Jerry Sandusky totally fits the profile of a pedophile. The term pedophile originates from the Latin roots meaning child love. Hidden under the perfect disguise of a popular, married, family man (now his adopted son is claiming he was incested by him), Sandusky meticulously created a life around, and for children and teens. He erected “The Second Mile” ostensibly to offer opportunities to disadvantaged youth–often more vulnerable to predatory assaults by adults—while using this organization as a vehicle for his manipulative ploys. Like any pedophile, Sandusky maintains his innocence: that he loved kids and was devoted to helping them; that he never committed the horrible acts of which he was accused. After he was tried, Linda Kelly, the Pennsylvania Attorney General, accurately noted that it is not likely that Sandusky will ever admit his monstrous wrong-doings. Statistically, few if any pedophiles do. On the contrary, they tend to believe that what they did was right, emerging from a benevolent place of love and concern for their victims.

What influences and distorts this view? Studies inform that often child molesters are victims of sexual abuse themselves. Psychologically, we understand that their own abuse may be shut out from their consciousness and memories, dissociated from any awareness. Blindly, these victimizers automatically—as if in a perpetual trance and obsessive rituals—re-enact acts of seduction and criminal behavior. Even though we may understand the often traumatic roots of these deviant thoughts and actions, nothing excuses or exempts perpetrators from prosecution to the fullest extent of the law.

We live in a society that idealizes and sexualizes youth. As long as we are prone to that, one essayist, Mark Greif (“Afternoon of the Sex Children”) suggests that we as a society are implicated. He asserts that we must respect age more and learn to cherish both the appearance and predilections, i.e. familiarity versus novelty, associated with growing old.

Finally and most imperative, sexual and other abuses of children are apt to fester in families and in a world that doesn’t listen to nor respect the child. As a therapist and advocate of child’s rights, and in accordance with Linda Kelly’s powerful and indelible commentary about the Sandusky case and findings on June 22, 1012, I maintain that children must be heard at all costs. If they say something happened, believe them and follow up. If an adult in their presence seems questionable, ask questions and get involved.

Too often, as I have posted in other blogs, adults are afraid of the consequences of coming forth about child abuse. Conspiracies of silence existed in the Sandusky family, at Penn State and in the Catholic Church, as they have in many other institutions including schools and daycare centers. Even Freud, in the history of psychoanalysis, attempted to suppress the Hungarian psychoanalyst, Sandor Ferenczi’s observations of actual (not fantasied) sexual acts by parents and caretakers and his theories that such traumas impacted upon the child victim’s development, leading to psychopathology including dissociation and false self behavior, i.e. becoming overly accommodating in a way that is ultimately self-defeating. Fortunately, my profession is increasingly on board about the actualities of childhood sexual abuse and related traumas, and its impact on children.

If we fail to heighten our willingness and mindfulness around protecting our youth, the travesties against children that bombard our everyday life will continue. New Internet apps were recently indicted in giving pedophiles and sociopaths greater access to teens, leading to their rapes. We must say no to this and courageously put our awareness, actions, and financial support behind a clear refusal to allow these criminals to ensue within our homes and societies, inclusive of countries globally where sexual trafficking of impoverished and orphaned children, often due to war, is rampant.

Gwenn A. Nusbaum, LCSW, BCD, CGP

Got thoughts or opinions on this topic? A helpful anecdote you want to share? Feel free to leave a comment.