Only Adults Can Stop Sandusky-types

by Diane Dimond on July 2, 2012

Pedophiles: Exactly Who You'd Never Suspect

It was the most raw and emotionally brutal court cases I’ve ever sat through – the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania vs. Jerry Sandusky.

Eight young men ranging in age from 18 to 28 testifying about their utter loss of innocence at the hands of a serial pedophile who plucked his prey out of the ranks of his own charity. The powerful and often tearful testimony came at us rat-a-tat-tat so that observers felt smacked in-between the eyes at the end of every day.

In the end, Sandusky was found guilty of 45 of 48 charges of sexually abusing young boys. I suppose you could call it a victory for the damaged young men who climbed into the witness box and sobbed while, literally, gasping for breath as they told their gut-wrenching stories. But really no one wins. Not even if the victims get a monetary settlement from Penn State University, the institution that first learned of Sandusky’s proclivities back in 1998 and still let him roam it’s campus and locker room showers with his young targets in tow. Talk about enablers!

Sandusky & Jackson cases: The Similarities

I began reporting on high-profile suspected pedophiles nineteen years ago when I became the first to tell the world that California police had targeted Michael Jackson as a possible molester of boys. I followed the Jackson story for more than a decade and as I sat in the Sandusky courtroom I marveled at the parallels.

Although a jury found Jackson not guilty on all counts, in my opinion, his behavior and that of Sandusky are classic case studies of how a serial predatory pedophile acts.

Both men were famous – one admired on an international stage, the other within his community and the world of sports. Both men projected an aura of truly caring about children. Jackson outfitted his Neverland Ranch to be the quintessential child magnet with its full scale amusement park, zoo and movie theater.

Neverland Ranch - Los Olivos, California

Sandusky, as we learned through testimony, designed his own boy-cave in the basement of his home with games, a dart board, pool table, air hockey table, television and a water bed.  Both men focused on boys from single family homes where beleaguered mothers were grateful to have what they saw as a positive “Father Figure” for their boys. When questioned about their constant proximity to other people’s young sons both Jackson and Sandusky professed the world did not understand their actions, that they “truly loved” all children and they made a point to sprinkle a few girls among the crowd of boys to cover up their secret lust. They were both able to expose children to a world they would never otherwise see – Sandusky’s revolved around championship college football – Jackson’s around the glittering world of entertainment.
And when their actions with children were exposed both men very publicly turned on the very thing they claimed they loved so much – the children, calling them liars, money grubbers, conniving manipulators out to hurt a great man for some unexplained reason.

It was sickening to watch years ago and even more sickening to sit in that courtroom the last couple of weeks and realize the general population still doesn’t realize how to spot a pedophile on the prowl.

Pedophiles Choose Girls & Boys - Some Pedos Are Women

I get weary wondering how long it will take to convince people that pedophiles are really the very person you think they could never be. They are the most charming, personable, charitable and kid-friendly people you would ever want to meet. They pay their taxes, go to church, often have respectable jobs and cloak themselves in acts of charity. They say they just want to help you raise your child by being a positive influence in their lives. Remember, pedophiles are on the hunt all the time and it is their charm that gets them past the parent so that they can then prey on the child. When they get caught they rely on authorities to look at their “upstanding lives” and compare it to the life of the single-parent, troubled kid who is making the allegations against them. Too often detectives have believed the perpetrator’s version of events and they are left alone to violate again.

I don’t want to make parents into monsters of suspicion but the only way to stop pedophiles from targeting children is for grownups to learn how to identify them.

Adults Must Learn to Identify Pedophiles

If the overly friendly person has a “special place” they take kids, if they are always surrounded by one gender of child, if the suspect takes kids home to watch movies (a typical grooming tool is to ‘mistakenly’ show pornography to a child to gauge their reaction), if the child comes home in an uncharacteristically somber mood or with wet hair or clothes – get suspicious. The warning signs are often there if adults just pay attention.

Parents can educate our children about “good touch/bad touch” but, again, these serial predators are so masterful at what they do your child will already be victimized by the time they realize the kind of touch they’ve just gotten.

