The nation was aghast at the Penn State sexual abuse/rape—and subsequent cover up of the repeated assaults of young boys that happened over a 15-year period. This case reminded us that even the most beloved places, those with the best of reputations, have pathology coursing in their veins and leadership.

Jerry Sandusky, the former coach, was charged with sexual abuse of several boys. Tallying it all up currently includes 40 counts; 21 of them are felonies spanning 15 years of abuse having gained access to them through The Second Mile, a youth foundation he started ‘to help kids’. (I'm sure the sexually abused victims are saying ‘Gee thanks for that help.’)

Each of the 21 felonies carries 7-20 years, and $15-25k fine with 19 misdemeanors carrying 2-5 years and $5-10k fine. Needless to say, the court rightfully so, found the abuse allegations to be extensive. We can only guess how many rapes that accounts for over a 15 year span…and how many victims.

Mike McQueary, assistant football coach witnessed at least one of the rapes in 2002 during which he watched the act, did not stop it, and did not immediately report it to law enforcement including campus police.

He did however pass the buck for reporting the rape by telling head coach Joe Paterno who also did not report to police, including campus police. Yes, passing the buck. The minimum might be telling your boss, but we're talking about rape here. So yes, it wasn't enough, and it isn’t emotional rocket science for someone to figure out that telling their boss isn’t the only step that needs to be done in case someone else drops the ball. They work in football, right? They understand the concept of someone dropping the ball. Ask the child if it was enough.

A 23 page grand jury report said Paterno was told in 2002 about the sexual assault against an approximately aged 10 year old boy in the shower at the university.

McQueary also passed the buck to Tim Curley, the athletic director and Gary Schultz, the Senior Vice President (whose duties included the oversight of the university police) about the assault, none of whom made child protective reports and reports to law enforcement.

Paterno’s defense to what he did not report was that McQueary was ‘distraught, but didn’t tell me specific actions that occurred.’ There is no evidence that Paterno followed up to find what specific actions had occurred, or turned over the alleged ‘distraught’ concerns to child protective services or campus law enforcement.

While Pennsylvania’s mandated reporting laws are disgustingly inept, requiring some to simply report it to their boss, university staffs somewhere down the line are trained in reporting protocols for both the university, and the state, since they work with students. A naked adult with a naked child is a crime...not just legally, but morally and ethically. Pathology is the absence of moral reasoning.

Mike McQueary did not follow up checking with police, or campus police to make sure Paterno, Curley or Schultz actually filed a report. While it is appropriate that he told others, it is not enough.

While being labeled as a ‘whistle blower’ about the university might be uncomfortable and a motivation for not reporting directly to law enforcement, it is not nearly as uncomfortable as being raped and scarred for life. It’s not nearly as uncomfortable as a child who knows you saw what happened to them in a shower and did not help them…in that moment, or later.

Ramifications? Being labeled as a whistle blower, or being fired for covering it up—I mean ‘really?’ are we comparing those consequences with those of eight little boys whose lives were ruined from adults looking the other way. Is a job equal to a rape in terms of ramifications? It was hid to save their jobs?

Sandusky never confessed to what he had done, I guess to save him self from jail time.  Considering he’s a pedophile, not many were expecting him to have insight about how his behaviors were destroying someone else.

McQueary, a flicker of conscience not in the middle of the rape, not even that evening as he went to bed—but the next day—and a couple more notifications to others, but not pushing the envelope enough to ask his superiors if they did something about his suspicions.

Curly never reported suspicions of abuse.

Schultz, as a senior vice president and who oversaw campus police never reported suspicions of abuse.

Who does that? Who places employment before anal penetration? Who places their football ego in front of oral rape? Who shows up year after year for work walking pass the showers where innocence was lost? Who oversees campus police and doesn’t make a report of suspicions? What kind of pathology does that?

Instead, the moment of looking at not only individual pathology, but corporate pathology is being lost. Instead of looking at the kinds of symptoms pathology perpetrates in the individual and in systems, we were instead hyper-empathically focused on micro-issues  such as, the ‘conflicted’ pedophile, the social psychology of why others look on and do nothing, the severe motivation of job loss at high levels, and how well loved a coach is as evidence of guilt or innocence.

We missed seeing that when pathologicals are at the head guiding the system, they are making deep psychological imprints of their own pathological worldviews projected like a cult-reality on the screen of other’s psyches. It's not just an individual that can be sick, its entire systems that are guided by pathological and psychopathic belief system is sick. (Anyone ever read Snakes in Suits by the world's leading expert in white-color psychopathic behavior, Dr. Robert Hare?)

It took a system, not just an individual to cover up 15 years of rape. It took the camaraderie of people who collectively had reduced empathy and conscience to hide the fact that little boys were penetrated, and kids were trafficked to psychopathic benefactors. Now there are allegations that the rape and assault of little boys were used as perks to pedophile benefactors. It’s called human trafficking.

This did not happen in a vacuum as most trafficking, extended abuse, and cover up normally doesn’t. It takes individual and corporate pathology to create an environment of longevity and invisibility to perpetrate 15 years of rape. It takes pathology on many levels, from being the pedophile to being a silent accessory of the crime, to allow over a decade of soul-destroying abuse in a psychopathic fraternity of football narcissism.

Systemic pathology has been seen through the years in the church, in the military, in the white house, in the FBI—in any large system. How did thousands come to believe that the holocaust was the right thing to do? It happened when one pathological in a system created a systemic belief and brought into that system, at high management levels, other persons whose own pathology shared the basic core belief systems. Those beliefs found their home and their spark with the pathological leader.

