Jerry Sandusky and his Defense of “Histrionic Personality Disorder”
The Jerry Sandusky – pedophile case is fully underway, and reports from the courtroom suggest that the defense may look to use histrionic personality disorder as the reason why Jerry craved attention from the young boys he is alleged to have raped. Similar to Tiger Woods and his “sex addiction” excuse when faced with his extra-marital affairs, it appears that Sandusky’s legal team is going to attempt to portray Sandusky as a victim, completely helpless to his personality disorder. I’m sorry, as a clinician this doesn’t wash with me, and it shouldn’t with you, either.
When we begin to couch a person’s behaviors within the framework of psychological disorders, it becomes a slippery slope with no clear line in the sand to determine what is wrong and illegal, versus what is bad, but justified because of a “mental disorder.” Should we give Jerry Sandusky a pass because he supposedly had an insatiable desire to be noticed and liked by kids? Should we have sympathy toward Tiger Woods when he talked about his uncontrollable cravings to have sex with women outside of his marriage? If you give these two a pass, what’s to stop you from buying the excuse every perpetrator gives after committing a crime of some kind? My point is that you could justify every criminal offense if you looked hard enough at the possible mental disorders a person might be suffering from that caused the crime.
For me, short of a person being completely incoherent, delusional, and unable to function in society, I really cannot see how “disorders” like histrionic personality disorder and “sex addiction” can be seen as plausible excuses for the actions each man has been accused of committing. The bigger problem we have in society today, in my opinion, is this immediate rush to find reasons and excuses to not have to responsibly own up to one’s actions. When was the last time you witnessed a person simply say “I did it, and I am ready to accept the consequences for my actions”? Even when empirical evidence is found (like DNA, or clear video showing the crime being committed), defense lawyers still grasp onto any outlandish excuse they can to save the perpetrator from having to pay the price for his crimes. While we teach kids to be “honest” and forthright with their errors in judgment, as adults we forget all of that and instead look for any excuse possible rather than face the music.
While we are only in day 2 of the alleged victims facing Sandusky in court, the reports have already been chilling. Still, it appears that Sandusky and his team are going to fight through these charges (using their mental disorder excuse, of course), while only dragging on what seems to be inevitable — that Sandusky committed horrible crimes against countless innocent kids.
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Dr. Chris Stankovich is a Professional Athletic Counselor and Sport Performance Scientist and studies the psychosocial variables impacting human performance and success. He is the author of 5 books and has had his work featured in numerous national media outlets, including USA Today and ABC World News. Dr. Stankovich is known as "The Sports Doc" for his regular television feature on Ohio News Network and NBC 4 Columbus (OH). For more information on peak performance products, speaking engagements, training seminars, and free education downloads, please visit http://www.drstankovich.com.