“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.