In Violence and The Sacred, Rene Girard explains that the sacrificial victim must be guilty so that his death can be justified. If the victim isn’t believed to be guilty then his death won’t bring peace to the community.
Shortly before the date of execution, the prisoner’s `escape’ was ritually staged. Invariably, of course, he was quickly captured and–for the first time–bound with heavy rope around his ankles. His master now stopped giving him food and he was forced to resort to stealing… In short, the future victim was encouraged to violate the laws. Most modern observers agree that the purpose of these indulgences was to transform the prisoner into a `scapegoat’.” (290)
Jerry Sandusky has been tried and convicted on 45 criminal counts related to sexual abuse of children. There’s no doubt that he was guilty and nobody is asking why he did it. He was obviously a pedophile and a psychopath. Today, Penn State University has been sanctioned by the NCAA for the complicity of its leadership in the cover up of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. In the media and in popular opinion, Joe Paterno, Graham Spanier, Tim Curley and Greg Schulz are accused of lacking empathy for the victims and caring more about the University’s reputation and its cash cow, the football program, than about the welfare of innocent children.
It’s possible that they weren’t guilty of lacking empathy. Maybe it was just misplaced. Consider the role of the psychopath.
THE PITY PLOY – Psychopaths always use it.
In one email exchange, Spanier and Schultz agreed that it would be “humane” — to Sandusky — not to inform social services agencies. Only a psychopath could convince four grown men to have more compassion for a rapist than for the children being raped. It boggles the mind, unless you know how psychopaths work. Sandusky managed to switch places with his victims and make these men feel sorry for him instead. It’s the 180 rule.
I can only imagine the crocodile tears and promises to change he made when confronted by his superiors. I’ve seen it in other psychopaths, it’s very convincing. Just as he groomed the children he raped, he had groomed the adult men who would eventually cover for him. Psychopaths’ lives revolve around manipulating. Each human being is perceived as a chess piece to be placed strategically where it will serve his purposes.
AUDACITY AND COGNITIVE DISSONANCE
In his book, Touched, Sandusky tells,
“My father probably spoke the most truthful words about me that had ever been spoke, ‘Jer,’ he said, ‘you could mess up a free lunch.’ … I thrived on testing the limits of others and I enjoyed taking chances in danger.”
I’d venture to say that he raped a few of these children in the Penn State showers so that he would get caught. He was pushing the envelope of audacity, knowing that his superiors would experience cognitive-dissonance when they learned that the man they saw as one of their own was an evil predator. It was during the cog-dis that he would have been able to convince them to have pity and give him another chance. He was testing their “limits”.
TOO BIG TO FAIL
Penn State’s leadership made the same mistakes anyone makes when unbeknownst to them, a psychopath manipulates their emotions. He will appeal to you to use your power to make things better for him. His intent is to leave you responsible for his shameful behavior. Psychopaths will take your power but they never take responsibility.
Intent on procuring protection for himself, the psychopath slimed these four men with his shame. Once he had them mired in his filth, he knew he could count on them to keep the secret. Joe Paterno couldn’t see that he was being manipulated in exactly the same way the child victims were. The children were too ashamed to tell anyone that they had been sexually abused; Paterno was too ashamed to admit that he had hired a pedophile to coach “Linebacker U.”
What these four men didn’t grasp was that, not only was the psychopath trying to get away with rape, he wanted them to be complicit in the cover up so that he could depend on them to cover for him again and again, giving him carte blanche to continue abusing children. Once he had convinced them to compromise their values for pity’s sake, they were committed to continue covering their own behinds. Sandusky connected his name to two powerful institutions, thereby making sure that the powerful people who had invested in the institutions were also invested in him. He made himself “too big to fail”. Too big to fail is “Spath 101”.
THE GROOMING PROCESS
It didn’t happen overnight. Psychopaths study us for weaknesses. They look for what they call “arrogance” in us. Arrogance is overestimating our abilities, our strengths and our powers. The psychopath doesn’t just wait for us to become arrogant on our own. Like the snake in the Garden of Eden, he actively encourages it. He panders to our egos. He encourages us to believe we are more powerful than we really are. That’s when our strengths become our weaknesses.
In the case of Paterno, Curley, Schultz and Spanier, emails indicate that they were lured into believing they could help Sandusky without involving law enforcement. In short, they assumed responsibility for Sandusky’s pedophilia. They thought they could handle him. They believed they were stronger than they really were. This was the arrogance that Sandusky was counting on.
A psychopath envies people who act with integrity. Because of his envy, the psychopath convinces himself that they are just as evil as he is; they just need to be shown their inadequacies. So he takes them down that slippery slope, one tiny step at a time. First, they make a small compromise and then the next one isn’t so much further. Until eventually they find themselves so far down the ravine, they see no way out. Though they first compromised their integrity out of compassion for a flawed human being, eventually they find themselves deeply mired in the psychopath’s shameful behavior. Psychopaths derive pleasure from making others feel ashamed. They lure you into a compromising position and then they show you the evidence that you aren’t as innocent as you thought you were.
But even that is a lie. The shame which the psychopath ACTUALLY slimes you with is not just complicity in his deviant behavior. It’s the shame of your arrogance unveiled. The psychopath’s aim is to prove to you that you have no power. It’s what the Aztecs did to their victims at the top of the pyramid temples. First they treated them like gods, and then they ripped their beating hearts out. By convincing you to take responsibility and then leaving you holding the bag with the spotlight glaring on your shameful inadequacies, the psychopath eviscerates your powerless core and shows it to you.
PENN STATE’S FALL FROM GRACE
A psychopath I know told me, “Before I destroy someone, I like to take them up real high and make them really happy, so they have further to fall.” Perhaps he was referring to all those fatal aircraft “accidents” that his friends died in, but I think he also meant a figurative fall from grace.
As shamed as Curley, Spanier and Schultz have been in this scandal, it was Joe Paterno who had furthest to fall. He had been placed on a pedestal. Sandusky admitted that he liked to push limits and “mess up a free lunch.” It was inevitable that everyone connected to him would go down with him. If Joe had read Sandusky’s book and recognized the tells, he could have avoided some of the disgrace.
Joe kept his eye on the ball and he played to win. What he didn’t understand was that not everyone is playing the same game. Sandusky had a completely different game in mind and Joe was going to be a pawn in that game. Chaos, destruction, shame and self-sabotage are a psychopath’s agenda. They don’t even play to win. They play for others to lose. I didn’t make that up for effect. That is exactly what they do. It takes time to absorb the concept. Think about it.
Penn State’s leaders are not innocent. They are guilty of being flawed human beings, just as we all are. They were lured into covering for a pedophile. But as far as I can see, they were not the kind of people who would instigate evil. They were lured down the slippery slope and they tried to cover their shame. The lesson here, in my opinion, is that when a psychopath tries to shame you, beat him to the punch. Confess. Come clean. When you’re forgiven, the slime washes off faster.
Copyright © 2012-2013 Skylar