Hard to believe the attempt to vindicate Sandusky retroactively continues


His conviction on dozens of counts of child sex abuse was pretty solid, but some are still trying to claim he was convicted on the basis of that bullshit “repressed memory therapy”. He wasn’t. Here’s a damning summary of the trial that slaps down those “skeptic” claims that the evidence against him was a collection of fantasies.

And then…Sandusky had an appeal built around the claim that unreliable “repressed memories” were used against him. This whole argument has already been debated in a court of law!

Here’s what the judge said in the appeal.

Although he was denied access to the victims’ psychological records, Sandusky was permitted to call witnesses to explore whether the victims had undergone repressed memory therapy prior to trial, and he did explore that subject with Dustin Struble (“Struble”), Michael Gillum, Aaron Fisher, Brett Houtz, and Dr. Elizabeth Loftus, none of whom affirmed the defendant’s hypothesis.

During his direct testimony, Gillum, Fisher’s treating therapist, plainly and credibly stated, “I don’t deal with repressed memory [and] I don’t work with anyone who claims to have repressed memories or anything along those lines.” (PCRA, 03/24/2017, p. 159). He further articulated his negative assessment of repressed memory therapy and why he did not engage in it. (Id. at 164-165). While Struble acknowledged that he and his therapist had discussed methods of unearthing repressed memories, moreover, he stated definitively that he had not undergone that type of therapy prior to the defendant’s trial. (Id., 05/11/2017, p. 20).

Dr. Loftus had a different opinion based on “impressions” from Gillum’s book, statements Struble made two years after the trial, and the fact that the victims whose excerpted trial testimony she reviewed did not give consistent stories to the police, the grand jury, and the trial jury. (Id. at 71-90). Having been rendered after an uncritical review of an absurdly incomplete record carefully dissected to include only pieces of information tending to support Sandusky’s repressed memory theory, however, that opinion was entirely ineffective to rebut Gillum’s and Struble’s definitive denials.

Note that comment, that none of the experts called upon “affirmed the defendant’s hypothesis” that the victims had gone through repressed memory therapy…the very thing that the “skeptics” disagreement with the trial result hinges upon.

Comments

  1. vucodlak says

    I submit the following comment for those who have been arguing that the “changing stories” and use of therapy constitutes repressed memory therapy:

    [CONTENT NOTE: GRAPHIC DESCRIPTION OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE AND THE AFTERMATH]

    I think I’ve mentioned here before that I was raped when I was 3 by someone in an unlicensed daycare, so I’m not going into great detail about it this time, as it’s the aftermath that’s more relevant here. Briefly: I was assaulted by a man, likely the daycare owner’s husband. He forced me to take my clothes off, forcefully fondled me, and also stuck his penis so far into my mouth that I passed out and vomited.

    I told no one when it happened. My parents must have suspected something was wrong, because they never took back there, but I didn’t say anything about it to them. The man had, in fact, told me he was doing it at my parents’ behest, and if I “whined about it to anyone” he’d do it again. I believed him for a long time.

    After an initial period of shock and trauma, during which I didn’t want to eat, and couldn’t swallow anything without vomiting (my family and doctor mistook it for a persistent stomach bug), I didn’t think about it for a long, long time. I didn’t forget it, exactly, but I shoved it into a very small, dark corner of my mind. That’s the only way I could live with it. However, it still affected me in ways I’m only now beginning to understand.

    I didn’t breathe a word of what had happened to me for 15 years. When I finally did speak about it, I didn’t (and couldn’t) give a complete account, nor did I tell anyone in authority. I told my best friend, L.

    L and I had started dating one another a couple of months prior to my confession. We’d been best friends for about 3 years before we started going out. L was, in contrast to what I’d “learned” from popular media, the more sexually aggressive of our pairing. It helped that she had a fair bit of experience in such things, whereas I had none with mentioning. But, in spite of wanting it on an intellectual level, I was always very squeamish about actually doing sexual things, though I could not articulate why.

    Until, that is, one day when L attempted to perform oral sex on me. She did so with my permission, but when it came to the point where she was about to perform the act, I absolutely lost my shit. I shoved her away, yanked my pants up, and fled to a nearby bathroom. She followed me; she was pissed until she got the door open and saw that I sobbing. I told her what had happened to me, then.

