The Lesson of Dottie Sandusky

“BELLEFONTE, Pa. — The wife of convicted child molester Jerry Sandusky says she still loves him and “he’s not who they say he is.” When I read the first sentence of this article posted today on ESPN.com, I realized that Dottie Sandusky probably sees, and probably always will see, her husband as a loving and gentle man. Truth is, Jerry Sandusky probably was a wonderful, loving husband.

While it’s easy to assume that Dottie knew that Jerry Sandusky was molesting dozens of boys in her home, there’s a more likely scenario. Chances are Dottie Sandusky had never considered the fact that her “loving” husband was capable of raping children; Dottie never thought that Jerry could be ruining childhoods right under her nose. In all likelihood, Dottie’s fault is ignorance.

Dottie Sandusky didn’t know what grooming was. Dottie didn’t understand that “telling the boys goodnight” allowed Sandusky to have one adult, one child access to the boys that stayed at their house. Dottie couldn’t imagine that her husband, who always said, “I love ya” at the end of his voicemails to the boys, could express his “love” in a sexually violent way.

While we’ll never know what Dottie Sandusky really knew and suspected, the most likely scenario is that she was totally ignorant to the realities and effects of child sexual abuse. Without ruling on Dottie’s virtues or flaws, it’s clear that Dottie must be an example to all of us.

Ignorance can no longer be an excuse in cases of child sexual abuse. The Sandusky case marked a watershed moment for this cause. Thanks to the courage of the Sandusky survivors, we’ve all been made accountable to the children that we care for. Thanks to the courage of the survivors, it’s no longer acceptable to say, “I couldn’t have imagined,” or “he was always so loving.” There is too much at stake to plead ignorance. It’s post-Sandusky, and we all must accept our responsibility to educate ourselves about an issue that has lived in the shadows for far too long.

17 Responses to The Lesson of Dottie Sandusky

  • Patti Penning says:

    This article is only enabling child sexual abuse. This article is damaging our goal of eliminating child sexual abuse because this article is exactly the same as what people have been saying for years. This article is false, and it has gotten us nowhere believing these ridiculous excuses for centuries. Dottie knew, and the excuses and pampering of those who conspired with the offender to commit child abuse are getting really old, and are completely untruthful. There is a Dottie Sandusky in every pedophile’s life. That is because pedophiles purposely choose ignorant, selfish, and needy women. Dottie should be in jail with her husband. There is no possible way that she didn’t hear screams, and there is no possible way that her husband didn’t show any signs. I know this because I know a pedophile and they constantly misbehave around children in front of people. Anyone who lives with a pedophile knows that he is a pedophile. They just lie to make themselves feel better, and the law allows them to do that.

    • Patti,

      No one is excusing Dottie’s inaction, but without playing judge and jury, all we can do is point to her failure to protect children as an example to learn from. As concerned adults, we must hold each other accountable and say that ignorance is no excuse for allowing a childhood to be ruined.

    • Survivor says:

      Totally 110% agree with you Patti!
      Every pedophile has their enabler’s, and as a child I knew who they were. I knew couldn’t go to them for help, and unfortunately it’s always the bastards they live with so as a child you feel TRAPPED.
      The yrs of abuse that went on in his home was not without signs, and the only darkness was the rooms he raped them in.
      She knew, and that is not only why but exactly what enablers will say when their scum bag is caught. The only thing they can think of is not having their “man” anymore. These type of women will not only allow their own children to be molested to keep a man, but they will provide others children to keep him. They are wining, sniveling, desperate women who feel useless without one.

      Those are facts so of course she still loves him even after supposedly just finding out the truth.

      Any non enabling woman would vomit at the thought of knowing she shared beds with a child rapist. No matter how long she was with him, she would want to crawl out of her skin for what he did, and then slithering into bed with her!

      Women who truly didn’t know will live with tremendous guilt, shame, and disgust at not knowing. They don’t go around professing their undying love!
      They sit around shaking their heads questioning them self for far to long of a process to then come out, and say they still love such a monster. That is BS!
      The only ignorance is actually believing she didn’t know… Then trying to make others feel sorry for her.

      • @Survivor, none of us have any idea what Dottie Sandusky knew or didn’t know. You’re guessing based on what you assume to be true. Not only is it unfair to pass judgement on Dottie Sandusky without proof of guilt, but it does not advance the prevention conversation. If facts surface that prove that she knowingly accepted Jerry Sandusky’s abuse of boys, then obviously she needs to accept punishment. As things stand, we don’t know her role. What we do know, is that she was not capable of dealing with the reality of child sexual abuse, and the only way to ensure that others won’t live in the same darkness is to focus on education.

    • Pam says:

      I am a survivor and was molested for 6 years right under my mother’s nose. She had no idea what was happening to me. Whether Dottie knew it or not, it happens more than you want to know about. In those 6 years with me, my abuser got to me in our swimming pool while other kids were swimming with us….It goes unnoticed all the time.

