in the case of Jerry Sandusky, child sexual abuse and pedophilia are everywhere, neighborhood doesn't matter.  You can take little boys out of their disadvantaged neighborhoods and make them victims of predators who work in America's very best schools.

She'll tell, I'm sure, when she has her suspicions.  She'll make those calls or have her principal make them for her.  And my guess is that the social worker from her state's protective services department will be listening, and wondering: Is the family covering for a terrible perpetrator?  Is there more here than meets the eye?  And maybe, just because of Sandusky, the team will do a very thorough investigation, complete with follow up.

Something positive has to come out of this.



Laura said...

I'd love to hear more of your thoughts about Mrs Sandusky.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, me too. It's something I have always wondered about. And it's personal in my case.

therapydoc said...

Sure, but with so little information, it's all conjecture. Anyone else care to try first?

Judith said...

I think this is why I feel betrayed by my father, who not only enabled my mother's behavior but pushed me to sacrifice myself for her whims as well.

The feeling is that I was cheated by getting a crappy mother, but I was abandoned by my father. He was the one making terrible choices. I'm not sure my mother had many choices to make given her deep narcissism.

Good post. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

OK. I suppose it is difficult for her to admit even to herself that it was going on because of what it meant about her, about her choices, and mainly about what she would have to do about it. What she would have to give up. And of course, who knows what her background includes. Unlikely in my experience that whole people find and attach themselves to broken people.

Tundra Woman said...

Great post. Thanks for mentioning "neighborhood doesn't matter." I grew up in a very affluent home and unfortunately in the '50's and '60's no one would believe the abuse that occurred behind the doors of "THOSE homes."
Wanna bet?

therapydoc said...

Thanks, there's so much to talk about on this one. And we will. I'm thinking quick and dirty, however, that it's about not wanting the sole support in jail. Selfish? Sure. But there's more to it, attachment, love, shame, and all that you've all said.
Not sure how to do the html, but here's a link about that.

porcini66 said...

I also think that it is the very essence of denial. Something so incredibly taboo, in almost every society, must stay hidden. Sure, it's a reflection on her! But more than that, it's the absolute disgust and shame that she felt when even contemplating the possibility that it *might* be happening. Oh,'s just so much easier to tuck those little thoughts way down deep and not think about them...

I feel a tremendous amount of pity for her, as well as anger. Yes, she could have (should have) done something. But that would have meant thinking about "it" or, God forbid, DEALING with it and "it" is a horrible, horrible thing to think about.

I know first hand how awful it is. As a victim, I didn't know what to do with my own thoughts and feelings for years and years, so just pushed them away, pretended they didn't exist...I imagine that she did exactly the same thing.

Jodi Underhill,MEd.,LMHC said...

Dynamic blog entry. So many failed these victims. I have in my years of practice discovered many overzealous foster care workers who want to have another "adoption" on their record...don't consider the damage of not checking out the homes these kids are placed in.

Jodi H. Underhill, LMHC

The Writing Goddess said...

I've had several friends confide in me about sexual abuse in their family of origin. The scariest (and most hurtful) thing is how the family closes ranks around the ABUSER, not the victim.

You can make the argument that the abuser is sick and can't help him or herself. But what about everybody else?

I have a friend whose husband had 3 kids with his ex wife. When their daughter was 8-9 years old, she was violently beaten and raped by her stepfather. Stepfather was convicted and went to jail for several years. The girl's mother didn't deny what he did (too much physical evidence) but she visited the guy in jail, and welcomed him home when he got out. She forgave him, because after all he said he was sorry, and "that's the Christian thing to do." *gagging*

My friend basically became the girl's mother - they got custody, right after they rape, and spent many years in family counseling together. But even though the girl formed a strong bond with her new stepmom, the betrayal by her mother still hurts, probably always will.

Miss 312 said...

