Image

Jerry Sandusky, pedophile. Psychopath too?
Now that Jerry Sandusky has been found guilty of over 50 and crimes against children over the course of many years at Penn State University and the NCAA has announced its sanctions on Penn State, several huge questions remain.

Two such questions are how and why. For Penn State and the rest of the world, the question of how something like this can take place and be concealed without proper intervention for so long still lingers. In addition, the question of why did these crimes take place and why did seemingly good men cover them up also remain a mystery. Many people have their theories; was it greed, reputation, good ol' boys or even naiveté. Here is one more theory to consider.

Let me tell you a story about a group of people estimated to make up to 1 percent to 4 percent of the population. They are called psychopaths. The term psychopath is very controversial and complicated; however, in a nutshell, it is thought that psychopaths are characterized by the inability to care about others, no concerns whatsoever with any other person's wants, needs, goals or dreams. Psychopaths don't feel shame, guilt or remorse for their actions, and thoughts of morality, honesty, honor, respect and ethical practices are replaced with words like collateral damage, deception and the ends justify the means. They have no problem placing money, success or even winning over human life. People are tools to them and their only value lies in how they can be used.

To think that people like this exist is so foreign to most of us that we tend to look for other reasons and excuses for their behaviors. They are excellent liars and master manipulators. They will verbalize remorse, pretend to have feelings and not directly answer questions. They can figure out what you need and give it to you (later there is a price) so initially they can be charming, likeable and confident. If you are ever confronted by one, you will likely end up feeling confused, battered, belittled and irate as they refer to you as being at fault, weak and "too emotional."

The funny thing is that we tend to think that these people only exist in the movies and/or in prisons, but that is not true at all. Other than the characteristics that make them a psychopath, there are no other real common characteristics. They can be big or small, violent or non-violent, intelligent or dull, rich or poor. They can be doctors, psychologists, ministers, lawyers, teachers, coaches, business executives, factory workers, construction workers, unemployed, criminals both blue- and white-collar, rapists, murderers and drug dealers. They cut across all demographics and can do most any job unencumbered by a conscience, guilt or worry about their impact on the future and others.

I have never met Jerry Sandusky, Joe Paterno or any of the other Penn State powers who were thought to be aware of the violence that was being perpetrated against these children at Penn State. I wouldn't even pretend to be able to say that they would fall under the controversial category of having psychopathology. However, I can easily imagine how something like this could happen if psychopaths were coaching, supervising, investigating and overseeing.

This is not as unlikely as you may think. In a county like Lenawee with approximately 100,000 people, the odds say 1,000 to 4,000 people are likely to have various levels of psychopathology. Think about it. You may know a few psychopaths, maybe a coach, your spouse's boss, your co-worker's husband, your friend's boyfriend or your neighbor. They are everywhere, and we know more of them then we think we do.

John C. Bailey is director of professional services at Family Counseling & Children's Services in Adrian.