Sandusky Makes Histrionic Personality Disorder Claim In Defense Of Molestation Charges

Jerry Sandusky’s legal team is claiming that the former Penn State coach suffers from histrionic personality disorder, which is why he corresponded so extensively with his alleged victims and exhibited sexually seductive behavior. It is the type of argument that tends to leave many jurors unconvinced and can be viewed as too clever by half.

In one such communication, Sandusky wrote a boy:

“What was your reaction when you first met me? Did you care at all about me as a person? Can you be trusted? Do you appreciate me? When you give your word, does it have any meaning? Do you take pride in conquering people? What is love? What would you miss if a magician would make me disappear?”

Psychiatry professor Glen Gabbard of the Baylor College of Medicine rejected the notion that the disorder could be a defense of these types of charges — the view of a number of experts in the field. Here is the description of the disorder and its symptoms:

Histrionic personality disorder is a condition in which people act in a very emotional and dramatic way that draws attention to themselves.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

The cause of this disorder is unknown. Both genes and early childhood events are thought to contribute. It occurs more often in women than in men, although it may be diagnosed more often in women because attention-seeking and sexual forwardness are less socially acceptable for women.

Histrionic personality disorder usually begins in early adulthood.


People with this disorder are usually able to function at a high level and can be successful socially and at work.

Symptoms include:

Acting or looking overly seductive

Being easily influenced by other people

Being overly concerned with their looks

Being overly dramatic and emotional

Being overly sensitive to criticism or disapproval

Believing that relationships are more intimate than they actually are

Blaming failure or disappointment on others

Constantly seeking reassurance or approval

Having a low tolerance for frustration or delayed gratification

Needing to be the center of attention (self-centeredness)

Quickly changing emotions, which may seem shallow to others

The problem with this disorder is that it sounds like many people who I have encountered in life. We used to just say that they had “bad personalities.” I doubt this is likely to be viewed in a more clinical way by the jury.

Elliot Atkins, a psychologist in private practice in the Philadelphia area, said that he found evidence of the disorder after interviewing Sandusky for six hours and reading his autobiography, “Touched.”

It would be difficult to see how any pedophile would not exhibit the same characteristics of this disorder. If the jury believes the earlier testimony of Sandusky being found having anal sex with a boy in the campus shower, it would seem to go beyond “acting or looking overly seductive.” There is a risk that the jury could find the argument insulting or opportunistic — pushing it further away from acquittal.

Source: MSNBC

49 thoughts on “Sandusky Makes Histrionic Personality Disorder Claim In Defense Of Molestation Charges”

  1. @Malisha – My experience is anecdotal, and based on 1st-hand case participation (usually themed, “Mommy made me say it.”) Although not true in many cases, your results may vary. Thanks for the background info.

  2. Bettykath, usually, though, if the abuser finds out that the kid has told someone, there’s Hell to pay and the kid never repeats that infraction.

    A friend of mine told his mother about what his father did. She made a fuss and the father divorced her and got custody of the kid who was then denied visitation except for “supervised” visitation and the supervisors reported back to dad, who easily got the visitation terminated because the kid came back from visits very angry at dad, which was blamed on mom. Her crime during visitation? The kid kept fussing that he didn’t want to end the visit and didn’t want to go back to dad!

    Kids should NOT risk telling when the molester is very powerful. That may go against all the blah blah blah blah social workers’ lies and TV talk show bullshi# but frankly, in the real world, the kid has a greater than 50% chance of losing any battle he starts, and molested kids can’t risk losing more battles than they already have to fight.

    I’m just sayin…

  3. Even if a kid tells another adult outside the family, that adult may just show up at the house, tell the abuser what the kid said, and ask if it’s true. What’s any self-indulgent abuser going to say? Yea, the kid’s right. Right.