    Before that moment of panic, I can’t really say that I ever… connected, I guess you could say, to what had happened to me. I mean, I knew what had happened to me, but I’d forced myself not to think about it for so long that I’d never before connected my previous reluctance to engage in sexual acts to my having been raped. I’d never connected it to certain recurring nightmares I’d had since I was 3.

    I’d never connected to any of my thoughts or behaviors, because I couldn’t allow myself to think about and have a hope of functioning. It was only in the presence of someone I knew I could trust that I could actually drag the thing into the light and force myself not to look away. It’s not that the memory was gone. It’s simply that I could not bear to face it alone.

    I didn’t recall everything that night with L. It wasn’t until years later, when talking to my psychiatrist, that I remembered that there had been another victim present. It required no hypnosis, no leading from my psychiatrist- it’s simply that the memories are very hard for me to look at. For a long time, I couldn’t stand to think about them at all. But, through talking about it many times, it gets a little easier to bear. I can stand to look longer, and when I do, I remember more things I’d been forcing myself not to think about.

    That’s what I see in what I’ve read about the Sandusky trial. Not people who’ve been lead to believe they’re victims when they aren’t, or people who’re making things up as they go along, but people who, with a great deal of help, have been able to see more of things they previously couldn’t stand to look at.

  2. says

    From your first link:

    First, in 1998 Sandusky was investigated after a parent of a young boy complained about him showering with her son. A psychologist who was consulted on the investigation told the police that Sandusky’s behavior was consistent with the behavior of a pedophile. No evidence sexual abuse occurred was found, though this could be seen as typical “grooming” behavior from a pedophile, and Sandusky promised not to shower with boys in the future. Crews never mentions this in his article, nor Coyne in his blog, despite the fact that it shows that Sandusky continued to shower with boys even after being told that it was inappropriate by law enforcement and promising not to do it again.

    I think we’re done here.

    …I’m so disappointed with Coyne, and with myself for not having seen the signs long before I did. There are so many people in this movement who’ve turned out not to be what (we thought) they seemed. I apologize, PZ, for criticizing your loyalty to friends.

    There’s so much rot.

  3. Sunday Afternoon says

    From the linked article:

    if you are not familiar what a “New Atheist” is, they are just like a regular atheist, except in addition to not believing in God they are morally despicable.

    Cutting!

  4. John Morales says

    SC, perhaps not the most salient, but given the author relies on his impression of what’s credible and then gets new atheism so wrong, it’s not irrelevant.

  5. gmcard says

    So… how many of our grand atheist thinkyleaders, not including Lawrence Krauss who we already know about, were (are?) associates of Jeffrey Epstein?

  6. says

    Thank you for sharing your story, vucodlak. There’s a ridiculous idea that anything other than a perfectly consistent story with pictures is a bullshit “repressed memory.” A memory can’t be hazy or imperfect or sparked by a contemporary event. Fuck that.

  7. says

    Ugh. Bad enough that “Banhammer” Coyne bunked in with the Establishment Atheists and the assorted creeps & vandals that scurry about their ankles, but there he is, plain as day, mounting apologetics for a *convicted-in-a-fucking-court* serial paedophile, who also had his repressed memory hypothesis *smashed to fuck* in his first appeal. LAST YEAR.

    I don’t know who’s teaching these Skeptics to skeptic, but they’re doing no better a job than Ray Comfort does teaching evolution.

    Coyne should stick to imaginary conversations with other people’s fucking cats.

  8. says

    SC, perhaps not the most salient, but given the author relies on his impression of what’s credible and then gets new atheism so wrong, it’s not irrelevant.

    Meh – easy to get gnus wrong given the schmuckishness of so many, including those he discusses. The generalization is still mistaken.

  9. says

    I don’t think that the people pushing the Sandusky innocence story have actually studied a damn thing about what happened. If they had, they’d be feeling pretty stupid right about now.

