Entries in Jerry Sandusky (4)


Sandusky Defense Argues Letters Consistent with Personality Disorder

Patrick Smith/Getty Images(BELLEFONTE, Pa.) -- Jerry Sandusky’s defense team filed a motion Monday that asked permission for a psychologist to testify about histrionic personality disorder, a psychiatric disorder characterized by dramatic, emotional and attention-seeking behavior.

The former Penn State assistant football coach is charged with 52 criminal counts of sexual abuse involving 10 boys over a 15-year period. The motion was intended to discount the prosecution’s argument that letters from Sandusky to the boys were not “grooming behavior” to lure them into an inappropriate sexual relationship.

The first witness in the trial, known as Victim No. 4, said the former coach sexually abused him and sent him “creepy love letters.” The defense said a psychologist will explain that the “words, tones, requests and statements” made in the letter are consistent with a person who suffers from a histrionic personality disorder, according to the motion.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM, defines people with the personality disorder as having an excessive need for approval and exhibit inappropriate seductive behavior. The condition usually begins in early adulthood, and people with the condition are usually dramatic, energetic and flirtatious. “Histrionic” is a term meaning “dramatic or theatrical.”

According to Cleveland Clinic, people with the disorder usually have good social skills, but they tend to use those skills to manipulate others to make themselves the center of attention.

Patients must not only undergo a full psychiatric evaluation to be diagnosed with the condition, but psychiatrists must also have an understanding of how they operated over an extended period of time in multiple areas of their lives, including work, love, relaxation and play, said Dr. Carol Bernstein, associate professor of psychiatry at NYU Langone Medical Center, who is not involved with the Sandusky trial.

People with the disorder must exhibit at least five characteristics of the disorder, some of which include: being uncomfortable when they are not the center of attention, rapid changes in emotions, being overly concerned with physical appearance, constantly seeking reassurance and approval and exhibiting inappropriate seductive or flirtatious behavior.

The condition can be difficult to diagnose because parts of anyone’s character and style can make one behave in a certain way in certain situations, said Bernstein.  But even if people are diagnosed with a disorder, it does not justify inappropriate behavior and does not make them insane.

“These disorders can indeed be real, and sometimes they can be pathological, but you have to look at the context from where they occur,” said Bernstein.

“If someone exhibits sexually inappropriate behavior and that’s all they have out of the several characteristics, that’s not a personality disorder,” said Bernstein. “Any sexual predator exhibits sexually inappropriate behavior.”

Even with a diagnosis though, Elyn Saks, associate dean and professor of law, psychology, and psychiatry and the behavioral sciences at University of Southern California Gould Law School, said the legal argument would be a “stretch.”

“Typically, for an insanity argument, a person must be out of touch with reality at the time of the crime,” said Saks. “It is very strict. While personality disorders can have transient psychotic symptoms, this would be a stretch as a viable argument.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Hockey Star Urges Congress to Fight Child Sex Abuse

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) -- It is a scandal that has tainted the greatest American sports. From Penn State football to Syracuse basketball, high-profile sexual abuse cases have brought child abuse to the forefront of the national consciousness.

Now the Senate is looking for ways federally mandated programs can prevent these abuses that often persist unreported for years.

On Tuesday, Canadian hockey star Sheldon Kennedy, who was sexually abused by his junior league coach for five years, urged the Senate Subcommittee on Children and Families to confront this “nightmare” by instituting training programs for coaches, teachers and mentors who work with children.

“Too often, society’s response to child abuse is to focus on punishing the criminal,” Kennedy said in his written testimony. “Punishing the bad guys makes us feel good, but it does not fully solve the problem.”

Kennedy’s testimony comes the same day that former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, who is accused sexually abusing 10 boys over a 15-year period, waived his right a preliminary hearing to determine if there was enough evidence for a trial.

In spite of the recent uptick in high-profile child sex abuse cases, a study released by the Department of Health and Human Services shows that reported cases of abuse have actually decreased over the last five years. The report estimates that 130,000 fewer children were victimized in 2010 than in 2006.

About 9.2 percent of the 695,000 child abuses cases reported in 2010 were from sexual abuse. Slightly more than 78 percent of the victims suffered neglect and almost 18 percent endured physical abuse, according to the report.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


‘Nice Guy Molesters’ Believe They’re ‘Child Lovers’

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- “I enjoy young people,” Jerry Sandusky told NBC’s Bob Costas Monday. “I love being around them.”

That was Sandusky’s explanation after being accused of 40 counts of child molestation.  He enjoys kids. He started the popular and successful Second Mile charity. He says he even felt like a kid himself sometimes.