  • Scott Hankinson says:

    Patti is right on.
    The damage caused by CSA far more important that any spousal protection ( what we are dealing with now).
    Although I am not sure if this pertained to the above case,the laws that protect spouses from testifying against their spouses need to change today. No question that they are co-dependent and victims themselves and deserve our empathy.Having said that,this crime is so heinous and has lifelong consequences.Anything to bring the darkness to light HAS to be used.

  • Scot says:

    Dottie Sandusky makes me sick. Her own child has come forward saying he was molested by his father and this lady is still standing by her husband.

  • Jamie says:

    Patti and Survivor, may I say to you anger/bitterness over the past can only consume you and dictate your future. Make some good come from the bad. I guess I would be considered one of those “ignorant, selfish, and needy women” in Survivor words. I admit, I was ignorant of the signs of a pedophile, never been around things or people like that especially to make me an expert of such people. My ex-husband “groomed” his children while I slept. For six years this went on, in hinds sight and after education of the signs, there were signs. But with a heavy heart, I can say I did not know. But once it came out, I believed my children. Went through three years of the judical roller coaster for my children. Every step, every court hearing. NO I am not selfish or needy. With five children I could not afford to be. I do take offense to your angered words about being selfish and needy. Maybe in your life that is what you experienced for that my heart goes out to you. But pedophiles take something that can’t be replaced but can positively empower you. Victims are not alone, this affects the whole family. Together there can be healing and empowerment. You can control your life and it’s outcome. Both of you are correct, Dottie knew, in her heart she knew something was not right. What I take issue with is the way Dottie is standing by his side now that the truth is out. OK, she did not know but she knows now. NO EXCUSES!!

    • Wanda says:

      I have to agree with Jamie. I am a mother of a survivor, so I am a survivor also from the hell this put my entire family through.

      I will also say I am not and never have been a needy, wining, or desperate woman. I take offense in being labeled as such.

      This is one of the downfalls of our society as it is, someone automatically assuming they know everything about another person and judging them.

      Whether or not she knew is not for us to judge. I did not know and thankfully it did not go on for years. I could care less if she knew or not, that is not the issue here. I don’t understand how a person could live with an abuser, but that is not my life. My only concern is the children.

      The battle was won and got the attention needed where SCA is concerned, now, lets move forward and utilize this tool to gain ground for even more children.

      But, the very instant I learned about it, anything I felt for him was instantly killed and no way in hell could I or would I ever be with someone that sick. And I mean sick seriously because any healthy human being would never harm a child, in any fashion.

      That was over 20 years ago and very little resources or education. That is why I have become a voice for the children.

      Instead of wasting our energy on the past and passing judgment, I suggest using what we have learned through our experiences to educate children and adults on prevention.

      Become a voice, get involved. Get angry at your schools for not implementing programs for prevention, and I am not talking about “stranger danger”, I am talking about what goes on in reality.

      There are thousands of ways that our anger can be used in a positive way, and until it is, healing will be non-existent.

      Statistics prove that abusers are family members and familiar faces more than it is strangers.

      Without education regarding sexual child abuse, there is no prevention.

  • Joy Fugate says:

    Ignorance is no excuse, and women like Betty Ford will be upheld while women like Dotty will not. She’s made her choices. Hopefully, like Ruth Madoff, time will show her the error of her ways. Hopefully her stubborness will not cost her children’s lives.

  • Liz says:

    I totally agree with Patti. While we can’t know Dottie’s involvement, I have said from the start, that as his wife, who by all accounts was the sort of wife and mother who liked everything neat and orderly and according to her plan, Dottie just had to see or hear one or two odd or disturbing things in a small house like theirs over so many years.

    As Dottie, the doting mother and wife, you don’t think it odd that your husband goes to say goodnight and doesn’t come back for an hour or two? You don’t, on any of the numerous sleepovers over the years, check on your young guest? Check in to make sure there are enough pillows, blankets or ask if they might need a snack or a beverage? You never once think that your husband (if we are to believe all the accounts, is a big fun loving kid at heart) might be keeping your young guest up far to late, and so you go to make sure your hubby knows that they both should stop goofing around and go to sleep?

    I don’t believe in her ignorance for one second. It’s hard enough to believe a human being like Jerry Sandusky exists, let alone a Dottie Sandusky who ignores obvious signs and pretends all is well when deep down, she knows it’s not.

    What seems very obvious to the victim, is vigilantly ignored by the enabler. Once the enabler sees something is not quite right, they go into denial. But at the same time, they go into self-preservation mode. “I cannot deal with the possibility of someone I love abusing another person I love. I am mentally not strong enough nor brave enough to ask some hard questions and make some hard decisions.” So the enabler then distances themselves, with work, other activities, etc. to make sure that they are not around to see any other signs. The enabler then convinces themselves that their initial fear or worry was silly and that everything is okay.

    There are always signs. Whether the person acknowledges them or not, only they know in their heart of hearts if they chose to ignore them. As a victim, the second most hurtful thing, besides the abuse, is yet another person you love and trust looking away and ignoring your cries for help. You feel abandoned and unloved once more. Sometimes, and children are a lot smarter than we give them credit for, sometimes, a child will no longer seek help, for fear that they will be betrayed again and it’s much easier to love someone when they haven’t failed you, and so you can keep that one shining person in your life as some sort of hope and haven for yourself.