  10. says

    Penn State Alum here. One aspect (of many) about that book review that gives me pause is the need to exonerate Paterno, Spanier, Curley, and Schultz and its contingency upon Sandusky being innocent. As I recall, McQueery’s story made it all the way up to Spanier and they chose to ban Sandusky from the locker rooms. Even if he did nothing, they heard suspicions about him (no matter how vague) and they chose to act on it, but not in a way that brings it to the attention of any legal authority. The distinction might matter for legal purposes, but morally it’s just as damning.

    I should probably post this on the review itself, but I just didn’t care to at the moment.

  11. John Morales says

    [OT] SC,

    … easy to get gnus wrong given the schmuckishness of so many …

    :|

    Yeah.

    I just took a look at the Wikipedia article, and it’s now dated.

    Shame.

  12. Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y says

    I think some music is in order.

    To the tune of…

    Not long ago the skeptical community
    Was called on to stand up for human decency,
    But rolled over because some rapists made a fuss
    And with contempt threw survivors under the bus!
    “But how will everybody know we’re dishonest and vile?
    I know! Let’s all defend a court-convicted pedophile!
    Now as we sit around JAQing off, heads up our rear ends,
    Repeat these whining lies my friends:

    We are committed to hang from our dipshit-trees
    Every victim is a liar…and a goddamn tease!
    The curse of Septicism, has led us to this fate,
    When it comes to the future, well, we’re pretty much dead weight!

    Leaning to the right, with vapor in our skulls,
    Our obsessions made us petulant and dull
    Never to be taken seriously was our fate
    Only to, over our grudges, seethe and masturbate!
    The court heard his appeal, no support for false memories
    But we’ll pretend that ne’er happened while we defend his sleaze
    Now as we sit around JAQing off, heads up our rear ends,
    Repeat these whining lies my friends:

    We are committed to hang from our dipshit-trees
    Every victim is a liar…and a goddamn tease!
    The curse of Septicism, has led us to this fate,
    When it comes to the future, well, we’re pretty much dead weight!

    Dont’t confuse me with facts, ya’ll!
    My mind is made up!
    Defending rapists has cost me my soul
    And I’ve no choice but to be…an asshole!
    Just buy my book, because I sure cannot make arguments,
    Of which any sapient adult can yet make any sense!
    Now as we sit around JAQing off, heads up our rear ends,
    Repeat these whining lies my friends:

    We are committed to hang from our dipshit-trees
    Every victim is a liar…and a goddamn tease!
    The curse of Septicism, has led us to this fate,
    When it comes to the future, well, we’re pretty much dead weight!”

  13. =8)-DX says

    The article by CHRISTOPHERTEVUK is pretty damning and points to many places where Crews’ article was obviously well-poisoning, but shows the important points it also left out.

    @vucodlak #1
    Thanks for sharing your story and experience. Denials of human psychology and the experiences of victims always do so much damage to any discussion of this. Thanks again and take care!

    @John Morales #5 & @SC #9

    SC, perhaps not the most salient, but given the author relies on his impression of what’s credible and then gets new atheism so wrong, it’s not irrelevant.

    Meh – easy to get gnus wrong given the schmuckishness of so many, including those he discusses. The generalization is still mistaken.

    That was an obvious sarcastic jab at the shittiness of some prominent public figures, not meant to be an accurate portrayal of “New Atheists” as a broad group or movement. Sheesh

    =8)-DX

  14. says

    vucodlak
    My sympathies and thank you for sharing your story.
    I’m not a victim of sexual abuse, but, well, my mother is probably a narcissist first and an alcoholic second, or the other way around and I can only support everything you say.
    We do make stories of our lives that we tell ourselves, often to make it bearable. And when they finally no longer work and we have to confront those issues, it is usually not all at once but a process. I was lucky to find a wonderful therapist. When I started therapy, I wasn’t even dreaming about that going to be a more than two years journey during which I would confront he shit that happened in my childhood, which I had put down as “normal” or “my fault”.
    Not once did my therapist suggest anything, but helped me confront my memories. And because I pay attention to such things, I noticed both, the time he asked me whether I’d been sexually abused and the time he checke in whether I was suicidal, but neither word nor euphemism was mentioned.

    +++

    That was an obvious sarcastic jab at the shittiness of some prominent public figures, not meant to be an accurate portrayal of “New Atheists” as a broad group or movement. Sheesh

    This. Besides, the brand by now is toxic.

