Dottie Sandusky: What She Must Have Been Thinking

Sandusky's wife arrives at court. Dottie "Sarge" Sandusky, wife of accused Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, took the stand yesterday in her husband's sexual abuse trial, which ended today. Her demeanor was "nervous" and "often wide-eyed," according to The New York Times, but she came to Sandusky's defense by calling one accuser "a charmer," "conniving" and "demanding," and providing alternative accounts of several of the alleged incidents. Speculation has been rife as to her knowledge of events, and as to her responsibility for what took place.

Related: Sandusky defense rests; ex-coach won't testify

Maureen Dowd writing in The New York Times described Sandusky's statements as sounding like she was describing "a romantic rival." Dowd cited an instance where Mrs. Sandusky claimed that one boy was "clingy" and ran across a room to jump into a La-Z-Boy with Jerry, when asked if she'd ever witnessed anything inappropriate between her husband and one of the boys in his charge. Other than that, Mrs. Sandusky seemed to think that Jerry's relationship with his boys was just fine.

Mrs. Sandusky's testimony comes after a week in which one accuser after another took the stand, detailing acts of abuse that they say took place over the course of many years in the Sanduskys' house and basement, among other locations.

"From the perspective of a parent, you would be infuriated with Mrs. Sandusky," Dr. Karen Ruskin, a Boston-based psychotherapist who specializes in marriage and family counseling told Yahoo! Shine. "The alleged abuse took place on her watch. You look at her and think, 'What the heck happened there, mentally?'"

"It's hard for us as humans with feelings to believe that a person can exist and not know," Dr. Ruskin says. "But from a clinical perspective, yes, it's possible." Dr. Ruskin regularly sees women who, after the fact, find out that their husband was having an affair, hiding money, or in some cases murdered or molested someone, and they really didn't know at the time. Though, Ruskin says, "You talk to them afterwards and some part of them did know."

In one incident, the accuser claimed that he screamed for help while he was being raped in the couple's basement, according to reporting by The New York Times. Sandusky claimed that she heard no such cry-and that if it had happened, she would have heard. The basement was not soundproofed and her hearing is fine. In another incident, Mrs. Sandusky knocked on the door of a hotel room bathroom and asked what was going on while, an accuser testified, a sexual assault was taking place. In Mrs. Sandusky's version, her husband and the boy were in the bathroom area, clothed, having a fight about a football luncheon the boy was refusing to go to.

"There could be several reasons why a non-offending parent could remain silent about abuse," says Melissa Bermudez, a licensed clinical social worker affiliated with RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network). "He or she may not be aware that the abuse is occurring or could be in a state of disbelief. Fear over what could happen to their livelihood could be another obstacle. Non offending parents express this fear every day on our hotlines, they are worried about bringing shame or embarrassment on their family if they come forward."

Dottie Sandusky has been married to Jerry Sandusky for 45 years. The couple adopted six children together, and were partners in Second Mile, the charity Sandusky founded for troubled youths, which prosecutors have alleged he used to supply himself with victims.

Dr. Ruskin says that in a case like Mrs. Sandusky's, where allegations have come to light, "You're either at war with the rest of the world, or you're a mess. If you admit to what was going on, the floodgates would open and you'll feel depressed, anxious, possibly suicidal. You'll have to cope with the loss of what you thought your entire life was."

While outraged observers of the case may not shed a tear for Mrs. Sandusky, her reaction of disbelief and denial is common for women living with abusers. Bermudez from RAINN notes that the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800-656-HOPE) staff are specially trained in how to identify resources for sexual abuse victims who reach out to a parent or another adult and are not believed. "Staff will help survivors brainstorm other trusted adults to talk to," Bermudez says, either over RAINN's phone, or online hotline, online.rainn.org.

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