    It is so insulting to have the enabler later claim, once it all comes out, that they are a victim as well. No you were not the victim- either you were truly ignorant and therefore innocent, or you were an enabler, and therefore must accept some guilt for the continuation of the abuse. Yes, you were hurt indirectly from the abuse, but you were not abused, so you don’t get to also be the victim. Your chance is long gone after the abuse is over, to insert yourself into the “drama” by saying your a victim too, in order to get pity, to perhaps soothe any guilt you feel.

    Unfortunately, we may never know what Dottie’s involvement was. It would be so beneficial for professionals, to have a better look into her life, her marriage, etc. If she were to be honest with herself and her family, and explain times when she felt something might not be right. She might then get the help she and her family needs to move on, and if she would have the courage to share her story, that would be a true lesson, a lesson that might save children from future abuse.

  • Hope says:

    Wanda and Jaime, I can’t speak for Patti or Survivor, but my understanding is that they were not referring to mothers like you, who believe and support their children when they learn the truth about their husbands.

    They were talking about mother’s like mine. A mother who ignored my giving her a comic book I drew when I was 8 years old depicting the abuse happening in my bedroom almost every night. My mother knew that my father had what he called a “consensual” on-going “affair” with his 17 year old niece when he was in his 40s and her legal guardian at the time. Yet she still refuses to believe that my father molested and raped me until I was 12. She’s even said that even if he really did rape me, she would continue to support him because she loves him and takes her vows seriously.

    My mother and mother’s like that are the ones they are referring to as “needy, whining, or desperate woman”. That label doesn’t apply to the mothers who believe and support their children. Honestly, they aren’t talking about mothers like you at all. I personally wish there were far more mothers like you two out there. And from what they’ve written, I think it’s safe to say that I think they wish more mothers responded the way you two did as well.

    Survivor even wrote…”Women who truly didn’t know will live with tremendous guilt, shame, and disgust at not knowing. They don’t go around professing their undying love! [ The way Dottie Sandusky and my mother have.]”

    That being said, I acknowledge that I do not know what Dottie Sandusky knew or didn’t know.

  • Hope says:

    And Liz, I couldn’t agree with you more!

  • Kerrie says:

    Some people choose denial, some don’t. If my husband was hanging around young boys, I would take notice. I would wonder why. Molesters are manipulators. They lie. They convince those around them that what they are doing is legit. My father molested me when I was four. I told my Mom later in life. She said she didn’t know. Even tried to make me doubt myself. After my Mom and Dad divorced, my step father molested my sister and I for a long period of time. My Mom did know about this and chose to deny and actually participate. All I know is that these are very sick people in very sick relationships.

  • Brenda says:

    Mothers and fathers who take an active, participatory role in their children’s lives prevent child sexual abuse. Grooming pedophiles look and prey on children whose parents are distracted, absent, or who live in denial. Dottie Sandusky is an example of someone who lived in denial. She believed what she wanted to believe because she chose not to see.

    If we could all agree to be vigilant, active parents (and teach that to our children too), demanding similar behaviors from our schools, our youth groups, then CSA would decline steadily.

    There’s a Dottie Sandusky in every family. Our job is to teach, be vigilant, be proactive and NEVER allow our own beliefs about adults to cloud the gut feelings or words from a child. Ask your children every day about those they come in contact with…your children will tell you if there are red flags in their lives. Be vigilant and concerned. Put children first, always!

  • irene bouchard says:

    I hope this is used as an example for other pediphiles not to be so sure they won’t get caught. I consider this a great victory for survivors and a way to promote others to be as brave as these survivors were and tell their secrets too. The perpetrators cannot be caught unless someone knows. Indeed it is unfair but we need to keep educating and hold enablers accountable too.

  • Kim Alvarez says:

    Irene, I agree with you. In fact, I agree with all of your statements on many levels. Yes, we do need to take what we have learned and the opportunity that stands before us to promote education and prevention. That time is now! We cannot expect to accomplish a thing for children today by wallowing in our past, no matter how ugly it is. There has never been a better time for survivors to speak out and reveal to the masses what the reality is. I am so sorry for those who still feel it necessary to live in denial and think they have lived and gotten over it, so why can’t we. I continue to shake at that!

    Hope, my mother was somewhat like yours. Except I just don’t know what she knew because she was too busy living in her bitter world where she was being emotionally and physically abused by my father that she neglected her children. I did not speak out until I was in my 30′s, was immediately shut down by my family because they ostracized me, my mother, well, she was just silent. Then five years ago, I had to confront it once and for all. Again, my mother shut me out and said she did not want to hear about my neighbor and a family member who had abused me. But she did not shut me down this time. My family abandoned me because they did not want the community to know. I had to walk away from them but I am now a facilitator for D2L and a Guardian Ad Litem and will continue to be “warrior-like” in advocating for children and be that voice where no one else will listen. I want to make something positive out of my experience so my family of origin know I am more valuable and worthy than what they obviously made me feel that I was. I know better now!

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