Look, we know the damage childhood sexual abuse causes. Victimized kids grow into angry, troubled adults. So when do we break the cycle? How do we let every child know they must never keep such a secret?

We’ve launched successful campaigns to get people to fasten their seat belts or quit smoking. We set up a nationwide system to make sure terrorists don’t board airplanes. So why can’t we come up with a cohesive plan to educate people to stamp out predatory pedophiles?

The answer is: we can if we make it a priority.

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{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Diane Dimond July 2, 2012 at 9:14 am

ABQ Journal Reader Kevin Hart writes:

“I just read your observations on the parallels between the Sandusky case and the Michael Jackson case.
There are some seriously striking similarities there, that I had not noticed, and I applaud you for pointing them out.
I can relate to your statement:
“I get weary wondering how long it will take to convince people that pedophiles are really the very people you think they could never be.”
A very dear friend of ours was convicted of sexually abusing two children of another close friend.
This man was revered in the community, and trusted by all.
As you can imagine, we were all devastated.
My observation is this:
We can never “convince” people of this, as that implies some sort of arriving at a conclusion.
Instead, it must be a constant reminder to remain vigilant.
It would seem these pedophiles have some sort of chemical or wiring defect in their brains that deems them unable to control themselves.
Just saying, there is no end game (unfortunately) so it is not a matter of convincing, but rather continuous education and reminder.
Thank you so much for doing a very large part of that very effort!”

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Diane Dimond July 2, 2012 at 9:17 am

Noozhawk Reader Diane Eardley writes:

“I loved your article! I think we all need to know when and how to respond effectively. Do we report to the police if we suspect there is a questionable neighbor. How do the police in most jurisdictions respond?”

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Diane Dimond July 2, 2012 at 9:21 am

Ms. Eardley,

If you feel you have enough information to make a complaint against someone call your local sheriff’s office or police department and asked to talk to a Sex Crimes detective or one who investigates child endangerment cases. Tell them what you know/suspect without embellishment and they should take it from there. If you don’t think your complaint is receiving the kind of attention it should call back and ask for the Watch Commander/Supervisor and speak to them. In this day and age I think the police respond, generally, quite well. ~ DD

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Javier Damien July 2, 2012 at 9:54 am

Excellent article, Diane. In a pedophile’s sick mind, the person genuinely believes that he/she is giving the child affection, love and care. They cannot appreciate for one moment that they are harming the child, often forever. Thanks for shedding light on a serious problem that has been going on since the world was created.

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Diane Dimond July 2, 2012 at 10:17 am

ABQ Journal Reader Alice Benson writes:

“Diane, I read yesterday’s article carefully several times.
I understand the pain you endured both by Jerry Sandusky’s trial and by the one of Michael Jackson. You no doubt came away believing a pedophile was hiding behind every rock and every bush near an elementary school. I totally agree with you that someone who concentrates on luring children into sexual situations is an evil person. Do we ban men from teaching anything at all to children? Do we ban all Boy Scout leaders who take kids on hikes? Since statistics show us that less than 5% of men on the sex offender registry will repeat their crime, do we stigmatize the other 95% and destroy their family lives? These are enormous questions touching on true justice. Two men were recently attacked and killed as pedophiles in Washington State. One man left a wife and two small children. The killer of one said he would keep on killing sex offenders as long as possible. Future pedophiles are not yet on the sex offender registry. My belief is that the drug epidemic in this country is our number one enemy. Drugs has robbed families of functioning parents. Drugs has killed the rational thinking of adolescents who are producing fatherless children. Less than 12% of families in this country has a father, mother and their own children. Then of course we have the female pedophile, often a school teacher who robs young middle school kids of their virginity. Today, being Sunday, and having been asked to speak briefly at a church building dedication, I hope to add my feeble voice to those advocating God’s standards of behavior for each of us.”

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Diane Dimond July 2, 2012 at 10:23 am

[READERS: Alice Benson works closely with a group that seeks to change the sex offender registry program to include only the most hard core, career sex offenders.]