  4. OK, now, with the university acting like a large, kind of diverse family, and with a lot of pressure and secrecy, and with support for the molester and with the kids all feeling afraid to talk about it, and with the kids who were molested all being young, well respected male athletes, still, this prosecution took millions of dollars and thousands of public reports, comments, articles, journalistic investigations, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. and even then, when it came down to a large number of complaining witnesses carefully prepared by a highly motivated prosecutorial team WITH A BUDGET, there was a chance that it would not succeed.

    Telescope this into a family in which incest is taking place. Suddenly place the victims of the incest into the TOTAL CONTROL of the molester. They cannot go home and tell anyone at home; they ARE AT HOME. The leadership of the institution in which this is taking place IS the institutionalized group, leadership of which is in the hands of the person they would accuse.

    Total resources for getting their allegations of abuse into the forum in which a correction can be made is — uh — is — well, zero. Unless the protective parent (let’s say that’s mom, even though such a suggestion will bring about a storm of protest from some commentators, even those who now blame Dottie for what Jerry did) can get some klout and succeed at what it took nine victims, their support networks, a team of prosecutors, an investigative journalist and a thousand bloggers to accomplish in the Sandusky case.

    See? See what it’s like out there?

    If Matt had made an allegation against Jerry Sandusky when Matt was 13 years old, and had his own biological and still legal mother supported that allegation, don’t you think that Sandusky would have been able to (a) keep custody of the kid and (b) terminate the mother’s parental rights?

    I do. I think if she had made a really serious efffort to get Sandusky off her kid, it would have backfired all over her and might have even ended up with her losing his brother as well.

    It takes a village to raise a kid? It takes an Army to protect a molested kid, and usually the Army (and certainly, ours) will protect the molester way first.

  5. bettykath :-), I do that myself.

    Verdicts are in: guilty on 45 of 48 counts.

  6. Lotta. sorry, didn’t go up to read your comment. Shall we call it corroboration?

  7. Most of the molesters who have molested kids they knew, rather than preying on stranger-children in a “hunter” style, are also molesters at home. Many of them are foster-parents and adoptive parents. Many of them are step-parents. They are often “father of the year” kindsa guys. They really know how to bond with children; their own children are often very troubled but unable to reveal the abuse to outsiders. Many of the non-offending parents are very submissive and would never speak out about the abuse OR divorce the abusers. Like, say, Sandusky’s loyal wifey.

  8. Whoa, apparently (according to Sandusky’s stepson) he was also molesting his stepson:

    “At around the same time, details emerged that Matt Sandusky had attempted suicide just four months after first going to live with the couple in 1995. He had come into the home through The Second Mile charity, which Jerry Sandusky founded, and was first a foster child before being legally adopted”

  9. Judge throws out 3 of 51 counts against Sandusky
    The Associated Press–ncaaf.html

    BELLEFONTE, Pa. (AP) Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky had three of the 51 child sex-abuse charges against him dismissed Thursday before attorneys began closing arguments in the high-profile case that led to the firing of longtime head coach Joe Paterno.

    Judge John Cleland found one count of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and one count of aggravated indecent assault involving the accuser known as Victim 4 weren’t supported by the evidence. Another charge of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse involving another boy was dismissed because Cleland said it duplicated another count.

    Sandusky still faces 48 criminal counts involving 10 alleged victims. Jurors were to hear closing arguments Thursday morning and could begin deliberations by the afternoon.

    Cleland said two of the counts had to be dismissed because the alleged victim testified Sandusky attempted to penetrate him but didn’t say that such penetration had actually occurred. Cleland said he would have been required to set aside any convictions on those counts, because ”the verdict was not supported by the evidence.”

  10. JunctionShamus — several things about the studies on prevalence of sexual abuse of children — one of them being that it is not UNCOMMON for the sexual abuse of children to happen in exactly the kind of family where there is a serious imbalance of power between the parents, with the abusing parent being the more powerful, by far, and where the entire family can only hang together by constant appeasement of the more powerful, and abusing parent. That is statistically more often the father. In such a family, there will either be a secretive and complete cover-up going on within the family that lasts as long as the dominant parent wishes it to last, or the family will rupture and THEN THE KIDS TELL and not before.

