After the recent Jerry Sandusky trial, the Mental Disorder of Pedophilia has become part of the media and has created many questions in the minds of millions of readers and viewers, including my own. One in particular is how long or at around what age did Jerry Sandusky become a Pedophile?
Allow me to put on my proverbial clinician hat and give you the diagnostic criteria that must be met in order to be diagnosed with Pedophilia.
A. Over a period of at least 6 months, recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors involving sexual activity with a prepubescent child or children (generally age 13 years or younger).
B. The person has acted on these urges, or the sexual urges or fantasies cause marked distress or interpersonal difficulty.
C. The person is at least age 16 years and at least 5 years older than the child or children in Criterion A.
Basically, having intense sexual arousal toward children is all that is needed to qualify. Some pedophiles have never touched a child sexually. They might collect child porn or have intense fantasies of having sexual relations with children without ever touching a child.
There is a range of actions that pedophiles engage in that may or may not involve the use of force. Some perform indecent exposure acts or masturbate in front of the child, while others might fondle or undress the child without any genital contact.
Are there pedophiles that start as late as their 40’s? The answer is “Yes”. Prisons are full of men who acquired their pedophilic behaviors later in life. Many began viewing pornography, which after time, drifted to younger and younger persons in the porn. Within months, some men acquire deviant arousal patterns to children and away from adult sex acts. The internet plays a large part of these “late onset” pedophiles. Access to this online material gets easier with each passing year.
There is no typical pedophile. They may be young or old, male or female, although female pedophiles are rare. Sadly, some pedophiles are in positions of trust as educators, coaches or those who maintain an important role in the child’s life. This descriptor rings true in his case.
Given the ages of some of Sandusky’s victims, one might infer that he was actively abusing children for about 25 plus years. The Second Mile Foundation was founded in 1977, making Sandusky approximately 33 years old. After the Bob Costas interview, several potential victims contacted State College legal staff alleging they had been abused by Sandusky in the 1970’s.
However, many researchers and clinicians note that a significant number of pedophiles report being sexually abused as children. Interestingly, Sandusky’s father served in the field of youth service programs for over 30 years, mostly as the director of the Brownson House in Washington Pennsylvania, which was a community recreation center for children.
Jerry Sandusky attended Washington High School where he was a good student and athlete. His classmates have described him as a loner who never dated in high school, but was popular. Being around youth was a part of Sandusky’s rearing. He may have encountered some sexual experience(s) with an older male at or before puberty (or even exposed to such) thus creating a template for deviant sexual arousal. This is merely speculation.
Many of Sandusky’s victims are males who were around 10-12 years old when the abuse began. Researchers and clinicians note that pedophiles may engage victims that are at or near the age they were abused themselves. To some extent, sadly, victim characteristics are also characteristics of the perpetrator.
In review, there is information that strongly suggests that Sandusky was abusing children in his 30’s. There are some interesting facts about his past that might play into an arousal to boys occurring years much earlier than that. Remember, the major criteria for pedophilia is having a strong sexual interest toward children. The distance narrows from puberty to his early 30’s. Given Sandusky’s age and life experiences, it would be reasonable to estimate that his pedophilic thinking and behavior began in adolescence. This mirrors the age of onset of the larger group of pedophiles as well.
Adolescence and youth is a time when we are discovering new things about life. It should be a time of innocence. I cannot speak for what exactly Sandusky’s experiences may have been, but I can clearly state that he was responsible for altering, abusing and robbing others of their youth and innocence.
It was once said, “In youth we learn; in age we understand”. This, we will never understand, and the story continues….
Since 1990, Bruce Cameron has worked as a therapist, administrator, and Treatment Oversight Specialist for the U.S. Department of Justice/Federal Bureau of Prisons. His professional credentials include Licensed Professional Counselor/Supervisor, Licensed Sex Offender Treatment Provider, and Certified Addiction Specialist. He is also a Diplomate of Clinical Forensic Counseling.
Mr. Cameron received his graduate training in clinical psychology at the University of Wyoming, and completed his American Psychological Association internship in clinical forensic psychology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. This was followed by a fellowship in clinical forensic psychology with the Federal Correctional Institution in Butner, North Carolina, where he opened the Pilot Residential Drug Abuse and Sex Offender treatment units. He was promoted to Director of psychology services at the Federal Medical Center in Carville, Louisiana. He then opened the female Federal Medical Center Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas, focusing on addiction treatment. Presently, his duty station is in the Bureau’s South Central Regional Office/Transitional Services section in Dallas, Texas, which procures and provides technical oversight of drug abuse, mental health and sex offender treatment services for releasing federal inmates in a five-state region. Mr. Cameron also maintains a private counseling/consulting practice in Southlake, Texas, and an adjunct faculty appointment for Columbia College, Columbia, Missouri.