Dear Alice;

I think you misunderstood the intent of my column. It was to give parents/adults some tools to help identify a true serial pedophile. I by no means think there is a “pedophile hiding behind every rock and every bush near an elementary school.” Nor do I think we ban all male teachers or men who take Boy Scouts on hikes. That’s nonsensical thinking and the very reason I wrote this column – to bring some FACTS to the discussion table.
I agree with you, Alice, that our sex registries are bloated with many who should not be on the list….teenagers, drunks who once urinated in public etc. But that’s no reason to bury our heads in the sand and decline discussion about the very real FACT that there are crafty and charming pedophiles that can do the horrible things they do because THEY GET PAST THE PARENT FIRST.
I think, Alice, that we agree more than we disagree. Best, ~DD

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Diane Dimond July 2, 2012 at 10:28 am

Facebook Friend Mardi Ellen writes:

“Fabulous opener, Diane. Two of the most important issues. It is the very person you think they could never be. And they are on the hunt all the time. Sad that so many adults feel it is important to support these people and let children fend for themselves. In fact many people are either overtly or inadvertently feeding children to these hunters. Stock n trade of currency, a desirable child, until the child ages out….
Facts are facts, Bringing them to light does not mean slander. I believe slander has different legal definition.”

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Diane Dimond July 2, 2012 at 10:38 am

Facebook Friend Katy Loren writes:

” I’ve been thinking the same thing recently about the similarities. And I want you to know that I admire your courage over the years to stand up and report the facts in the face of so much anger and resentment from MJ supporters. I, too, believe there was too much smoke for there to be no fire — I think witnesses were bought off. But, this is just my opinion, as I know he was found not guilty (not “innocent” but “not guilty”).
And reporting the facts (like Mardi Ellen says) is not slander. If that were true, then over many years, a hell of a lot of people have slandered OJ Simpson — cause a lot of people have always believed he was guilty of murder in spite of the jury decision. Guilty people do sometimes get “not guilty” verdicts. Jus sayin…..”

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Diane Dimond July 2, 2012 at 10:39 am

Facebook Friend Ted David writes:

“Ted David Diane is quite clear in saying that Michael Jackson was found not guilty. She is also quite clear in saying it is her opinion that there are parallels between Michael Jackson and Jerry Sandusky. She is certainly within her right to feel that way and having sat in the court room for both cases I believe she is eminently qualified to make that statement. Let’s stop shooting the messenger!”

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Patti Petow July 2, 2012 at 10:58 am

To Ted David: I was going to say the same thing regarding Diane’s experience and expertise in this area, but you beat me to it. Let’s just hope that Diane’s observations help to open the eyes of a mom or dad out there who currently walks the fence on whether or not to pick the phone up for assistance if they suspect foul play when it comes to their own child or any other being in the midst of possible danger.

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Diane Dimond July 2, 2012 at 10:41 am

Facebook Friend Stacy Brown writes:

“First, it is a myth that was started by non other than Katherine Jackson that Jordy Chandler recanted. It never happened. Next, there are so many in this country, the media included and perhaps in particular, who wouldn’t speak of Michael jackson with kind words at all. Then, he died, and all of a sudden he was Michael the hero. I spent a lot of time at Neverland and at Hayvenhurst and as one of the Jackson’s so blatantly put it to me just a year ago “Stacy, the problem is, you knew too much and everyone in the family is afraid of that.” But, truth is, I loved those people, they, including and especially Michael, had no clue what love is. No one was a bigger fan of Jackson’s music than I was. I thought the world of him until i began seeing, largely because of Diane’s reporting, Chandler’s deposition; the still mostly unidentified other victims; the youth pastor; and the things related to the young boy whom Jackson stood trial for. The beginning of Jackson’s defense was calling witnesses who said Jackson would cry if he didn’t sleep with them. These were MICHAEL’S witnesses!!!! I could go on as some of you no doubt will, but there were so many similarities between Jackson and SANDUSKY it nearly made me, as Joe Jackson would say, regurgitate!!!! But not “all the way to the bank.” The bottom line here though is not what I think, or what anyone thinks, the underlying message in this article is that parents should know that pedophiles are often those you wouldn’t immediately suspect. For the most part, they appear to be very helpful with children and have a love for them. But, be wary of those who may say “I will slit my wrist before I would hurt a child,” or one that would famously hesitate and repeat Bob Costas’s question as to whether they are sexually attracted to young boys.”

