The Jerry Sandusky verdict was a triumph of justice on behalf of a class of victims who almost always are treated poorly by the conventional world: the victims of pedophiles. That's because pedophiles are so chillingly skilled at picking their prey, gaming the situation, hiding in "polite society" and ingratiating themsevles well in communities that easily bestow trust on "authority" figures. The Catholic church, for example. Priests can't do any wrong, right? We know better now. The child sex abuse scandals of the Catholic church made it easier for people to be skeptical about Sandusky when his crimes first became public.
Ask any solo parent and he or she will probably tell you of having some pedophile radar, or should. As a widow with a young son I noticed fairly fast how they came out of the woodwork, like cockroaches, using that BS excuse of "wanting to be a substitute father." I let my son know if anybody acted odd he could tell me anything. Was this epidemic? No. A few episodes, but that's enough. In situations where I was suspicious I confronted the men and, like cockroaches, they disappeared back into the woodwork. They might get hugely defensive and offended, but they still skittered away. It wasn't every man who reached out to us who was suspicious, only certain types. The creepy stink is apparent beneath the surface of faux respectability and "good guy" bonhomie. Somehow their interest in your son is not adding up. They are just too eager, too available, offering too many perks, too fast, and in particular too many situations where they will conveniently be alone with your child and in a dominant role. There are people at Penn State and in The Second Mile who had that gut feeling about Jerry Sandusky, but nobody budged.
Pedophiles come after little girls, too. And they can be older women as much as men, though - for some reason - most often pedophiles are white, married men, fathers. They will prey on their own family members. A man I dated in my 20s revealed to me that he had been raped regularly by his father when he was a little boy. I'd never heard of such a thing before. I was shocked. I asked him how he dealt with it. He said, "I just shut it out, blacked out, to get through it. I went numb. I felt helpless and didn't know what else to do." Years later, a female colleague with whom i'd become friendly revealed she had been raped by her father when she was a little girl. Though now I knew this could happen, it still shocked me. She went to her mother who called her liar and insisted she not mention it again.
Both of these friends suffered lingering trauma due to the abuse, even though it stopped after they became teenagers. (Pedophiles seek out prepubsecent youths, sometimes even toddlers.). As adults they struggled with their demons, even while functioning well enough in regular society. They never had the benefit of justice brought against the predators in their lives - and of course it makes it so much more horrific, and crushing, when it is a trusted family member.
The experts say Sandusky will be locked up for life. But think of all the victims of his who we don't know about. Think of all the other Sanduskys who are out there, finding cover in jobs that allow them to be close to young children in a "respectable" way. Ha. Jerry Sandusky's home overlooked a playground, which for a pedophile had to be the equivalent of a "beach view." If it gives you a chill, it should. It doesn't mean every adult who works with children is a pedophile. Of course not. But other adults need to be more diligent, and to listen closely when children ask questions or seem in distress about another adult. And institutions have to be fair but inquisitive and thorough where there is doubt.
BTW, watch the film "Doubt" with Meryl Streep and Philip Serymout Hoffman. Another is "Little Children" with Kate Winslet and Patrick Wilson, with Jackie Earle Haley giving a sympathetic portrayal of a pedophile. I wonder if there will be a Sandusky film?
There's a misconception that pedophiles are homosexuals. Generally they pass as "straight." But they really aren't even that. They are deviant, sociopathic predators in a class like serial killers.They usually are unable to control their urges, they live in a mode of denial, that what they are doing is good, they almost never confess. Experts say they can't be cured, or there's no known cure at the moment (thus the dramatic ending of "Little Children.") The North American Association of Man/Boy Love is trying to take man/boy love mainstream and to allign itself with gay and lesbian groups, but that could be a stretch. According to Wikipedia, "NAMBLA is a pedophile and pederasty advocacy organization in the United States that works to abolish age of consent laws criminalizing adult sexual involvement with minors, and for the release of all men who have been jailed for sexual contacts with minors that did not involve coercion." So, that's the distinction.
Most people would find it tough to support a group that has man/boy love as its cause, but this is America, the land of the free. When I was with CBS News I produced a story about NAMBLA, and it was an education. I never thought the day would come when they'd have a website.
What happens next? I hope the NCAA shuts down the Penn State football program for four years ... as a punishment for their neglectfulness and as a broader meassage to schools that put football above all. I hope the victims who qualify can bring civil suits and receive meaningful financial payback - for Penn State's negligence -- and that whoever else was complicit, or involved in a cover-up or indeptness, also goes off to the slammer for a significant stretch of time.