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Sandusky a classic two-sided story line that players cannot fathom

‘If … proven, he fooled us all,’ ex-linebacker says

- The Washington Times - Monday, December 12, 2011

Now the long face is notorious: an easy half-smile leading to wide, slightly befuddled eyes and five deep creases on Jerry Sandusky's forehead, framed by cheeks thicker than they used to be.

The face used to be a central Pennsylvania icon, belonging to the man who hawked 144-page copies of "Developing Linebackers the Penn State Way" from his station wagon in 1981 to raise money to help troubled children at his Second Mile foundation. Described as sincere and able to blend into any social situation, Mr. Sandusky attends St. Paul's United Methodist Church in State College, Pa., and spent 23 years as the mastermind of Penn State's defense.

Give Mr. Sandusky two weeks to prepare, former All-America defensive lineman Tim Johnson said, and he would rip apart any offense in the country.

But 52 counts of child sexual abuse involving 10 boys ripped apart Mr. Sandusky's apparent double life. Those who knew him struggle to reconcile the 67-year-old man whose letters to newspapers preached wholesome values with the predator described in 28 graphic pages of two grand jury presentments.

"If these allegations are proven, he fooled us all," said Andre Collins, an All-America linebacker at Penn State in 1989 who played for the Redskins. "I had no inclination of anything like this."

"He was very, very normal," said Mr. Johnson, a member of Penn State's 1986 national championship team and also a former Redskin. "Not one hint of smoke. Not one."

Psychologists who treat sexual offenders and abuse victims see something different in the accusations against Mr. Sandusky entering today's preliminary hearing in Bellefonte, Pa.

While Ki-Jana Carter, the former Penn State running back picked first overall in the 1995 NFL draft, couldn't link Mr. Sandusky to abuse in his "wildest dreams," David Lisak is struck by the case's classic story line.

"This is a pattern we see over and over," said Mr. Lisak, an associate psychology professor at the University of Massachusetts who helped found the 1in6 organization that works with male victims of sexual abuse. "A sexual predator will really devote an incredible amount of their life and their life energy to securing victims and grooming those victims. ... My guess is that's just the tip of the iceberg."

A 'complex' man

The parents of six adopted children, Mr. Sandusky and his wife, Dottie, reside in a two-story house less than a mile from an elementary school. Newspaper stories over the past three decades rave about his "magnetism" with children and outgoing, childlike personality. At youth football camps, he fronted a musical group called the Great Pretenders. Mr. Sandusky's 2001 autobiography is titled "Touched."

A 1962 graduate of Washington (Pa.) High School, Mr. Sandusky's parents, Art and Evie, founded the town's Brownson House youth recreation center.

Repeatedly over the years, Mr. Sandusky described himself as "complex" without explaining what, exactly, that meant.

"I guess I'm a bit of a complex person sometimes," Mr. Sandusky told the Washington, Pa., Observer-Reporter after turning down Temple's head football job in 1988.

While there isn't a unified profile for pedophiles, studies estimate that 95 percent are known to the victim. They don't usually come across as creepy or violent. They don't look like monsters. They're kind, charming. They ingratiate themselves into families. And they become expert at concealing their sexual interest in children.

Fantasizing about sexual activity with children is the first step, said Judith Becker, a University of Arizona psychologist who has evaluated more than 1,000 men convicted of sexual offenses against children.

"They're the same as us in the sense they're discovering, rather than deciding, the nature of their sexuality," said Dr. Fred Berlin, director of the Sexual Behavior Consultation Unit at Johns Hopkins University. "It's not someone's fault in any way they have pedophilia. I can't imagine anyone would choose to be that way. But it's their responsibility to do something about it."

Incremental steps toward abuse can follow. They work to access children, often grooming families as well as potential victims. Boys without father figures or mentors are particularly vulnerable, Ms. Becker said, lured by the desire to spend time with older men.

A well-worn pattern

Victim 9's story, detailed in the second grand jury presentment, follows a well-worn pattern. Like others, he met Mr. Sandusky through Second Mile when he was 11 or 12 years old. Chats about hobbies followed, then Mr. Sandusky requested his phone number, chatted with his mother, brought him to Penn State football games and gave him gifts and money. Soon, Mr. Sandusky picked up Victim 9 from school and hosted him for overnight stays.

Pedophiles test boundaries. Not every child is a target. Sex offenders told Ms. Becker that they didn't pursue some children because they were assertive or they feared the child would tell.

At first, Victim 9 thought Mr. Sandusky's "very affectionate" and "touchy-feely" cuddling, hugging, rubbing and tickling were normal. After all, Mr. Sandusky attended church each week, usually bringing along a pile of Second Mile children. Second Mile's name was inspired by a Bible verse, Matthew 5:41.

But, according to the presentment, Mr. Sandusky's contact with Victim 9 escalated to repeated oral sex and 16 instances of attempted anal penetration.

Pedophiles may tell themselves they're not doing harm or the victim likes it, said Maia Christopher, director of the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers. Self-deceptive thoughts are a hallmark, said Dr. Berlin, oftentimes mixed with genuine care for children and an inability to understand the consequences of their behavior.

On one such occasion, Victim 9 testified, he said he screamed for help in Mr. Sandusky's basement knowing that Mrs. Sandusky was upstairs. No help arrived.

"They know how to identify vulnerable individuals and exploit those vulnerabilities," Mr. Lisak said of pedophiles. Victims wonder, "Did the fact I didn't protest mean I wasn't a real man or I was weak? They find it very difficult to remember they were young kids or teenagers. These people had incredible control over them. ... They groomed you to trust them. After that, how do you trust anybody?"

In an extensive statement last week, Mrs. Sandusky denied the claim that a boy called for help from the basement. Mr. Sandusky maintained his innocence in interviews with NBC and the New York Times.

That didn't stop the ex-wife of Mr. Sandusky's son, Matt, from being granted a restraining order preventing her three children from unsupervised or overnight visits at Mr. Sandusky's home. Court filings said Mrs. Sandusky called the ex-wife, Jill Jones, and insisted that the children were safe around Mr. Sandusky.

Actions get bolder

Some of Mr. Sandusky's reported sexual encounters with children were said to occur in quasi-public settings, a telling sign to those studying the field. The grand jury presentments are filled with the details: the Lasch Football Building's locker room showers and sauna, the pool of a local hotel, the weight room of a Clinton County high school.

As part of Mr. Sandusky's retirement agreement in 1999, he maintained an office in the Lasch Football Building and unlimited access to the university's football and recreational facilities.

"Over time, what happens is the person can get bolder and bolder if they're not being caught," Ms. Becker said. "They've usually been doing this for a long time."

That scenario left Mr. Carter, now a businessman in Sunrise, Fla., in a state of shock. He scoured his mind, wondering whether he witnessed anything indicating that Mr. Sandusky engaged in the behavior. Nothing came to mind.

Now a pastor in Orlando, Mr. Johnson said he believes the side of Mr. Sandusky he knows.

"In America, the last time I checked a person is held to be innocent until proven guilty," Mr. Johnson said. "We have to support who Jerry is as a father, husband, son and man in the community until we know otherwise."

Children from Second Mile seemed to surround Mr. Sandusky, Mr. Carter recalled. Viewed through the prism of time, each encounter and story about Mr. Sandusky seems to take on new meaning and questions.

A pang of sadness shot through the former running back as he thought of the time and money he gave to Second Mile.

Mr. Carter said he wonders whether his well-intentioned efforts to help led to a child being taken advantage of. That would make him sick to his stomach.

"The world is disgusted," Mr. Carter said, "and I don't blame them."

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