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Patty Kleban: Jerry Sandusky, Pedophilia Most at Fault for Penn State Scandal

by on July 16, 2012 6:00 AM

With the release of the Freeh report last week, the public outrage both in and outside of Happy Valley reached a new level of vitriol.

It seems that everyone is pointing the finger at someone. From rumors about an NCAA death penalty for the football team to cries to tear down the Paterno statue, people are directing their anger in every direction.

Have we forgotten about Jerry Sandusky?

There is no question that if those who were in charge are found to be guilty of a cover-up of the abuse of children, there should be consequences. If that alleged cover-up resulted in Sandusky being able to hurt more children, there has to be accountability. But, in the cries for justice, it is important to remember that convicted pedophile Jerry Sandusky is ultimately at fault.

What is a pedophile?

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychological Disorders (DSM), a pedophile is a person who has “sexually arousing fantasies, behaviors or urges that involve some kind of sexual activity with a prepubescent child (age 13 or younger) for six months or more, and that the subject has acted on these urges or suffers from distress as a result of having these feelings.”

Pedophilia, considered to be a deviant sexual disorder, differs from the crime of sexual abuse in that not all of those who have inappropriate urges actually act on them. Additionally, not all of those who sexually abuse children meet the criteria for pedophilia (e.g. substance abuse may cause someone to abuse a child but not meet the criteria for pedophilia).

Experts differentiate between exclusive pedophilia in which the individual is only aroused by children and has never had successful relationships with same age partners and non-exclusive pedophilia in which the individual may also be aroused by adults but who is or has become attracted to children.

Patterns related to incest versus abuse of children outside of the family also suggest differences between offenders. Although a greater percentage of pedophiles select same-sex victims, empirical data does not support the theory that homosexuals are at greater risk of molesting children than heterosexuals. In fact, the research suggests that for many pedophiles, it is age rather than gender that attracts them.

Pedophilia is more frequently found in males. Studies have found that pedophiles frequently demonstrate other social and psychiatric issues such as low self-esteem, immature personality, cognitive distortions and substance abuse. Pedophiles are generally observed to have impaired interpersonal relationships and are often introverts although there is suggestion that the awareness that their sexual preferences are deviant may result in social withdrawal.

Studies indicate that pedophilia has been linked to, among other physiological characteristics, lower IQ, a history of head trauma, low testosterone, and even variants in brain structure (via MRI). There has been some support for genetic patterns of pedophilia (i.e. does it run in families). The reports of psychiatric treatment during pregnancy for mothers of pedophiles is higher than for non-pedophiles.

The most overwhelming variable in the study of pedophilia has been the link between victimization and child sex abuse. According to research, the majority of those who are sexually abused as children do not go on to abuse others. However, almost all who do abuse were victimized as children themselves. Ironically, abusers often select children of the same gender-same age as they were when first victimized.

So what does a pedophile look like? It isn’t limited to the creepy guy in the trench coat or the guy in the van offering candy to kids at a playground. A pedophile can be just about anybody.

Jerry Sandusky is a case study in the double life of a pedophile. Those around him apparently didn’t know his propensity toward children. He was seemingly able to maintain relationships, a decades-long career and a long-term marriage. By all accounts, he was respected and admired by those who knew him. He was reportedly playful, friendly and drawn to “help” children.

It is that double life that makes these so-called “good guys” hard to catch. The double life of the pedophile plants the seed of doubt when others see troubling behaviors. The accused distorts and misrepresents facts when confronted. Pedophiles are masters of manipulation of both their victims and others around them. Like other pedophiles, Sandusky counted on his family, his friends, co-workers and the authorities to miss the warning signs.

Could others have intervened? Maybe. Probably. Definitely. But when all is said and done, it is Sandusky who is responsible for these crimes against the children.

I read all 267 pages of the Freeh Report and came away with a deep sadness. The report raises as many questions as it answers, but it appears that there were many opportunities for people to see the trees in the forest. With the benefit of hindsight, if someone had taken a risk, stepped forward or made a right turn instead of a left, this sordid story could have had a different outcome.

Anger. Sadness. A demand for accountability. These are appropriate reactions to a dark time for our community and for the children at the heart of this tragedy. Others may pay for their role and their bad decisions in this mess but it is ultimately Jerry Sandusky who is to blame.

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Patty Kleban is an instructor at Penn State, mother of three and a community volunteer. She is a Penn State Alumna. Readers of State College Magazine voted her Best Writer of 2010 and 2012. She and her family live in Patton Township. Her views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State.
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