  15. Ogvorbis wants to know: WTF!?!?!?! says

    vocodlak @1:

    I didn’t think about it for a long, long time. I didn’t forget it, exactly, but I shoved it into a very small, dark corner of my mind.

    Thank you. This is the phrasing that I have been looking for for half a decade. Not repressed, but shoved into a small dark corner because I didn’t want to think about it.

    How I remember what I did has changed over the past years. I trust these memories, but I know that they are fallible (as are all memories). I, like all else, make up stories, narratives if you will, to try to explain what happened, what I did, why I did it. These stories are explanations of what happened but are rarely what happened.

    This was brought home to me very recently. I broke my back (and some ribs, and ruptured a few discs, and got a concussion …) back in June and I have clear memories of parts of that day. And I have fuzzy memories of most of it. And I have no idea just how my memories match up with what actually happened because of the pain meds (morphine and fantanyl) that have fucked up my memory. Maybe putting what I did into a small dark corner achieves the same thing as opioids?

    I’m sorry you were put through that.

    SC @7:

    A memory can’t be hazy or imperfect or sparked by a contemporary event.

    Again, the phrase I have been looking for. Sparked. Thank you.

    ==============

    Why the hell are atheist/sceptical people so obsessed with the idea that we must be hyperskeptical of the experiences of survivors, and, at the same time, give every benefit of the doubt to those who create victims?

  16. says

    That was an obvious sarcastic jab at the shittiness of some prominent public figures, not meant to be an accurate portrayal of “New Atheists” as a broad group or movement. Sheesh

    Really? I read it as a straightforward characterization – understandable given the NAs who’ve gotten the most publicity, accurate if you’re narrowly identifying the movement with that group, false when it comes to other NAs.

  17. jrkrideau says

    As I have said before, I really know nothing about the case.

    The article by CHRISTOPHERTEVUK is pretty damning as =8)-DX @ 15 says.

    However CHRISTOPHERTEVUK also gets a fail.

    While I always write about books this is the first time I am writing about a book I have not read and don’t intend to read. That book is called The Most Hated Man In America by Mark Pendergast.

    He has not read the book. If you not only have not consulted the source document but refuse to, then whatever you say about the book is close to meaningless. Basing a rant on someone else’s blog post summary of a book is not convincing. At the moment, I see no reason to even assume the Coyne’s post accurately reflects Pendergrast’s arguments. It likely does but to use one of my favourite quotes again:
    One of the things I have learned from reading secondary sources on historical cooking is that you should never trust a secondary source that does not include the primary, since you have no way of knowing what liberties the author may have taken in his “interpretation” of the recipe. David Friedman http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Medieval/To_Milk_an_Almond.pdf

    BTW, I don’t particularly care if Sandusky is guilty or not. I am interested in the false memory suggestion and, now, in what seems like something of a concerted refusal to look at Pendergrast’s arguments.

    Did anyone notice that CHRISTOPHERTEVUK seems to have made the same mistake I did in an earlier post and misspelt Mr. Pendergrast’s name?

  18. says

    @jrkrideau #19:

    BTW, I don’t particularly care if Sandusky is guilty or not. I am interested in the false memory suggestion and, now, in what seems like something of a concerted refusal to look at Pendergrast’s arguments.

    “I don’t need to eat a whole egg to know it’s rotten.” Based on the reviews and Pendergrast’s commentary, his argument relies on the notion that the Sandusky case is a new Satanic Panic, using “recovered memory” therapy as the main evidence. This claim is not supported by the primary and secondary sources regarding the actual case, which CHRISTOPHERTEVUK and HJ Hornbeck have quoted and pointed out in these threads. If the reviews and Pendergrast’s own comments are misrepresenting the central argument so egregiously, he is free to pop into the comments and say so. “Buy my book” is a classic crank tactic, and it’s distressing to see skeptics taking it at face value. It’s not a failure of skepticism to express doubt that extraordinary claims are true, whether those claims are creationism or quantum woo or the notion that ten-plus victims, a paper trail, and multiple colleagues and other witnesses are all tainted by recovered memory therapy that the relevant therapists have denied using and the judge did not find compelling when he specifically examined the issue with more direct evidence than either we or Pendergrast have access to.

