Dottie: Is she one of Sandusky’s victims, too?
I don’t think Dorothy “Dottie” Sandusky is a cold and heartless woman who would deliberately turn away from a child’s cries for help. Her own pattern of charity and assistance to others indicates otherwise.
But I do have to wonder if she’s deluding herself. That’s what I did for years, from the age of 13 on.
At first I was in denial, as I learned of my (ex) husband’s behavior with other 13-year-old girls, one after another. I was conflicted, about what it meant and how to handle it. I was also ashamed and terrified: both that other people would come to know our family’s dirty little secret, and that he would do the same thing to our (then) three young daughters. Or even our son.
From the time I realized what “Eddie” was doing, that he had a perversion and preferred girls of 13, it took me 10 years to leave him. If you add another three years to that, you’ll know exactly how long he was abusing me, too. For you see, I was groomed for a period of time, and was just 13 when Eddie first molested me.
Did you know there is one legal way to rape a child? Ken Lanning (who wrote the foreword for my book Sister of Silence) and I have had this discussion many times. “You get married,” Lanning said.
That’s how sex with a child (be it molestation or rape) is legally sanctioned in this country. So at 16 I went from being an abused teen to an abused wife. (Dottie was reportedly about the age of 22 by the time she and Sandusky became a couple in the mid-1960’s; but I’d like more details about her prior involvement with him.)
And many men who molest children also abuse their wives. There have been famous cases of just such stories: men who have kidnapped a child, men who murder a child, men who molest children. Behind many, many of these men is a cowering woman, confused about what is happening and unsure of what to do. These wives become complicit partners to the abuse, because they themselves are being battered.
Could that be what happened to Dottie Sandusky? Very possibly, yes. It is—in my opinion—the only way she can publicly state that he is innocent of all the charges against him. Any person who is repeatedly traumatized or abused for a period of several years, or decades, can become numb to reality. What is real and what isn’t? Who knows? The victim certainly doesn’t—or if she does, the last thing she wants is for other people to know, too.
It might be classic cognitive dissonance —where a person’s beliefs and actions don’t line up, and the only thing left to do is to justify the conflict in your mind by making excuses or flatly denying it.
Case in point: from all corners, Jerry Sandusky is hailed as a great guy who loves kids. So Dottie tells herself that what she’s seeing and hearing cannot possibly be what she thinks it is. Her husband continues to abuse young boys, and Dottie continues to deny it’s happening—just as she might be denying her own abuse at Sandusky’s hands.
The one thing I know for sure is that many abused women go through their entire lives in denial about the true state of their own married lives. I was one, and I’ve met many, many others.
For Dottie to ever admit that she’s married to someone who has not only been accused of rape by numerous victims—but that such victims rarely lie about serious crimes like sexual abuse—she first would have to admit she herself is abused. Or, that she’s made a very grave mistake in her assessment of her husband. Or both.
Not an easy thing for anyone—who wants to admit they’ve made a mistake? It would be incredibly difficult to do so when you’re under a national spotlight. So let’s give Dottie time to do that—and get her posthaste to a skilled mental health specialist, who can help her come to terms with the truth.