The Jerry Sandusky Trial is over: Penn State learned nothing

paterno Today September 17, 2016 Penn State will betray and dishonor all those victims by honoring a man who stood by Sandusky and allowed him to continue to prey on children.

The Jerry Sandusky trial is over. It ended the way I imagine most people expected and surely wanted it to. That is everyone but Jerry Sandusky. One headline reads, “Lawyer says Sandusky defiant.” Of course Jerry Sandusky is defiant, he’s a pedophile, in his mind he really doesn’t believe he did anything wrong. He believes that his behavior is normal. He believes that what he did had no negative effect on those he raped.

I worked with juvenile sex offenders for sixteen years. They were between the ages of 11-17.  Their treatment lasted anywhere from eighteen to thirty-six months. Many were convicted of sexual offenses shortly after leaving. They served or continue to serve time in prison. Many are on a states sex offender registry. Those are the ones who’ve been caught.

In those sixteen years I never heard one of them who sounded really sorry for their actions. They learned what they needed to say in order to successfully complete treatment; they learned to act contrite when it was necessary but they never believed it.

One particular chilling incident stands out. It was on an educational field trip to a local historical site. In public these youths were usually well behaved. They often received compliments in regards to this from staff at the sites we visited. This was how they wanted to be seen.

On this particular day I was having trouble with one fifteen year old client. He was moving away from our group and not responding to verbal commands.  I confronted him about his behavior after we returned to the treatment center. One of his victims had been his six year old sister.

I went over his day in the community and how his actions were inappropriate. I told him his behaviors had affected everyone in the group. He was defiant; taking no responsibility for any of it. He was sitting at his desk. I mentioned to him that this was the same case with his sister.

His head jerked towards me, his voice became almost guttural and he snapped these words at me, “She liked it. She wanted it more. She paid my brother to be quiet about it.” I was shocked by the force of his words but I knew after he said them that he was not sorry for what he’d done but only angry he was here and not there.

I filed a report of my conversation with him and gave it to his therapist. She told me his sister probably did like it. It probably felt good and she was too young to understand it was wrong. I was shocked as much by her comment as by his. The trouble in working with sex offenders is you become desensitized too much of what you hear and read. When you’re bombarded on a daily basis with horrendous stories of sexual assault and deviance your mind finds a way to protect itself.

In the summer I would supervise groups doing volunteer service in the community. The idea was to give back by doing community service. Before going out into the community one day an offender told me he trusted himself around kids but animals aroused him. He talked to me about this like two guys would talk about fishing or hunting. He didn’t expect me to react with disgust, judgment or in any other manner and I didn’t.

But I knew too that this was a person who was going to continue to sexually assault people when he was released back into the community. He wasn’t even embarrassed that he was attracted to animals; around his peers he carried it almost as a badge of honor, as if it made him stand out.

There are so many other cases that I remember. I wish I couldn’t. I left there almost four years ago. I realize now how sick and unhealthy the environment I worked in was. How traumatized I was from the experience and how long it has taken to recover from it.

I occasionally meet former colleagues who have left there too. To a person we have concluded the same thing. Our work environment was terribly unhealthy and the success rate was impossible to ever know but at best, it was very low.

There will be those who might believe that Sandusky is innocent, that he couldn’t have possibly done all those things. The truth is he probably did much more and worse. I believe the courts will do what is right and send him away for life. He will die believing he did nothing wrong.  There are many more just like him.

We have college students who think getting girls drunk and having sex with them after they pass out makes them somehow better than Sandusky, not rapists, just boys being boys; the truth is, there’s no difference.

The Jerry Sandusky trial is over but have we as a society learned anything from it?

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