After news broke that Subway PR ambassador Jared Fogle would plead guilty to distributing child pornography and committing sex acts with minors, his wife, Katie Fogle, became the target of public scrutiny. She said she was "extremely shocked and disappointed" and announced that she was seeking a divorce after five years of marriage. 

But questions lingered: Did she suspect? Did she choose not to know?

Experts say that it is not uncommon for wives such as Katie to be unaware of their husband's pedophilia. 

"It is very difficult: Sexual offending is something by definition that happens in secret, just because of the high repercussions of finding out," said Maia Christopher, executive director of the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers. "A lot of the behaviors are not happening right in front of you."

The temperament of pedophiles also does not fit neatly into a box. After all, Jared Fogle's appearance and his surface personality were appealing and trustworthy enough to be displayed on cardboard cutouts of Subway franchises throughout the country and to have attracted thousands of fans over the years.  

"Pedophiles are not noticeably different than other men," said Michael Bailey, professor of psychology at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. "They would be more likely to show interest in children, want to talk to children, and so on, but not necessarily in a sexual way."

Bailey has conducted large surveys of men who suffer from pedophilia and finds that there is no one standard for their marriages, both heterosexual and homosexual. Some report fantasizing about children during intercourse, while others are also attracted to adults. 

In a 2011 piece for the Daily Beast, one former wife of a convicted sex offender said she understood too well how a woman could live so closely to someone else, but still be in the dark.

"Often, as I eventually learned, these predators are masters of deceit, creating a facade of the 'ideal family' to protect their image," wrote Darlene Ellison, "or perhaps convince themselves that they’re not a deviant to society, all the while acting on their sick desire to engage in sexual acts with kids."

Sometimes these husbands' reluctance to see their transgressions as such helps fortify the family's own denial. But what about when this denial becomes untenable? 

Consider Dorothy Sandusky, wife of disgraced Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, who stood by her husband through his 2012 trial and conviction, vehemently denying he sexually assaulted 10 boys, even as details emerged about his bedtime rituals with young boys in the basement of their home. Dorothy's support did not wane either when her daughter-in-law claimed that he had abused one of his grandchildren and when one of their adopted sons also said he was a victim. She has yet to budge, at least publicly, from her belief in her husband's innocence. 

 

 

 

For wives such as Dorothy, the fear of humiliation sometimes contributes to their denial, psychologist Seth Meyers wrote in the Psychology Today article, "The Wives of Pedophiles Always Know the Truth." He believes this is the case with Mrs. Sandusky because the court case revealed his "long-term pattern."

"While the pedophile often feels little guilt, anxiety, or remorse about their own behavior, the wives feel significant anxiety but use denial and rationalization to sweep their suspicions under the rug," said Meyers. "They don't focus on the feelings of the victim because all their energy goes into feeling sorry for themselves because they made a mistake in choosing the wrong man to marry."

Ellison, who wrote of her own experiences, said that while she never suspected anything of her husband's misbehavior during their marriage, questions haunted her after she learned of his child abuse. 

"While his crimes eventually explained why I’d felt like such a failure at marriage, they also put my already fragile self-esteem into dire straits," wrote Ellison. "As a woman, I felt repulsed that during the more than 10 years we were married, my ex-husband preferred physical contact with young boys over me. As a mother, I was angry that he had claimed to love our children, then committed crimes that revealed anything but love."

She believes that other wives must have at least some questions, too.