In Its Wake, Sandusky Sex Scandal Will Generate More Victims
by Dean Tong August 13, 2012
Few words can describe the unconscionable and heinous acts of sexual abuse perpetrated upon teenage boys by former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky… surreal, detestable, pond scum. Sandusky was the late Joe Paterno’s assistant coach for 31 seasons from 1969 to 1999. In 1977, Sandusky founded The Second Mile, a charity to help troubled young boys, in State College, Pennsylvania. But genuine child molesters can be smooth operators and clandestinely and cleverly secret their perverted acts.
Known as hebephilia or ephebophilia, Sandusky possessed an attraction to sexually abuse puberty-aged and post-pubescent teenaged boys.
Undoubtedly, The Second Mile was a tool used by Sandusky for “grooming” purposes. Grooming is a term used when child sex abuse perpetrators lay in wait or prepare to molest their victims. Ironically, In 2008, Sandusky was first investigated for sexually abusing Victim 1, while a student at Central Mountain High School in Clinton County, Pennsylvania, when the boy was 14. Sandusky met the boy through The Second Mile program as he didn’t retire from his position with the same until 2010. Sandusky was a volunteer football coach at Central Mountain High, also.
Sandusky was indicted in 2011 on 52 counts of child molestation dating from 1994 to 2009, though the abuse may have dated back as far as the 1970’s. Pursuant to the grand jury’s findings, many high-level school officials were charged with perjury., suspended or dismissed for covering up the incidents of abuse, or failing to notify authorities. Penn State University (PSU) school president Graham Spanier was forced to resign. Head coach Joe Paterno was fired late in the 2011-2012 season. He passed away shortly thereafter. Sandusky’s trial lasted 11 days and on June 22, 2012 he was found guilty on 45 of 48 counts of child sexual assault.
Former FBI director Louis Freeh and his law firm conducted an investigation into PSU’s “failure to report abuse and protect child victims” and disseminated a scathing report known as The Freeh Report. The Freeh Report found that Spanier and Paterno, along with athletic director Tim Curley and school V-P Gary Schultz had known about the abuse allegations against Sandusky as far back as 1998 and were complicit in failing to disclose the same. Clearly, state and federal laws require teachers, professors, coaches, and other “mandated reporters” et al to report any reasonable suspicion of child abuse. PSU was hit by the NCAA with sanctions totaling $60M, a four year football postseason ban, vacation of all victories from 1998-2011 and loss of scholarships. Additionally, the Big Ten Conference imposed an additional $13M in fines against PSU.
While the Sandusky child sex abuse scandal and trial grabbed as much national headlines in 2012 as the Casey Anthony case and trial did in 2011, it is the Sandusky case that will generate more victims. Civil rights lawsuits for damages have already been filed as “John Doe A” filed a suit in late 2011 alleging Sandusky perpetrated over 100 incidents of sexual abuse against him. No doubt, more abused victims will come out of the closet and more lawsuits will be filed. I wouldn’t be surprised if the federal government accuses and charges PSU of violating the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.
But when does he said – they said cross the line whereby wounded innocents are swept up with the guilty? In a case like this, no medical or physical findings or proof is necessary to garner a conviction. Hearsay is all that is necessary to send someone to prison and require him to register as a sex offender for life. Fortunately, there are safeguards in place. A child victim’s hearsay must contain an indicia of reliability and an inherent degree of trustworthiness in order for a judge and jury to rubber stamp its credibility.
http://caselaw.findlaw.com/pa-supreme-court/1232773.html is the seminal case in Pennsylvania that governs the admissibility of child victim competency, hearsay and “taint.” In cases of he said – they said, it’s not uncommon for “victims” to communicate with one another and cross-germination/cross-pollination can occur. Inconsistent statements can surface over time and victims’ stories may not add up or match. In cases of delayed memory recall such as Sandusky, it’s incumbent upon defense counsel to retain cognitive developmental experts to pour over the forensics (victims’ interviews, police reports, victims’ therapists’ clinical session progress notes, et al) in the case. Oftentimes, child victims’ and/or adult-child victims’ memories of alleged traumatic events can be cloudy, confused, or mistaken. Teenage children and even adults can succumb to suggestibility, when multiple interviews and de novo child sex abuse therapies occur. Because of poor source monitoring and lack of best practice methodology, complaining witnesses can fall victim to source contamination and thus, source confusion. Source misattribution errors can and do surface.
The point is, there’s no doubt the gravity of the Sandusky child sex abuse conviction and scandal, albeit, locally and nationally, will empower future child abuse “victims” to report suspected past abuse. Sadly, fishing expeditions and even child abuse witch hunts result from the fallout. There’s no doubt collateral damage from Sandusky’s conviction will occur.
Dean Tong, forensic trial consultant, and expert is author of the critically acclaimed book: Elusive Innocence: Survival Guide for the Falsely Accused. Retained by parents and attorneys in contested divorces, child custody and abuse cases from 49 states and Canada, Tong has most recently appeared on CBS 48 Hours, CNN, Court-TV, MSNBC, and Dr. Phil.