Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Getting Child Molestation Convictions Isn't Real Easy

The charges are, to most Americans, utterly shocking.  If Jerry Sandusky had one accuser with no corroborating evidence, I suspect that the jury might have found the possibility that this was just a setup for a civil suit sufficient reason to find him innocent.  But the number of accusers, and the corroborating evidence involving the grad student who walked in on Sandusky in the shower, sealed Sandusky's fate.  But just in case, police had Sandusky's adopted son available as a rebuttal witness if Sandusky had been crazy enough to take the stand in his own defense.
Matt Sandusky, in a 29-minute taped interview with police on the eve of Jerry Sandusky's trial on child sex abuse charges, describes how he was allegedly molested by his foster father from age 8 to 15, NBC's Today show reports.
 To be blunt, there is something obviously self-destructive about someone like Sandusky.  Did he think none of his victims would ever blow the whistle?

Some of what I have read suggests another explanation: that victims of abuse who become abusers suffer some sort of emotional development freeze, and that they see themselves as still being 10 or 11 -- and thus see their victims as peers.  Some works on the subject suggest that victims of abuse with mixed emotions about what happened to them (humiliation combined with physical pleasure) may combine both their need to be in control this time with a notion that, "I enjoyed it, therefore my victim will enjoy it" to justify their unstoppable abuse.  This is part of why it is so important to stop the repetitive cycle of abuse -- to reduce the number of victims who transition to victimizers.


  1. Given that Matt Sandusky is now 33, the abuser here got away with it for at least 25 years, and other reports are suggesting between that and forty. When someone walked in on what Megan McArdle described as "almost the worst thing you can imagine", they turned around and went to talk to management who did very, very little -- and when society did act, far too late, there were riots. And that's not unique to footballers; it's frighteningly easy to find people quite willing to defend Roman Polanski, a man who plead guilty to drugging and raping a thirteen-year-old.

    The chain-of-violence theory is compelling, but it's not terribly well-supported by the evidence; while child and young adolescent victims are statistically more likely to act out or abuse those of their age group, they're not more likely than victims of things like negligence to sexually abuse individuals much younger than them.

    The developmental freeze is more compelling from the studies, such as the Birnbaum research I've mentioned in a separate comment, and in many ways more frightening. You can get people to act against folk that enjoy disparity of power, even if doing so is very difficult. Someone that believes they're not doing damage when committing rape is a whole different level of screwed up.

  2. Yes, you can find people willing to defend Polanski's actions, but not once you leave the judgment-free zone of Hollyweird, the ivory tower, and gay activist circles. Even liberals and progressives outside these three especially deranged subcultures don't make excuses for this.

    One problem with research into pedophilia is the difficulty in getting accurate data when you are dependent on self-reporting by people who are, by conventional standards, desperately weird, creepy, and self-justifying.

    There is likely some very real psychological difference between those who commit sexual violence against children and those who have persuaded themselves that they are engaged in a consensual relationship.

  3. Unfortunately, I've seen it among Blue Dog Democrats certain he's 'only' getting this focus because he was popular, and even some social conservatives whose processing I can't even begin to understand. College football isn't a bastion of Hollywood, gay activists, or the ivory tower -- many of these folks are the sort that'd be terrified of a gay guy in the locker room. They're just willing to sell their soul, and unfortunately they're also willing to sell their soul for the low price of avoiding cognitive dissonance.

    There's /something/ weird underlying all this, and finding out the exacts of the neurological structuring of not only direct pedophiles but the sort that support or overlook them is probably vital to actually stopping this sort of abuse, but we're doing a real terrible job of selecting specific groups that'll condone it.

  4. Matt had a recovered memory of the alleged abuse only after he learned that he was eligible for a million dollar lawsuit. He is still trying to recall the oral sex. My guess is that he will manage to do that in time for his payoff.

  5. Roger: do you have some reason to think that Sandusky's son is making this up? I have talked to people who had repressed memories (although of a much younger age).

  6. To quote my water deliveryman in 1994, "I've seen him on the football field, he couldn't committed those murders!"

    I'd like to know what basis there is for asserting that Sandusky's son is making this up, too. There is too much corroborating evidence from too many different people to say that the accusers are all lying.