    It is a natural way for it to happen because the kids cannot risk telling while they are aware that the parental control is UNDIVIDED so they can’t risk telling the protective parent about the abuser. Structurally typical.

  11. “Bette Noir
    1, June 20, 2012 at 10:07 am
    I’m wondering what kinds of “reasonable accommodations” an employer would have to make, under the ADA, for an employee officially diagnosed as a drama queen.”

    LOL, that is the characterization that sprang to mind as I read the article- drama queen. I’ve known a lot of those people. LOL, so he’s a pedophile AND a drama queen? That should enhance, not mitigate, how the jury views him- nobody like a drama queen. 🙂

  12. Mespo, in 1990 I read an article in the ABA journal about how to defend alleged child molesters. It advocated the defense counsel attacking the credibility of the complaining witness’s mother. I’m not making this up.

    If I saved the article, I wouldn’t be able to find it now but I not only read it at the time, I wrote a critique of it at the time and had it (the critique) with me when I testified in the NY legislative committee hearings on the Neustein case. Never will forget that article.

    1. @Malisha – In some cases it will work, but requires a lot of documentation.

      I’m not talking about “Sandusky” cases, but those we refer to in Western Colorado as “divorces heard in criminal court,” where mom (usually) is looking for leverage in visitation, child support, or just vindictively dragging daddy through the mud.

      While I will agree that there have been enough cases of SAOC by a parent, it’s questionable when there’s no history until the divorce is well under way, the only person who can say anything is mom, and there’s reluctance by the “victim” to make any statements.

  13. Mike S:

    Right you are about defending this guy. I swore off defending suspected pedophiles early in my career because they were so damned creepy. I even sued one civilly one time for a young client. The jury was back in 20 minutes with the ad damnum amount.

    Good on them.

  14. Gene H. Lol

    Sandusky preyed upon disadvantaged youth. He set up a whole foundation so he could have sexual access to youth from dysfunctional families.
    Hope he will find his own dysfunctional family in prison.

  15. From Cheech & Chong’s “Trippin In Court” guest starring Jerry Sandusky as Leslie Horwinkle:


    (gavel noises)
    Judge Dax: Good morning. Bailiff, you may call the first case of the day.
    Bailiff: State versus Horwinkle! State versus Horwinkle! Will Leslie Horwinkle, please step to the docket! Are you Leslie Horwinkle?
    Horwinkle: Well, if I wasn’t Leslie Horwinkle, I wouldn’t be here now would I?
    Bailiff: Just sit down over there, Horwinkle.
    Horwinkle: You can kiss my ass!
    Bailiff: Judge, (gavel noises) this is case 148 – People versus Horwinkle, this one I talked about yesterday.
    Horwinkle: What the Hell are you starring at you goddamn fascist pig?
    Bailiff: Be quite, Horwinkle.
    (gavel noises)
    Horwinkle: Haven’t you ever seen a criminal before?
    Judge Dax: Mr. Horwinkle . . .
    Bailiff: Alright, I’m just going to read the charge . . .
    Horwinkle: Aw, kiss my ass you stupid bastards.
    Bailiff: Lesile Horwinkle, you are charged that on the night of September fourteenth at approximately eight P.M. you did willfully with malice aforethought sexually assault a sixteen year old girl. How do you plead?
    Horwinkle: I plead insanity!
    Bailiff: Insanity?
    Horwinkle: That’s right. Insanity. I’m just crazy about that stuff!
    (laughter in the court)
    Judge Dax: Mr. Horwinkle, this has not been the first time you have appeared before this court on such a charge and we must make sure that you do not appear here again. Bailiff, whack his pee pee!


    Good luck with that defense, Jerry.

  16. Malisha 1, June 20, 2012 at 12:28 pm

    What personality disorders did all his enablers have? Just askin…
    Bully worshiper syndrome.

  17. Cut his gonads, convict him and let him become the victim….. Thank goodness he’s not a catholic priest….. They’d hide him…..

Comments are closed.