But that "nice guy" defense is a classic tactic of a child sexual predator, said Ken Lanning, a former FBI special agent for 30 years and now a consultant in the area of crimes against children. This type of predator hones in on children who are particularly vulnerable, then gives them whatever it is they feel they’re missing. Poor? The predator will shower the child with gifts and money, Lanning said. No dad? The child molester looks to fill that void by acting as a fatherly figure.

“They call themselves child lovers,” said Lanning. ”They nurture these kids, so when someone asks, ‘Did you molest this child?’ they say, ‘I would never molest or hurt a child.’”

“In their mind, it’s not molesting, it’s love,” he said.

The defense and justification is one that has been seen before in high-profile cases of alleged child molestation. When Michael Jackson was accused of such an act, he told ABC’s Diane Sawyer in a 1995 interview that he could “never harm a child or anyone. It’s not in my heart.”

Jackson, his team and the accuser’s family came to a $20 million civil settlement.

A decade later, Jackson faced four more charges of child molesting, along with one charge of attempted child molesting and eight possible counts of providing alcohol to minors. He was found not guilty in 2005.

During the Jackson trial, Lanning recalled many of Jackson’s friends and family coming to his defense by saying, “He’s dedicated his life to children. He loves children. He’s like a child himself.”

While Lanning does not want to discourage or call into question all the good people who do work with children, especially underserved youths, he said many of Jackson’s defenses didn’t actually clear him.

“When people said he liked children more than adults and is always taking in troubled kids to his ranch, none of that means he’s not a child molester. I’m not saying he is, but that certainly doesn’t say he’s not. It fits with a consistent mold with many individuals who have this problem.”

For both Sandusky and Jackson, Lanning said, “nothing is unique about either situation when looking at child molestation charges.”

Child-lover molesters almost never use violence for sex, said Lanning. Instead, they groom and seduce and manipulate and use cooperation to get what they want out of the child.

Many victims don’t tell anyone of the inappropriate behavior because they are considered “compliant child victims.”

“A child can’t legally consent to having sex, but some of them aren’t necessarily fighting him off,” said Lanning. “They’re developmentally immature, and later they feel ashamed and embarrassed that they cooperated in their victimization.”

If parents feel suspicious, Anna Salter, a Wisconsin-based psychologist who has worked with sex offenders and victims for 30 years, said they should not feel like they need hard proof to remove a child from the situation.

“If you’re wrong, you’re wrong,” said Salter. “If you’re right, you’ve really saved the kid from severe trauma. You must act conservatively when it comes to the health and safety of children.”

“I often tell parents, if any adult wants to be around your kids more than you do, beware,” said Lanning. “And beware of anything that seems to be too good to be true.”

“Everyone is angry at Penn State, but it could happen again and we all need to understand that organizations are living organisms -- the first priority is survival,” said Salter. “People underestimate the pull to save an organization, and we have to send a powerful message that, yes, there is the desire to protect the organization, but you have an allegiance to the larger society and to children not to yield to that pull.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Sex Offenders Often Minimize Behaviors, Say Experts

Jose Luis Pelaez/Stone(NEW YORK) -- Although former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky denied he sexually abused young boys in a national media interview, psychiatrists say one characteristic shared by many sex offenders is the tendency to downplay inappropriate behaviors.

Sandusky admitted to NBC’s Bob Costas that he “horsed around with kids,” and showered with them after workouts, but insisted there was no sexual attraction to the boys.

“It’s a general characteristic of sex offenders to minimize the severity of their actions,” said Dr. Jon Shaw, professor and director of child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of Miami School of Medicine.  Shaw stressed his comment refers to sex offenders in general and not to Sandusky since he is not involved in the case and has not examined Sandusky.

Sexual molestation, said forensic psychiatrist Dr. Harold Bursztajn, is a crime of opportunity that is much more an expression of vanity and aggression than of sexuality.

“There’s a need to protect one’s vanity, which leads people to minimize and rationalize their behavior,” said Bursztajn, a forensic psychiatrist and senior clinical faculty member at Harvard Medical School.  Bursztajn was also referring to offenders in general and not specifically to Sandusky since he is not involved in the case and has not examined Sandusky.

While Sandusky said he only engaged in non-sexual hugging and touching, a former graduate assistant said he saw Sandusky raping a 10-year-old child in the shower.  Sandusky denied that the assault occurred and said the graduate assistant’s account was “false.” Sandusky referred to the incident as “horseplay.”

Bursztajn explained that in cases involving accusations of sexual abuse, experts need to look at all the details and context of each situation before determining whether crimes were committed.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio