Penn State Scandal: 'Nice Guy' Pedophiles Groom Their Victims, Experts Say

PHOTO: Former Penn State football defensive coordinator Gerald "Jerry" SanduskyPlayAndy Colwell/The Patriot-News/AP
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Allan Anderson will never forget the doctor at fishing camp who gave him the attention he was missing at home when he was only 9 -- but the grandfatherly man turned that affection into sexual molestation.

"The experience was so overwhelming and dark," Anderson. "But I didn't feel that I could talk to anyone. My parents were pretty uninterested in my needs."

Now, 52 and living in Minneapolis, Anderson is an advocate for men who have been abused as boys.

For him it happened again over a three-year period with his piano teacher, starting at age 12. The experiences "put an enormous obstacle for me in finding my own healthy natural sexuality," said Anderson.

The doctor was in his 60s and fit the description of what FBI experts call a "nice guy" molester, one of the least understood in the pedophile world.

His profile resonates in the case of Penn State former football coach Jerry Sandusky, who has been charged in connection with the molestation of eight boys over a 15-year period, all of whom he met though an underprivileged boy's program that he founded. Police claim one 10-year-old boy was raped in the football locker room shower in 2002.

Sandusky, 67, has refused to answer questions, telling ABC News that his lawyers told him not to discuss the case.

The university has barred Sandusky from its campus. The college's athletic director and vice president have stepped down after being charged with allegedly covering up the abuse.

Patterns of Abuse

Pedophiles come in many forms, but the one who often gets away with sexual molestation and is least understood is the "nice guy" -- not the abusive father or the stranger who kidnaps a child, but the trusted doctor, teacher or coach.

"The media and society tend to over-emphasize stranger danger," according to Ken Lanning, a former FBI agent in the behavioral science unit and author of the book, "Child Molesters: A Behavioral Analysis."

Lanning said he does not know the facts in the Penn State case but can speak to general characteristics of molesters and their victims.

"I don't want to convict this guy, but these are the cases our society least understands," he said.

Frequently, the "nice guy" molester is a babysitter, next-door neighbor or a Boy Scout leader or parish priest or minister, he said.

"It's hard to believe, because we think of them as ghoulish monsters, who are predatory and horrible and repulsive," said Lanning.

"The nicer you are, the longer you get away with the crime," he said. "It's important in how they work. They spend more and more time with the kids then gradually start to convince themselves that they are helping them."

Children, like Anderson, are also reluctant to report these molesters.

"You would think these guys are the easiest ones to catch," said Lanning. "Kids know his name, they see this guy every day, they know where he lives. You'd think they would call the police and put this guy out of business in less than a week."

But, as in the case of Anderson, these molesters "groom" and manipulate their victims. They lower their inhibitions and seduce them with attention and gifts.

"Most victims are compliant and their molesters don't use force," said Lanning. "The victims feels shame and guilt and embarrassment because they were supposed to yell and tell."

Anderson said society also often dismisses complaints of victimization from boys.

"I had a hard time seeing what had happened to me as appropriately called abuse," he said. "The prevalent idea is that boys take naturally to sex or like sex."

Molesters Prey on Vulnerable Children

Troubled kids are more vulnerable," said Lanning. "There is a greater need for attention and affection."

When they are teens, boys are more "compliant," as well, he said. "They have raging hormones and are at their peak of sexual arousal -- that's what [molesters] take advantage of."

Anderson said the sexual attention from his piano teacher was "especially confusing," and for that very reason he struggled with knowing how to embark on relationships later in life.

So-called "nice guy" molesters also have a great love of children and often set up programs where they can access them.

"The primary reason most of these guys do this, is because they are trying to convince themselves that they are not evil, disgusting perverts and to rationalize and justify what they are doing," said Lanning.

Experts don't know why some men develop a sexual interest in young children and whether it is learned or inherited behavior.

Although much of the research says they are often victims of abuse themselves, Lanning said new research refutes that.

"Why are some men aroused by a 5-year-old?" he asked. "Certain events could have taken place in early development for reasons that we don't understand."

Lanning said often those around the molester see signs, not overt sexual activity -- but "boundary violations" like horsing around in the shower or rubbing a child's back.

Too often such signs are not reported. Camp and school officials should keep records and evaluate the "big picture" when there are suspicions, he said.

Youth organizations have an obligation to keep good records, he said.

"Sometimes it's covered up and sometimes it's damage control and some of it is the good-old-boy network and some of it is ignorance," said Lanning. "But at some point people don't process this information totally."

These molestations can go on for 10 years or more until the molester is either tired of the victim or finds a newer, younger one.

"[The molester] may have a range of boys, like a pipeline," said Lanning. "He is recruiting and looking at new kids who are 10, 11 or 12, then the next stage is grooming and seducing them. The third step is having sex with a boy and the fourth and hardest step is dumping the boy."

Victims often report that the abuser ends the relationship and they feel used when they are no longer getting the attention.

"These cases are difficult to investigate, not only because society doesn't understand, but police don't understand," he said. "Boys who are pushed out are most likely to come forward and tell what is going on."

As for Anderson, he spent years in therapy and is now in a good relationship with a woman. He works as a garden artist and also runs a support group for male abuse victims sponsored by the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.

The years of abuse affected his self-worth and relationships with others.

"Our society doesn't see men very easily as victims," he said. "Or if we do, we are ambivalent about helping them."

By delaying helping men, they can develop severe psychiatric symptoms.

When Anderson eventually told his brother about the incident with the camp doctor, he told him: "Everybody knew Doc liked boys."

"All the adults in my life sided with the perpetrator and no one sided with me," said Anderson. "That is the lesson I learned. I am on my own in the world. You cannot trust anyone."