Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
- The Second Coming by William Butler Yeats
As much as it turns my stomach to even look at Jerry Sandusky’s face, I feel compelled to post this interview with him conducted by NBC news back in 1987, twenty-four years ago. It’s a creepy look at the face and mindset of a predator, and there is something important to be learned from watching and understanding its implications beyond Penn State and the young boys Sandusky brutalized with such ease and impunity for so long.
I know from having witnessed my twin sister’s decades-long descent into the clutches of addiction - multiple addictions to alcohol, downers, uppers, opioids, amphetamines, whatever was available at any given time - that there are certain observable traits manifested almost universally by addicts, including pederasts who crave anal intercourse with boys. One is that they lie - and they'll do it with a soothing smile while looking you right in the eye. Another is that addicts will almost always gravitate to those arenas of business, social, and family life that offer access to the substances they crave, or in the case of sexual predators, to potential victims. Some purposely design and construct channels granting unlimited access; hence, Sandusky’s Second Mile charity for at-risk kids.
My sister, as wonderful and giving a person as she was, chose nursing as a vocation, and with the clarity that hindsight so often bestows too late, I’m now convinced her choice emanated as much from a subconscious need to maintain a proximity to drugs as it did from a genuine desire to help the ill and the injured. Human nature compels us to gravitate to the things we crave, the behaviors that comfort us, no matter how destructive those cravings or behaviors actually are, and even though my sister wasn’t actively taking drugs at the time she made her decision to go to nursing school, I believe she still wanted the proximity to pills and pharmaceuticals that her chosen profession grants because she knew the time would come when that proximity would lead to the promised land of unlimited access to whatever drugs she wanted. That is a primary reason she became a Registered Nurse. She never addressed her illness in a sustained, therapeutic setting or ever really committed to sobriety - although she did her best to commit to periods of sobriety, particularly while she was raising her two sons when they were young - so she never completely extricated herself from the devil’s maw of her myriad addictions. There were brief intervals of good health punctuated by the false hope that she would eventually be okay, but they always turned out to be only temporary camouflage for her overriding need to be near the drugs she believed she could not live without.
So we see that Jerry Sandusky, a pillar of the Happy Valley community, founded a charity for vulnerable at-risk youth that gave him unfettered, unrestrained access to the victims who fed his addiction for decades. Mark my words, there are many more boys he has harmed than the eight named in the indictment against him, nor has his behavior towards his own adopted children yet been examined. The full scope of Sandusky’s depravity during the last quarter of a century hasn’t yet come to light. When it does, it will be much, much worse than anything we already know. There's a proverbial iceberg up ahead, and we've barely seen the tip of it so far.
The complete, horrifying picture is just now beginning to emerge, as it did so slowly and painfully from the Catholic Church when the first waves of sexual assault survivors started to come forward with shocking tales of abuse and betrayal by their parish priests. The Penn State scandal will not be limited to one campus, or even two or three; we will learn in the coming months and years that there are athletic coaches everywhere, on every high school and college campus, who have constructed their lives and careers around the access they need to find, identify, and groom their victims. The issue of adults sexually preying upon children won’t go away when Jerry Sandusky is convicted of his crimes in a court of law; it is already spreading and metastasizing like the cancer it is. Witness the disturbing news coming out of the Citadel, the South Carolina military academy, that an alumnus assaulted several young boys on campus and was, like Sandusky, allowed to continue his predations unfettered and unpunished for years until he was finally arrested. As victims become energized and emboldened by the courage of those who take the first steps to identify their rapists, more will come forward. It’s about to become an institutional nightmare for any college, university, or high school with an athletic program, because those are the settings towards which predators like Sandusky naturally gravitate in order to feed their cravings. They’re also, paradoxically, the very settings that imbue predators with the aura of “goodness” and “caring for kids” that so successfully disguises their true intentions and prevents others from recognizing their corrupt motives.
There are many decent, well-intentioned adults on the boards of universities and in positions of power within the scholastic and collegiate athletic arenas, but we are about to witness a raging torrent of victims demanding accountability and punishment for the few liars and betrayers of their trust who prey upon them while relying on the inertia of the institutions and communities around them to protect the predators rather than the victims. If all it takes for the triumph of evil is that good people do nothing, the widening Penn State scandal has to be the poster child for that particular trope, but it definitely and oh, so horribly won’t be the only one.