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Diane Dimond July 2, 2012 at 11:38 am

Twitter pal Marc Brewer writes:

“@DiDimond @sharethis That is one reason why the penn state situation is so disturbing. all the adults that knew seemed to do nothing.”

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Diane Dimond July 2, 2012 at 2:54 pm

Face book Friend Ronald Jeffries Tallman writes:

“Awareness is a start. Let’s all use some common sense: a grown man (or woman) having a non relative child sleeping over and esp more than once is just not normal. Same bedroom or even bed is way odd. Not specifically pointing out any one case(s), just what goes on. Showering same (child/adult) likely out if it wasn’t so by now. It is often the authority figure, ones who are looked up to even by the parents. This could be teachers, scoutmasters, heads of youth organizations, beauty pagents and so forth. But not limited to. If it don’t look or seem right, probably ain’t.”

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Diane Dimond July 2, 2012 at 2:55 pm

Facebook Friend Debra Castaldo writes:

“Diane – With 30 years experience as a Director of Child Welfare Services, child therapist with expertise in sexual abuse, yes I can tell you a pedophile can be anyone, and often respected in their communities,but there are warning signs: social incompetence, gravitating towards settings with children, and sexual issues with adult relationships. Dr Debra Castaldo http://www.debracastaldo.com

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Diane Dimond July 2, 2012 at 2:56 pm

Facebook Friend Kim Winton writes:

“If your insides are telling you that something is wrong, most likely it IS wrong. Let’s not forget that. Anybody in a position of power has more control and authority, which lends to anything negative being covered up better than the regular “Joe”. It’s a fact that these things happen, but the person that sits in authority has much more power. It is a sad but true fact. We, as our own authorities, must keep our eyes and ears open to catch these offenders.”

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Diane Dimond July 2, 2012 at 2:56 pm

Facebook Friend Pat Melchionno writes:

” Great heads up DD to be aware that “they” are among us, the charming, cool, fun guy with all the toys. As always a worthy article filled with facts. The opinions however I’ll just scan over to not miss your real point, my first sentence. Thank you”

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Anita Busch July 2, 2012 at 8:52 pm

Excellent column, Diane!

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CLS July 10, 2012 at 12:27 am

This is an excellent post, Diane. Of course, the glaring difference between the two cases is Jerry Sandusky was rightfully found guilty, but Michael Jackson was acquitted. I’ve read the criminal documents, from the latter’s case. There is no doubt in my mind he was just as guilty as Sandusky. That he got away with it disgusts me, especially since his victims are still harrassed. I hope Sandusky’s victims are not likewise stigmatized for speaking out. It always takes courage to tell even one person a respected member of the community has violated his or her body.

It would help if people familiarized themselves with the profile of a pedophile, and the following link is just a start.

http://www.missingkids.com/en_US/publications/NC70.pdf

Of course, not everyone who spends time with children is looking for prey, and witch hunts are always going to be a concern. But the professionals who investigate these cases are correct. Be aware of people who walk into the room and prefer to spend more time with a child than with you.

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Diane Dimond July 10, 2012 at 8:52 am

Huffington Post Reader BirdPrinter writes:

“This is an extremely important article that needs to be read by every parent on the planet. Reading the comments it’s obvious that too many people still think that if you are a popular football coach who gives to charity like Sandusky or can sing and dance like Michael Jackson, then you are incapable of doing wrong. This article is brilliant because parents desperately need to realize that pedophiles are NOT the boogeyman, they’re often the very people we love the most. I can’t reccomend this highly enough!”

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Diane Dimond July 10, 2012 at 8:53 am

Huffington Post Reader DarkDay writes:

“I couldn’t agree more. I grew up on Michael Jackson’s music and I know first hand how it tough it was to ask the tough questions. For years I comforted myself with the PR spin of the fan blogs that he was innocent, that he was a victim of extortion. If I had been on the jury I would have voted “not guilty” because there’s no way I was ready to believe Michael Jackson could have done those things. It was Michael Jackson, the icon of my childhood, the man who wrote the theme songs for my entire generation. But as a survivor of abuse I had to learn the truth no matter how much it hurt. I stll listen to his music. I just know who I’m listening too now.”