I'm a first year teacher in a Chicago suburb but I was a daycare teacher and was trained in Chicago. I know many teachers who have had to call. Sometimes, the calls only lead to a minor investigation which angers the teachers. We care deeply for our students and when we call we have very good reason to do so.

At daycare, we consult with our boss and usually make the call together. Sometimes, we call with the parents. These are usually young parents who just don't know what to do. Who are frustrated and don't know what to do when Sam is behaving like a typical two year old and yelling "NO!". They want help.

Sometimes, we call DCFS for neglect. This is when a parent forgets to pick up their child and it's been over an hour for the tenth time in a row. This is when we repeatedly see dried, caked on excrement in the child's diaper, or the child comes to school in the same smelly clothes, unwashed, unfed, and without a coat in freezing Chicago weather. We will call home when a child wets himself and sometimes the parents will say things like, "Just send him home at the end of school in his urine soaked clothes." I object!, I remind them that their preschooler needs a bath and we need clean clothes for him. They say sure, but it doesn't happen. Instead I contact my social worker and I send my assistant to the store with my own money to buy this child an outfit. Usually in this case the kid is not removed from the home, the parents go to some type of counseling, mom is treated for her major depression, and the kids become better taken care of. The kid is no longer stewing in feces, is clean, and warm in a winter coat. That's a great outcome.

Miss 312 said...

It's much harder when the family is covering for someone, when the kids are trained to lie, and the mom's are frightened. This I've witnessed more as a teacher. Perhaps it is because the kids I work with now are older and the family has been in the cycle of abuse for a longer time. Sam has grown up and has had more than a few smacks. In my school, I talk to the kid and write down what happened, take a picture of the wound, and then I call the social worker assigned to my room. She does pretty much the same thing. Then she calls DCFS. DCFS comes to school within the same week and interviews my student. They investigate at home and usually it ends there. The kid is not removed but DCFS has been notified. Too, sometimes this is when the family suddenly leaves. Sometimes, there is no notifying the school, no transfer of school records, and they just disappear. This scares me to death when this happens. I worry for Sally and Pete. I worry they won't go to a new school or that the new school will miss the red flags. I wish I could call the school and notify them of the data our school has collected so they're ready the next time Pete and Sally come in with a bruise.

Sometimes, the kids get removed from their home. In one case, the mom came to me in tears. She told me her child would not be in school and may not be coming back home. My administration told me that if the child was not living in district in her new home that they would not let him attend my preschool class. I wouldn't get to comfort the child, talk to him about no longer living with his parents, or be the person I was to that child. Luckily, his relatives lived in district and I was able to keep teaching the child as his parents learned parenting skills.

The preschoolers who have been sexually abused break my heart the most. They are truly broken and need so much. Their play is frightening because they say and do things to toys that show they are trying to process their trauma or they are catatonic. They sneak around the room trying to dissolve into the walls. If they are invisible, if they don't speak or move, perhaps they won't get hurt. It breaks my heart. Teachers are so important to these kids. We really are their stable protectors. When a kid like that gives you something when he has nothing and tells you "I love you teacher", that's the most amazing thing in the world. These kids don't love easily. Not in the healthy way. They'll talk to you in creepy sexual voices about where they're going to put what and say how they love you. That is not love. The love I'm talking about is when that kid with huge trust issues, with huge anger or fear finally realizes you are not like their abuser. You are not the same. That they are safe with you and that you will never hurt them, and that you love them in a healthy way. When they realize that, it's the most wonderful thing in the world.

Hug your Chicago teachers, especially the ones in high needs areas. Those south side teachers are my heroes. They see it just as much or more than I do. They are experienced mandated reporters. I work in a high needs area and abuse is a common problem in my district. Every teacher has a least one student who has or is being abused or neglected per year. We protect your kids and keep them safe when things go wrong. I think preschool teachers deal with it the most since it's the first time a kid comes to school. We know what to look for and we see the signs and act. We don't just teach your kids academics. We save your kids lives.