  19. says

    He has not read the book. If you not only have not consulted the source document but refuse to, then whatever you say about the book is close to meaningless.

    This is why I’m completely agnostic on the moon landing, 9/11, creationism, the Bhagavad Gita and Scientology.
    Here’s what we know:
    There is a lot of positive evidence for Sandusky being guilty.
    The main thesis of Pendergrast, that the whole thing was a recovered memory trial, has been thoroughly rejected by experts, witnesses and the court.

    +++
    Tom Foss

    It’s not a failure of skepticism to express doubt that extraordinary claims are true, whether those claims are creationism or quantum woo or the notion that ten-plus victims, a paper trail, and multiple colleagues and other witnesses are all tainted by recovered memory therapy that the relevant therapists have denied using and the judge did not find compelling when he specifically examined the issue with more direct evidence than either we or Pendergrast have access to.

    But that’s just the thing, isn’t it? Those very intelligent and totally objective skeptics have decided that (probably) a hundred people are in on a vast conspiracy to extort money from Penn State*, even if an innocent man who only ever did them good has to spend the rest of his life in prison, using techniques that led to one(!) big massive scandal, and this is much more likely than the idea that a powerful man groomed vulnerable children and abused them.

    *”Coincidentally” that echoes also Carol Travis’ argument that the “me too” movement is about opportunists getting money from schools and so on.

  20. pacal says

    I’ve tried to find the Judges October 18 2017 decision and been unable to do so. Can anyone give a link to the full decision or tell me where to look? (I’ve already tried the website of the Penn courts.)

  21. jrkrideau says

    @ 21 Giliell, professional cynic
    There is a lot of positive evidence for Sandusky being guilty.
    Looks like it to me too. Assuming the incidents mentioned in CHRISTOPHERTEVUK are accurate, they are pretty damning.

    But I really don’t care if he is guilty or not. It happened in a foreign country and seems to involve a sport I have no interest in. As we used to say when I lived in Québec, “Je m’en fou”.

    The main thesis of Pendergrast, that the whole thing was a recovered memory trial, has been thoroughly rejected by experts, witnesses and the court

    Not so far from what I see. From what I have see the only testimony by an “expert” that is discussed on the web is that of Loftus and she supports it. We have not heard anything about the other expert—I forget the name.

    I am quite willing to accept that Loftus may be mistaken. Happens.

    The other testimony, mentioned, was by the concerned therapists. They are not “experts” on the subject of false memory.

    Their statements, alone, denying any “repressed memory therapy” without transcripts/recording of the therapy sessions and any other interactions are essentially worthless.

    The court decided to discount the Loftus testimony as is its right and responsibility if it does not accept its applicability in the case.

    Bloody hell, I have just read the first few paragraphs of the decision that Hj Hornbeck has supplied. Thank you Hj.

    If that is the standard of legal drafting in the USA then God help the USA.

    The fact remains that no one seems to have actually issued any coherent, let alone logical, rebuttal of Mark Pendergrast’s thesis. Maybe because no one has actually read the book?

    I, freely, admit I have not read Mark Pendergrast’s work.

  22. Vivec says

    @26

    But I really don’t care if he is guilty or not. It happened in a foreign country and seems to involve a sport I have no interest in.

    Thats a pretty weak reason for antipathy towards a case dealing with like, multiple child rapes.

    I have zero interest in any sport, but if a -spins wheel- lacrosse coach from egypt was being tried for raping children, I’d still have a pretty big interest in it as a human being that doesn’t want child rapists on the loose.

  23. says

    My memory isn’t what it was, but wasn’t the recovered memory thing a product of the 80s Satanic Cult scares, and thoroughly discredited as a procedure by the 90s? So, how can Sandusky be taken seriously when he claims that the witness statements against him in the 2000s were false “recovered memories” of that type? Does he think institutional memories in the US are as short as a disinterested foreign observer’s?

