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I originally wrote the post below about Dottie Sandusky on November 10, 2011, and it stirred up a small hornet’s nest of controversy – people saying that I was defending Dottie Sandusky, that I was being unfair to the victims, that I was a narrow-minded ass and an idiot. Well, as I maintained during those debates, we are all entitled to our opinion, and I stand by that belief.
As the Jerry Sandusky trial is wrapping up, and Dottie Sandusky has testified in defense of her husband, the feelings I had when I originally wrote this post have risen to the surface of my consciousness again. On a rational and clinical level, I understand the titanic depths of denial thought patterns in a situation like this. However, having followed the testimony of the victims, I have a somewhat increased sense of disappointment, outrage, and childlike bewilderment about this kind of denial. Not only does it minimize the victims’ experiences, it feels like a desperate act of self-preservation on the part of a woman who sees her world crumbling and will do anything to try to save it, regardless of the cost. Wouldn’t we all? I don’t know. It depends on our individual strength of character and moral courage.
As a childhood victim of a molester, I saw the denial that my parents experienced. Were they culpable? My child’s mind thought so – because I expressed in every way I could that I did not want to be around my molester – every way except telling them what was going on. I was too embarrassed, too ashamed, and too confused. Which sounds a lot like what Sandusky’s victims said about themselves and which is now enabling a clever defense attorney to call their testimony into question, in a large part because those feelings made them hold back the truth for so long.
I know what I think is right in this case, and perhaps it is colored by my own experience. But so be it. It takes true courage to admit to being a victim and not spend your life living as one.
November 10, 2011: Thinking of Dottie Sandusky
I don’t follow sports. I don’t have any connections at Penn State. I don’t even know how I became aware in the last several days of the atrocious acts that former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky committed on who knows how many young boys over the past 20 years. My heart aches for the victims. I know a little about how they feel. I remember being a victim myself.
But in all this publicity, the perpetrator hasn’t spoken. He’s free on a reasonable amount of bail. What’s he doing? Spending a lot of time with lawyers, obviously, and supporters, certainly. Note that I did not make the totally inappropriate remark about athletic supporters – oh wait, I just did. He can’t be strolling around Happy Valley with his head held high. Can he? Or can he truly be secluding himself in his home, with his wife of heaven knows how many years? Can he really? Which brings us to the point of my post.
As my heart aches for Sandusky’s young victims, it aches for his wife. What must this woman be feeling? Shame, anger, disbelief, rage, humiliation, shock, nausea, betrayal, bewilderment, devastation are just a few of the emotions that come to mind. What do you do when suddenly you discover that the man you married and loved and helped all these years is a person you don’t even know? And someone you would consider a monster if you did not know them?
It must be impossible for her to believe it, despite the evidence. And I know that, at this point, she is looking at every moment of their life together and wondering. Did she really know and just turn a blind eye? Did she miss all the signs? Does this fact make x,y, and z make sense now? How could she have been so gullible? Such a fool?
These are the things she is thinking privately. She may not voice these kinds of thoughts to anyone. And barely even to herself. To friends and family, I imagine she is still displaying the stong, supportive wife-face she has worn for years. The face that says, “I don’t believe a word of this, and I am standing by my man.” She has perhaps raged at her husband – or perhaps not. She’s not of an era when women did that, for any cause.
People have asked, “How could she have not known? It had to have been obvious, or at least suspicious.” But no, it is entirely possible that she did not know, did not see, did not believe. Sociopaths – which is what child molesters are – are extremely charming and excellent at the art of deception. And when you love someone and have built your life around them, you are predisposed to believe what they tell you. When you know someone as a man who has looked after kids in various capacities for years – and raised the ones you adopted together – then the trips, the phone calls, the bedtime companionship in the basement room, seem like pure fatherly activities. And pedophiles can – and do – raise families without victimizing their own children – sometimes.
The one thing I know is that this woman is a victim in a whole different way. And for that, my heart goes out to her.
It’s the two-month (and eight-day) anniversary of my divorce, so it’s time to check in.
Things are actually going pretty well. Pat seems to be drinking less – at least, we only get into unpleasant conversations when he’s been drinking, and we get into unpleasant conversations less than we ever have. He and Kelsea seem to be getting along better. In fact, he seems happier without me. And I think I am happier without him. That’s not to say that’s a bad thing. We were commenting today that we are getting along better now than we ever did.
We’ve had some minor trouble with child support. I’ve been diligently paying him each month (though I was overpaying him the first two months). But I kept getting these things requesting payment from something called the Family Support Registry. I knew I’d been paying, so I just ignored them, until last week, when I thought, “Maybe I should tell these guys I’m just paying Pat?” When I called them, they said that I needed to pay them and then Pat could get the money from them.
“But I’ve been paying him”, I told them.
“We have no record of that”, they said, “so in other words, to us it appears that you are delinquent. To fix that, you have to contact your lawyer.
“But I didn’t use a lawyer.
“Then you have to contact the judge.”
“How do I do that?”
“We can’t tell you.”
Well, thanks for your help. I’ve seen from the Captain’s experience what happens when you’re delinquent in child support payments – the one thing that I couldn’t bear to have happen: you can’t renew your passport. So in order to restore my good name, and avoid a bench warrant and subsequent fugitive status, Pat and I went to the courthouse today to see how we could fix this.
The first person we talked to, the Information Desk woman (who had a tremendous amount of cheese on her desk – weird), told us we had to go to a different town to talk to Family Services. What? There’s no other way? Well, since we seem to be “communicable” (as she put it), we could try talking to the Family Assistance Someone Upstairs. Agreeing that while I may be communicable, though Pat is perfectly healthy, we headed up to talk to the Someone Upstairs.
We explained our issue to Someone, who we then discovered was the Someone Upstairs’ secretary. We discovered this when she walked four feet into the room we were almost standing in and told Someone Upstairs about what we were looking for.
Anyway, we filed a motion to update or suspend or reanimate (I forget the exact word) the Support Order so I can pay Pat directly and get credit for what I’d already paid him. And it cost us (well, me) $105. Hopefully, since we’re so communicable, the judge will approve it. If she doesn’t, do I get my $105 back? I doubt it.
Otherwise, it’s going pretty well. We’re not fighting. We talk briefly most days, usually around arrangements for Kelsea. He brought me some groceries yesterday when I was still really sick. (Today, I’m only pretty sick, not really sick.) I kind of feel like we’re lucky. Almost every person I’ve talked to about divorce over the last 15 months has told me that I was sure to need a lawyer at some point, that there was no way that we could continue to be amicable about everything. I know that could still happen, but every day it feels more and more likely that we’ll escape without going to that bad lawyer place.
There’s one thing that I’m not nuts about. I suppose it’s a function of being sick and not going to an office every day anymore, but I find that I am lonely.
More often than not, living alone is not bad. I’ve always appreciated my time alone. And when I have Kelsea with me, it’s not like I’m living alone – just half the time, really. But I haven’t had her with me since I’ve been sick, she’s been sick, and she’s had CSAP (so she’s assured of getting to school on time).
When I go to bed at night, the house just feels empty and I feel alone. Not in a good way. In a hopeless, Im-going-to-be-broke-and-homeless-in-six-months way. This has been going on for some nights now. I am sure that when I finally (if I ever) feel better and loose this nasty, disgusting, snot-dripping-down-my-throat-induced nausea and cough, I will be able to get outside, enjoy spring, maybe even start a garden. But not yet.
That’s not really a function of divorce recovery, but then again, maybe it is. Maybe it’s learning to be alone not just when you want to, not just when you can carve out time to do so. Maybe it’s learning to really LIVE alone.
I think that’s a good thing.