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Diane Dimond July 10, 2012 at 8:53 am

Huffington Post Reader TooColdOut writes:

“Excellent post!

The hero worship of star football coaches like Sandusky and dancers like Michael Jackson clearly blinds people to the truth. Celebrity can really seduce people, and in the case of Jackson, not only was he the biggest celebrity on the planet, but he had enough wealth to bribe and intimidate any accuser he wanted to, his fans would send thousands of death threats to his accusers, he had investigators digging up dirt on accusers, he could afford the best lawyers in the world who got evidence thrown out of court. It’s amazing that in spite of all his power, so many brave witnesses still came forward to testify against him.”

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Diane Dimond July 10, 2012 at 8:54 am

Huffington Post writer Imat writes:

“And every single one of those ‘brave’ witnesses were excoriated by the defense, weren’t they? But hey, we didn’t hear about that did we? We, the public, only heard what the media chose to report because of a vested interest in a guilty verdict. If an intelligent person is ‘blinded’ by celebrity in Jackson’s case, then why bother to read the transcripts?
Why bother to dig deep enough to discover truth through those transcripts, through the words of people who were there, who are first hand witnesses to what never happened?
Why bother to confront people like this author who, it seems to me, is far more obsessed and invested in Jackson’s guilt than any one ‘fan’ or clear thinking person?
Again, I’ve decided to respect the jurors’ decision; to respect the integrity of Mr. Mesereau and Ms. Yu; to trust the words of peers and friends who actually knew the man, one of whom was actually there and knew both accusors and their families and is witness to what never happened; to understand the court transcripts and the clear indictment of a vindictive DA as well as 10+ years of FBI and law enforcements futile attempts to corroborate the accusations; and to trust my own ability to discern truth vs. what this author espouses. One kid with a mentally ill mother vs. numerous, credible witnesses in the coach’s trial. No comparison unless one spins it that way, which is what this author is doing.”

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Diane Dimond July 10, 2012 at 8:56 am

Dear Imat:

No spin here. Just a comparison of Sandusky’s stature and behavior and Mr. Jackson’s. I clearly label this as OPINION (which, like you, I’m entitled to) and I clearly write that Mr. Jackson was acquitted.

Matching the behaviors, and giving my opinion, that’s all. ~ DD

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Hayley July 11, 2012 at 9:21 pm

Would it be possible to match the behaviours of the accusers I would like your opion on that e.g jordan chandler and Gavin Arviso v the testimonies of sanduskies victims there are just to many to name, do you find similarities in their testimonies btw I have read trial transcripts 1993 allegations and michael jacksons 2005 trial in your opinion do these accusers tell the same story.

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Diane Dimond July 25, 2012 at 9:02 am

Hayley: Yes, the stories both the Jackson and Sandusky kids told described very similar type “grooming” stories by the two men. And both men were seen as admired leaders. Both handed out lots of gifts, took the boys on trips, had fun places to play that attracted the kids to come back, both professed to “love” the children, and, as I wrote – in the end both men turned on the kids accusing them of being liars out for money. ~ DD

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Tony Nease April 1, 2013 at 8:00 am

Did Michael Jackson put himself in questionable situations? Absolutely. Was he a pedophile? No way. There wasn’t 1 shred of evidence proving he was a child molester. Hence why he was acquitted on all 10 counts. He was different because he didn’t know what was normal. I think you should stop accusing and sharing your opinions about a man who was never proven to be guilty in a court of law. I mean come on he’s dead.

Diane Dimond July 25, 2013 at 3:57 pm

DD Web Site Reader Steven Jackson writes:

“What an insightful comment!!! Also, anti Paedophile education needs to be part of everyday life. As a former victim, a lot of that which I experienced could have been obviated by knowledge within the School curriculum. The ones to watch are those getting all the accolades in Public life but they use their manipulative abilities to engage the natural curiosity of the Young and then to destroy their lives. Education could describe their steps and blow their covers. Then, for the youthful Victim, they would at least have positive role models to get thru the crisis. “

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