Who Is Jerry Sandusky's Wife and Did She Know About the Penn State Scandal?

 @julia_greenberg
on November 12 2011 5:34 PM
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Jerry Sandusky's wife, Dorothy 'Dottie' Gross Sandusky, has been largely absent in light of the developing Penn State child abuse scandal, in which her husband is the primary focus. Sandusky has been charged with 40 counts of sexual abuse, and more children continue to come forward with accusations of sexual assault.

The former Penn State defensive coordinator and his lawyer, Joe Amendola, have maintained that Sandusky is innocent and publicly denied all allegations. Dottie Sandusky, however, has not made a statement and has remained completely behind the scenes in the scandal.

Very little is known about Dottie, though onlookers have questioned, if the allegations against Sandusky are true, how could she have been unaware of her husband's involvement with young boys? If she knew, many ask, how could she allow it to go on, and for so long?

Although originally from Chattanooga, Tenn., Dottie met Sandusky in Washington in the mid-1960s, and they were soon married. He endearingly called her Sarge, because she was in charge in their home, ESPN News reported. Although Sandusky claimed he and his wife could not have children, he was known to love kids. The couple therefore adopted six children, raising five boys and one girl together. They also gave foster care to three children.

After we had taken in some foster children, Dottie told Sports Illustrated in 1982, we saw the opportunities that some kids just hadn't had. But we'd gotten to the point where we couldn't take in any more, so Jerry started thinking about starting a group home.

In 1977, Sandusky founded the Second Mile, a charity devoted to helping troubled boys in the State College area of Pennsylvania. He wrote a manual on his specialty, Developing Linebackers the Penn State Way, and used the profits to help fund Second Mile. Both of Sandusky's parents had worked with troubled children in a sports recreation facility and inspired him to start his own program. 

Sandusky's charity began as a foster home, but it grew into an extensive program that helped hundreds of disadvantaged children with absent or dysfunctional families in Pennsylvania. It also became a place where Sandusky could befriend and allegedly choose his victims. Dottie, who helped raise their six adopted children, also assisted with Sandusky's Second Mile charity.  

With Dottie's presence both in their family home and in the Second Mile charity, could she have remained completely unaware of her husband's sexual interest in young children? While many of the alleged sexual reports between Sandusky and his victims occurred in the locker room at the Lasch Football Building on the University Park campus, other incidents reportedly occurred in Sandusky's home.

Evidence in the Grand Jury Report indicates that Sandusky had indecent sexual contact with eight victims. Though she may have been, it's hard to believe that Dottie Sandusky was clueless about her husband's actions when taking into account one victim (Victim 1), who Sandusky was in close contact with from 2005 or 2006 (when Victim 1 was 11 or 12 years old) to the spring of 2008.

Victim 1 spent many nights in the Sandusky family home sleeping in a finished bedroom in the basement. Sandusky would come down to the basement to check on him at bedtime. The Grand Jury Report found that Sandusky indecently fondled Victim 1 on a number of occasions, performed oral sex on Victim 1 on a number of occasions and had Victim 1 perform oral sex on him on at least one occasion.

Phone records also confirm that Sandusky made 61 phone calls from his home phone to Victim 1's home phone between January 2008 and July 2009 after Victim 1 no longer wished to see Sandusky. The defensive coordinator also made 57 calls from his personal cell phone to Victim 1's home phone.  

Despite these behaviors, there is no indication in the Grand Jury Report that Dottie was aware of her husband's sexual relations with Victim 1 or any of the other seven victims.

I've seen it both ways, clinical social worker Farlie Chastain told WRCB TV. In which the family knows and is in denial. Chastain counsels sexually abused children and teenagers at Parkridge Valley and at Foxus Psychiatric Services in Tennessee Valley.

[Abusers are] very good at hiding it from everyone, Chastain says. Very good at seducing the child and manipulating the child not to tell.

Dottie did, however, try to get in contact with Victim 7, the report indicates. Although Victim 7 had cut off ties with Sandusky, he was contacted separately by Sandusky and Dottie as well as one of Sandusky's friends a few weeks prior to Victim 7's appearance before the Grand Jury. It is not clear why Dottie tried to contact Victim 7, and he did not call Dottie back.

Ultimately, it may never be clear what Dottie knew or whether she knew anything at all. While it seems unlikely, it also seems that very few people may have truly known the real Jerry Sandusky -- not the altruistic man who opened his home to young disadvantaged boys or the skilled coordinator who plotted unyielding defensive strategies -- but the man, if true, who preyed on young victims with no chance to escape.

Related Article: Penn State Scandal: Mother of 'Victim 1' Speaks Out About Jerry Sandusky

Related Article: Sandusky Grand Jury Report Details How Victims Were Chosen, Abused 

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