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Monday, March 26, 2012

Jerry Sandusky and the Emotional Damage that Pedophiles Leave Behind

Jerry Sandusky

A psychologist told police in 1998 that the behavior of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky fit the profile of a "likely pedophile." No one took action on the finding, and Sandusky allegedly went on to sexually abuse children until he was arrested in late 2011.

NBC News broke the story on Saturday about the psychologist's report in the Sandusky case. On the same day, here in Alabama, we learned about a lawsuit that has been filed against a man who was convicted last year of child sexual abuse that took place while he was the director of a day-care center in a Birmingham suburb. That man, Robert Eugene Frost, is serving a 20-year prison sentence for sexual abuse of a child under age 12. This is the second lawsuit filed against Frost, 77, and the now-defunct day-care center he operated in Cahaba Heights; a previous lawsuit was filed last December. The Birmingham law firm of Bradford Ingram and Ladner filed the most recent complaint.

The latest stories raise at least two profound questions, coming amid a wave of reports from around the country about the sexual abuse of children--by adults who are in positions of trust:

* How can we do a better job of spotting pedophiles, preferably early in a process that tends to spread over years and involve multiple victims?

* What kind of psychological wreckage do pedophiles leave behind for victims and their families?

The Sandusky story shows that signs of child sexual abuse often are present--if those close to the situation are alert to them. But it also shows that even experts do not always agree on what those signs mean:

NBC obtained a copy of the campus police department's investigatory report on an encounter in which Sandusky was accused of having inappropriate contact with an 11-year-old boy with whom he had showered naked on the Penn State campus.

The police file includes the report of State College psychologist Alycia Chambers, who interviewed and provided counseling to the boy.

"My consultants agree that the incidents meet all of our definitions, based on experience and education, of a likely pedophile's pattern of building trust and gradual introduction of physical touch, within a context of a 'loving,' 'special' relationship," Chambers wrote.

However, a second psychologist, John Seasock, concluded that Sandusky had neither assaulted the boy nor fit the profile of a pedophile.

Robert Eugene Frost
What becomes of the victims, even in cases where an abuser is identified, arrested, and convicted? That question is at the heart of the lawsuits against Robert Eugene Frost and the day-care center he operated. From al.com:

The mother of a child whose allegations of sexual abuse at a Cahaba Heights day care center led to the director's imprisonment has now filed suit against the director, the now-defunct center and others.

The suit filed by "V.C." on behalf of her daughter, "R.C.," is the second such suit filed against Robert Eugene Frost, who is serving a 20-year sentence after his conviction last year of sexual abuse of a child under age 12. . . .

The allegations that Frost, 77, sexually touched the girls at the day-care center were part of his prosecution in Jefferson County Circuit Court. A jury was unable to reach a verdict and a mistrial was declared on two counts of child sex abuse, but he was convicted of molesting R.C. The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals upheld the conviction in March.

The complaint addresses the psychological damage that abusers leave behind:

The latest civil suit, filed Thursday in Jefferson County Circuit Court, said both R.C. and her mother, V.C., have suffered extreme emotional duress, anxiety and physical distress as a result of the molestation. The suit says the plaintiffs have incurred medical bills as a result of the sexual abuse and R.C. will require ongoing counseling.

"That's the reality of it," said V.C.'s lawyer, William Bradford, who filed the lawsuit with Joseph Ingram and Amber Ladner. "Throughout their lives they will need counseling to help them get over it. If there is a way to get that for them then we'd like to do that."

It's unclear if Frost has the kind of assets that can provide much relief for his victims. An al.com report about the first lawsuit hints at a party that might be liable:

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for assault and battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress. It also claims Frost, the day care center he operated and its church sponsor were negligent in training and supervising Frost.

The suit contends Frost, 76, sexually touched the girl several times between 2008 and 2010, ending when she was 5 years old. Frost told the girl that her mother would hate her if she told anyone. The mother-daughter relationship continues to be strained because of the threats, the suit said.

Frost was arrested in 2010 at Christian's Day Care and Learning Academy, and charged with sexually abusing two girls, including KD.

What church sponsored Christian's Day Care and Learning Academy? The answer to that question is not apparent from news reports. But it reminds us that Sandusky was tied to the Second Mile Foundation, a child-welfare organization in Pennsylvania.

That's not the only similarity between the Sandusky and Frost cases. Perhaps the most alarming one is this: Sandusky was 68 years old when he was arrested, and Frost was in his mid 70s. It seems safe to assume that abhorrent behavior toward children did not suddenly spring to life in their senior years.

How many children did they abuse--and how many adults missed opportunities to stop them?

1 comment:

Redeye said...

"How many children did they abuse--and how many adults missed opportunities to stop them?"

God only knows....