    Also, I would have thought that the obvious skeptical response to a convicted mass pedophile trying to get out of dying in prison is to ask oneself if it might just be possible that he is a depraved and conscienceless individual attempting to manipulate public opinion by, you know, lying, and that everything he says should be examined minutely, most especially when it resonates with one’s own biases.

  24. says

    The other testimony, mentioned, was by the concerned therapists. They are not “experts” on the subject of false memory.

    Their statements, alone, denying any “repressed memory therapy” without transcripts/recording of the therapy sessions and any other interactions are essentially worthless.

    So a therapist knows less about what actual therapy they did with a specific client and they are also likely lying, but really, you have no interest in this case as such, you only spend a lot of time arguing in favour of the rapist.

    Oh, btw, let’s turn it around: Without having access to the transcripts, on what basis did Loftus make her claims? And given that she has now quite a personal stake in this (because it really does look bad to most people when you argue for a child abuser, therefore he better not be one), how can her testimony be considered any more objective?

  25. pacal says

    @26

    [quote]Their statements, alone, denying any “repressed memory therapy” without transcripts/recording of the therapy sessions and any other interactions are essentially worthless.[/quote]

    That is not how it works. You are reversing the onus. The bottom line is that their statements are evidence and not “worthless”. It may not be good evidence but it is not “worthless”. May I point out the claim has been put out that the testimony was the result of repressed memory therapy. That assertion must have evidence for it and it is the responsibility of the plaintiff in this matter to provide evidence for it not on the respondent to disprove the assertion. And in this case the denial of the claim is in effect evidence against the assertion. Further the assertion assumes that the various witnesses who deny that repressed memory therapy was used are lying, again another assertion in which the respondent must meet the a burden of proof. The witnesses are under no obligation to have to prove they are not lying without significant evidence being presented that they are lying.

    If someone accuses me of murder I am under no obligation to prove I didn’t do it because my denial is “worthless”. It is up to the accuser to provide evidence I did it. This case is the same the Witnesses are under no obligation to prove their denials unless the Plaintiff has some evidence that they did in fact use Repressed memory therapy, and / or they lied.

    As for myself if it fact turns out that Repressed memory therapy was used to a significant extent than the case is a botched mess.

  26. billyjoe says

    I’m nearly half way through the book (I’m reading it – together with information I can find online – because I was totally unfamiliar with the case before reading Crew’s review of Pendergrast’s book). Pendergrast’s main problem, it seems to me, is that he has become an advocate for Sandusky. The book is not a dispassionate account of the facts of the case. He colours his account of the facts (as he sees them) with his own impressions and interpretations of those facts.

    He often gives his opinions about what may have happened, or what he thinks probably happened, but gives no reasons for holding these opinions, and it’s nearly always in Sandusky’s favour. I am often left saying to myself “but what reason do you have to make that comment”. I will probably finish reading it to see how he sums up, but this is a pretty disappointing read so far. He also hasn’t had access to all the court documents, and psychologist reports, and has not been able to speak to more than on victim. That’s not his fault, but then again how can you come to a conclusion and advocate for it when you are not in possession of all the facts.

    Also I’m finding it really difficult to see Sandusky’s admitted horseing around, wrestling, showering, kissing, and touching of young males in his care in a purely innocent light.

    I would be interested in reading comments from anyone else who has read the book or any other review online by someone who has read the book if anyone has any links.

  27. billyjoe says

    I have finished reading the book and, despite my criticisms above, I think anyone criticising the book should read it. I know everyone has loads of excuses for not reading it, especially if they have to pay for it, but there’s a lot of food for thought there and a lot of unanswered questions.

    The author has done a pretty thorough investigation if the large bibliography is anything to go by (7% of the book). And, if he has made any false statements, surely someone needs to point these out. If you do decide to read it, I suggest you blank out his unfortunately numerous unsubstantiated conjectures about what he thinks probably happened or what motivated certain individuals to say what they did. He should have stuck with the facts. However, I don’t think you will have much trouble separating the purported facts from his own opinions, but it is mildly annoying to have to do so.

    I think he would have done better to avoid advocating for Sandusky and just pointed out the problems with the way the case was conducted by the media, penn state, police, psychologist, lawyers, prosecutors and defenders. Apparently there is one further avenue of appeal but may take another couple of years.

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