Think all of the players in this pedophilic drama are not likely pathological? Want to split hairs about which Cluster B diagnosis they are likely to fall into, and our inability to really diagnosis someone if they aren’t in front of us? I don’t. You can clearly see from this case what happens when someone does not have enough empathy, enough insight into how their behavior affects others, enough guilt, enough conscience, or enough remorse.

 Whether the perps and accessories are clearly in the ranges of secure diagnosis really doesn’t matter, because even reduced amounts of these traits-of-humanity have caused pathological results in the lives of children. Here is an example when a Cluster B is really a 'Cluster F' for everyone in their paths.

Pathology In Systems

 The Psychopathic Checklist helps us view elements of pathology that can perhaps help us to expand the view to see pathology active not just in a person, but in a system. I have check-marked those I think can apply to the pathological belief system of the department/portions of departments that were involved.  Below is the Psychopathy Checklist—revised created by Dr. Robert Hare.

 Glibness/superficial charm (at least applicable to the charm and support and near-riots of the followers of Paterno).

Grandiose sense of self-worth (entitled to not follow the mandated reporting laws of child abuse)

Pathological lying

Cunning/manipulative (the years this has continued is a tribute to cunning ability to hide it and/or manipulate others into not telling)

Lack of remorse or guilt

  • Shallow affect (genuine emotion is short-lived and egocentric) (unable to determine)

Callousness; lack of empathy

Failure to accept responsibility for own actions

  • Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom (unable to determine)
  • Parasitic lifestyle (perhaps within a systems model type of approach)

Poor behavioral control

Lack of realistic long-term goals (lack of realistic long term outcomes of suppressing child abuse)

  • Impulsivity


  • Juvenile delinquency
  • Early behavior problems
  • Revocation of conditional release

Promiscuous sexual behavior

  • Many short-term marital relationships

Criminal versatility (lots of versatility displayed)

Acquired behavioral sociopathy/sociological conditioning (Item 21: a newly identified trait i.e. a person relying on sociological strategies and tricks to deceive) (developed within the context of a pathological system and leader).

 Out of 21 items, 13 items if applied to the pathological system, can be viewed checked off in the above list. That’s 65%.

 Perpetration of Pathology By Non-Recognition

 Are you hoping that the mental health system is going to jump in here and help with public pathology education? The perpetration of pathology invisibility is highly related to the lack of pathology education even within the mental health field. The inability to spot pathology in others, and certainly as we can see, the inability to spot it in systems, has kept the mental health field largely another system unable to identify it.

 To the mental health field’s defense, Robert Hare (world’s psychopathy expert) calls these disorders the ‘disorders of social hiding.’ That is, they look normal in the context of their setting (especially when sprinkled in with more pathology that camouflages glaring overtness in any single one person). The more successful, wealthy, or well-liked one is, the less likely they are to be noticed as pathological. Mix it with the hyper-empathy and positive psychology approach of some clinicians and you have all the Kum-By-Yah’ness behind which pathology never gets pointed out and none of the forensic attunement that might help others learn from these examples of pathology.

 My case in point, having started a discussion on several professional therapist forums, these are the responses that clue us in to whether the mental health field will lead us in the much needed public pathology education awareness field….

 My posting was “Calling everyone who understand pathology: Do not let the Penn State teaching moment be lost in translation in words that do not teach pathology in action. This is not merely 'abuse' -- this is pathology in both those who did it and those who hide it. Who Does That? Help other see the Cluster B disorders in action. Use the real language!

 The responses were:

 “I take exception to the use of Penn State being a teachable moment. It’s is my alma mater…1 football coach does not define the entire institution.”

 “IMO the abuser is less guilty than those who covered up.”

 “Perhaps we should discuss why people who knew did not act appropriately. What about these crimes (rapes) shut them down morally. Is something like this too overwhelming for the average person to deal with, thus they shut down?

As professionals we owe our clients to explore their case in all it's uniqueness and individuality….Why does this client have the craving for this abnormal sexual fondness of children?…we remain a blank screen on which the client can write the story of his life. As a professional I can see myself having empathy even with a pedophile… as for myself I am extremely disgusted with the persecutor and his helpers. “

The DSM can diagnose and predict and structure, but can not understand an individual's core conflict. This work can only be done one session at a time with compassion and lots if patience with our support as a holding environment.”

I agree that this is definitely a teachable moment for our students. If we talk about a possible diagnosis with the goal of building compassion, then I can get on board with that.”

In those statements is very little pathological identification (outside of pedophilia) especially in the accessories to the crime. While many of those accessories who turned a blind eye to the rapes are likely to be legally and criminally considered accessories to the crime, few of us are holding them to the same standard. We are interested in understanding them, not insulting an institution because someone attended there and seems to think this is a case about one coach and not all the other accessories—we are more interested in extending patience, support, compassion for the child rapist and accessories. 

I don’t see much interest in the world at large for exposing pathology for what it is so others can identify it in the future. If we don’t learn from what we have experienced, how do we bring that experience to light? I see little help in understanding pathology in corporate constructs or bilateral distribution of the crime of not reporting. Instead, the public outcry as witnessed on campus is a snapshot of the social investment to a perception—that there was one pedophile and that’s the end of the story.

From whom shall we look to understand personal and corporate pathology? Where shall our public pathology education come from?

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