Jerry Sandusky was given a prime-time opportunity to set the record straight. And so he did.
In response to Bob Costas’ very blunt and provocative questions about his alleged crimes against numerous young boys, Sandusky talked. And talked. In a Monday night NBC interview, wherein Sandusky made a creepy attempt to reframe his actions, he also made several damning statements.
The first of these missteps was in reference to a graduate assistant’s assertion that he witnessed Sandusky raping a young boy. In downplaying the action as ”horseplay” he not only confirmed that the incident–albeit minus a confession of rape–actually occurred, but also opened up a can of worms by using such an ill-chosen term.
After feebly brushing off further references to his naked shenanigans with young boys, Sandusky got a chance to redeem himself. When Costas asked for a reasonable explanation behind for the inappropriate behavior, Sandusky’s reply took this life line and tied it into a metaphorical noose: It was all a misunderstanding based on his great compassion and love for children.
Nice try, but that tune fell flat in Neverland. And unlike Michael Jackson, Sandusky lacks the cash to make his victims go away.
While many wonder what prompted Sandusky to submit to this interview, his presence, as well as his comments, are better explained with a closer look at the psyche of a pedophile.
It begins with a basic human fear – the fear of having one’s worst failures revealed for all to see. This is the reason why the confessionals, into which I poured my darkest juvenile secrets, were little more than dark closets with an obscured window between the confessor and priest.
Aside from the sociopaths in their ranks, sex offenders are no different. They share that basic fear along with the added burden of their perverted secrets and monstrous nature. Thus, Sandusky’s dissembling was an attempt to redefine his actions to avoid being labeled a pedophile.
It’s helpful to recognize this trait when dealing with sex offenders. Several years ago I responded to an allegation of child rape at a Boys and Girls Club. When I arrived in the office I noticed a framed news clipping of a smiling man hugging a large group of children. The picture and story celebrated a very active volunteer at the club, who spent long hours with the needy young kids who went there.
Cynic cop that I was, I placed a mental wager on him as a likely suspect. The mother of the victim, a seven year-old boy, told me the story and confirmed my suspicions. By the time I interviewed the suspect, several other parents had come forward with similar allegations (sound familiar?).
Unfortunately, these cases usually involve little in the way of physical evidence and no testimony other than that of small children. Such factors make the interview all important. Unlike Bob Costas’ direct and almost accusatory line of questioning during the Sandusky interview, trying to elicit admissions from sex offenders requires patience and an extreme amount of subtlety.
In practical terms this means that an admission of guilt may require the interviewer to assume the role of a confidant or even a conspirator. Either way, these investigations are a gut-wrenching descent into a mind filled with horrors and perversion.
Whether you’re a cop, a school official, or a grad student stumbling into a nightmare, we share a responsibility to keep innocents from becoming the playthings of pedophiles. It is especially difficult when these people hide their monstrous nature behind a pleasant facade. But, sooner or later, when the pedophile is unmasked and made to answer questions, then…
It might sound a lot like Jerry Sandusky.