Touched: The Jerry Sandusky Story

No, that title is not a sick joke.

It is the title of a 2001 autobiography by former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky, now accused of multiple counts of child sexual abuse. Apparently out of print, you can still search inside the book on the Amazon site. I did not read it all, but the picture painted is an All-American success story. Sandusky worshiped his parents, especially his father. The elder Sandusky was heavily involved in charity work in Washington, PA, also donating time to needy children.

If any of the allegations against Sandusky are true, then the disconnect between his public and private lives is massive. Here is what the Amazon site says about Sandusky:

Jerry Sandusky retired as defensive coordinator of the Penn State University football team following the 1999 season. He spent 32 years at Penn State, all as an assistant to legendary head coach Joe Paterno, including the last 23 as defensive coordinator. Sandusky is the founder of The Second Mile, a charitable foundations that has touched the lives of more than 100,000 children. He is the author of a previous book, Developing Linebackers the Penn State Way. He and his wife Dottie are the parents of six children.

In the book, Sandusky describes his involvement in church work, volunteering time for a church in his neighborhood and as a long time member of St. Paul’s Methodist Church in State College.

Predictably, some far right pundits want to make this about homosexual predation. To my knowledge, no adult male has come forward with stories of gay relationships with Sandusky. If anything, Sandusky was living the straight lifestyle. Haters gonna hate and so culture warriors will use whatever they can get to make points. These armchair advocates are not worth the effort.

The fuller picture defies those efforts and displays a maddeningly complicated situation. Sandusky was not just married, he was a pillar in the community and church who described wonderful parents and had great success in an iconic American sport. Prior to the allegations, anyone would have wanted this guy in their church, social club or charity. How can you protect children from people like that? Complaining about gays won’t protect anyone from someone like Jerry Sandusky.

We do need to know what happened; why the signs were missed, if indeed they turn out to be as indicated in media reports. Practically, the legal process will play out and bits and pieces of the truth will get out. Ultimately, in order to prevent further tragedies, we need to know the whole truth, whatever it is.

  • M. Worrell

    Warren, I think this just points to the need for accountability measures in organizations (along the lines of pastors who do not counsel opposite sex congregants in isolation or behind closed doors, etc.). People can become indignant when pressed to implement accountability when “they’ve done nothing wrong”, but I think it helps. When someone wants to violate a set boundary, it creates an opportunity for thinking it through carefully. This guy had too many stretches of unaccountable time with other people’s kids… that just shouldn’t happen on an ongoing basis. I had a close call as a young kid hanging around a comic shop with the owner when no one was in the store. Thank God I had an almost instinctive compulsion to get the heck out of there.

  • David Blakeslee

    Great post and important topic.

    If the allegations are true, he hid in plain sight, spiritualized his sexual exploitation. Enjoyed his revered status and the access it gave him to vulnerable boys.

    A fake father (there is some weird “Narth” correlation here, acting as a father figure to vulnerable youth to exploit them).

    The bigger story in my mind is this: How large institutions are instinctively protected when these allegations first come to a leader’s awareness.

    That is a repeated pattern: The Catholic Church, Boy Scouts, Mormon Church, and now Penn State.

    Weak souled people (who are also leaders) are over-aligned in their identities with powerful organizations, and need the oranizations to be good despite the facts so the weak souled people can feel good.

  • Jayhuck

    Worrell -

    Warren, I think this just points to the need for accountability measures in organizations (along the lines of pastors who do not counsel opposite sex congregants in isolation or behind closed doors, etc.).

    I agree with you 100%, but there is another side to these situations. As a person who has taught children I can tell you first hand that these sorts of things have created a climate of fear around some who do instruct children – fear of being falsely accused to the point of almost not being able to do your job as an instructor. There are some, I don’t know how many – they may very well be a small minority – of qualified instructors who truly love kids who will not step into the instructor’s role due to this very fear. Some, maybe most, would see this as an acceptable but unfortunate circumstance. It all just makes me incredibly sad

  • Jayhuck

    David B -

    Weak souled people (who are also leaders) are over-aligned in their identities with powerful organizations, and need the oranizations to be good despite the facts so the weak souled people can feel good.

    Well said! :)

  • David Blakeslee

    Jayhuck,

    I think this same phenomenon works with people who are mad at Warren T. for his criticism of NARTH, PFOX, FOTF and so on.

    It is a lack of differentiation from a cherished ideal; and a lack of alignment with a larger common goal (a better ideal).

  • StraightGrandmother

    Haters gonna hate and so culture warriors will use whatever they can get to make points

    I beg your pardon, this is Warren Throcckmorton speaking? You have come a long way Warren.

    In other tragic news involving children, a College Professor from Utah has been arrested for possessing child (girl) porn.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/police-search-home-of-utah-professor-accused-of-viewing-child-pornography-on-plane/2011/11/29/gIQAIa4u8N_story.html

    Personally I feel very unmerciful towards Sundusky and the others who are indited. He seems to me to be a predator. When my son was growing up I always had this in the back of my mind. A mother needs to always protect her children and I always worried and was more

    cautious for my son than my daughter. I would have never let him go to anything like is mentioned here (especially sleep overs) unless there were 2 adults. I learned that from Boy Scouts, there always has to be two adults and a Boy Scout Leader is not permitted under any circumstances to drive a boy home. I picked up these ideas in Scouting and never forgot them. The worst offenders are always the people who appear most trustworthy. I trusted nobody only the parents of my son’s friends. The 2 adult rule is a GREAT rule.

  • http://www.exgaywatch.com Emily K

    How can he be gay, if he is a church-going, family-loving, heterosexually married person who excels at an “all-American” sport?

  • ken

    “We do need to know what happened; why the signs were missed, if indeed they turn out to be as indicated in media reports”

    From what I’ve read, the signs weren’t “missed” they were covered up (or deliberately ignored).

  • Teresa

    This raises a question about Jerry Sandusky’s wife. Unfortunately, we’re sorta vultures circling the prey, here; but, I ask others who are married here … can she have been unaware of this?

    Sandusky had been involved in a prior episode that ended up being settled; but, where was Mrs. Sandusky through all this?

    David B., is this another example of the ‘weak souled’ you commented about?

  • StraightGrandmother

    Teresa, I do think the wife can be ignorant, you only need read the Public Forum over at the Straight Spouse network to validate that point. However if he was busted previously but managed to hush it up then I think the wife probably knew from that point going forward.

  • Ally May

    I am not surprised by the complicated details re: the Sandusky case.. nor the contradictions. All child predators find a way to be with and around children. John Wayne Gacy hired young, male out~of~work guys. He dressed as a clown to delight community children.

    What has me intrigued and horrified is ‘Dottie’. Is this just an incredibly clueless woman..or a woman in such deep denial she can’t/won’t see the forest for the trees?

    One of the (alleged) victims testified he screamed loudly, knowing Dottie was home and right above the basement room where he was being abused by Sandusky.

    The Foster and adopted children in the Sandusky home.. The ones that (according to news reports) would’ve had an uncertain future if they were not aided by the Sanduskys.. No wonder we’ve only heard of victims from 1994 on. Sandusky managed to create an endless pool of potential victims, right there.

    One does not suddenly awaken the morning of his 50th birthday and seek a 10 yr old boy to abuse. We are all aware of how offenders escalate this behavior over time. Yet..still no official statement from Dottie? Why is it no one has investigated the particulars of the Foster children (and adopted six children)? They would be (understandably) terrified..but why isn’t Dottie Sandusky being grilled for what she knew? I just don’t believe ANYONE could be THAT clueless. Purposefully obtuse is more like it..or maybe EYES WiDE SHUT.


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