According to Grand Jury testimony, gathered in a long secret investigation, Jerry Sandusky is quite possibly a pedophile who used his talent as a football coach at Penn State to set up the perfect system of unrestricted access to vulnerable young boys. Apparently there were people who knew things, there was a trail of victims, and there were investigations of suspicious activity before the big blow up and arrests last month. But what about his wife, Dorothy? What did she know? Is it possible that she knew less than anyone?
WNL has been looking around for some answers to this question, or at least more information. Here's what we came up with:
1. Not for the first time, a UK paper, in this case The Mail OnLine, asks the most direct questions about Dorothy Sandusky, and points out that some of the incidents of abuse documented by the Grand Jury occurred in the family home. There's lots of good reporting here, with this conclusion:
"There is no suggestion whatsoever in the indictment that Mrs Sandusky was aware of her husband's sexual relations with Victim 1 or any of the other seven victims.
Experts have suggested that she and her children could well have been kept in the dark.
'[Abusers are] very good at hiding it from everyone,' clinical social worker Farlie Chastain told WRCB TV. 'Very good at seducing the child and manipulating the child not to tell.'
However, Chastain, who counsels sexually abused children and teenagers at Parkridge Valley, Tennesee and at Foxus Psychiatric Services in Tennessee Valley, adds: 'I've seen it both ways, in which the family knows and is in denial.'"
2. Here's an insider perspective from The Daily Beast, headlined "Seven years ago, Darlene Ellison’s charismatic ex-husband was arrested for sex-related crimes he hid for over a decade. Now, she reveals how Jerry Sandusky’s wife may have been kept in the dark as well."
Darlene, who has become a nationally known children's advocate and has written a book about her unique point of view as the unsuspecting wife of a pedophile, "The Predator Next Door", includes this paragraph in her article:
"I have never met Dorothy Sandusky, Jerry Sandusky’s wife of four decades, who goes by “Dottie,” nor have I met any of their six grown, adopted children. Yet I feel like I’ve walked in the very painful shoes I imagine they’re walking in today. In the wake of the Penn State allegations, many people are publicly wondering, “Did Dottie know?” And “how could she not know?” I’m sure people wondered that about me, because I wondered it about myself. While I would never be so bold as to presume what Sandusky’s loved ones knew, it seems entirely plausible to me that he was living a “secret life” right under their noses; that he took great pains to hide his alleged abusive behaviors from those closest to him. Sex offenders’ families are often collateral damage to their crimes."
3. Darlene Ellison is the perfect person to raise the issue of one partner having a fully-developed secret life within a marriage, something which in its more traditional cheating/mistress/second family manifestations is part of the dark underbelly of marriage we all know about. When your best friend tells you she's discovered her husband has a long-time mistress and a love child, it's perfectly believable that she didn't know.
Isn't it reasonable to push the boundary a bit and include wives of serial pedophiles and even serial murderers in the "didn't know" category? It's still a secret life - just a bigger, more shocking secret.
4. Consider the now well-documented case of serial sexual murderer Herb Baumeister and his wife Julie. Books, articles, TV shows have been made about the Baumeister murders of young men in the Indianapolis area in the 1990s. All of them conclude that Julie didn't know anything. Here's a summary of the case from People Magazine in 1996.
Enough time has passed and enough energy has been expended on the Baumeister murders to allow a level of disclosure that will be a long time coming in the Sandusky matter. Insights like the following may give us who are trying to understand how all this happened in the context of a normal-appearing marriage a place to hang while we wait:
Behind the bedroom door, there was little pacificity to their marital problems. "Julie later admitted that she and Herb had engaged in sex only six times in the 25 years they were married," detective [Virgil] Vandagriff [the private detective who first connected the murders to one perpetrator] explains. And, according to authors Weinstein and Wilson, Julie never saw her husband nude. "Herb dressed in the bathroom (and) when it came time to go to bed he would always put on pajamas (slipping) between the sheets." He was ashamed of his skinny body.
"That should have been a tip-off to Julie that something was wrong," Vandagriff adds, reflecting again on those "danger signals" of bad, bad things to come. "But, she was an over-trusting woman who, despite their problems, put complete stock in her husband’s actions."
Julie, probably in trying so hard to reconcile their differences, threw her mental state into a complete dependency on Herb. "I think deep inside she chose not to see the signals," Vandagriff continues.
WNL: I'm thinking that the time for outrage and indignation has passed, and it's time to start the long process of trying to understand what happened and why. What are your thoughts?