How Could You Be Married To A Pedophile And Not Know It?

Illustration for article titled How Could You Be Married To A Pedophile And Not Know It?

Seven years ago, Darlene Ellison's husband was arrested by the FBI for his involvement with NAMBLA, the North American Man-Boy Love Association. Up until his arrest, she had no idea that he was a pedophile, and, understandably, was horrified by the secret life he'd been keeping from her and their two children for their entire marriage. In the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State, she writes on the Daily Beast about what it's like to discover something so awful about your husband, and how it could be possible that Sandusky's wife, Dottie, wouldn't have known her husband was a criminal.


While it's not known whether Dottie knew about his abusive ways, it's easy to assume she must have known. How could you NOT know? It seems almost impossible that someone could keep a secret from someone so close to them. And yet, they do. Ellison offers an interesting insight into just how far the wool can be pulled down over your eyes. She describes herself as "a well-educated, philanthropic, 39-year-old mother who, until recently, was living a charmed Dallas life, married to a well-liked dentist who had been living a lie for our entire relationship."

Like Sandusky, Ellison's husband also volunteered for charities that put him into contact with children. He would tell her he was going to dental conventions when he was actually going to pedophilia conferences, and she believed him—after all, she had no reason not to. He had a secret mailbox, locked file cabinets at his office, and a hidden spot where he stored pornography in their home. So there was never any evidence for Ellison to come across:

I know firsthand that someone can be married to a man for years, share a bed with him, raise children with him, and still have no clue that he spent his days as a predator of young boys. I never suspected a thing.

For Ellison, finding out the truth was a brutal awakening. She describes spending "hours curled up in a ball, wanting to die." And while knowing about her husband's crimes explained certain things, it created many new problems:

It was only after my ex-husband was arrested that the marital problems we'd been having for years made sense. Over time, we'd begun to detach from one another, and I'd feel relieved when he traveled; trips I later learned were predatory. While his crimes eventually explained why I'd felt like such a failure at marriage, they also put my already-fragile self-esteem into dire straits. As a woman, I felt repulsed that during the more than 10 years we were married, my ex-husband preferred physical contact with young boys over me. As a mother, I was angry that he had claimed to love our children, then committed crimes that revealed anything but love.

While she no longer has any communication with her ex-husband, she and her children are still dealing with the ramifications of his crimes, and she predicts a long road ahead for those in Sandusky's family who are suffering collateral damage.

How Dorothy Sandusky Could Have Been Duped [Daily Beast]



Sociopaths are inherently manipulative. They're often charming, incredibly intelligent, and the whole point is to put on the facade of normalcy to cover up what they're doing. They prey on the love and trust of their partners as surely as they prey on their other victims. Statistically most pedophiles are men who, in public, present as straight and are usually married with children.

I think it's easy to say someone "should" have known because then we reassure ourselves that WE would never be fooled. Just like WE would never be the victim of anything because we're so smart and intuitive and we'd just know better and do that magic thing that will "prevent" being raped/cheated on/lied to. Except we've all experienced being lied to, being manipulated, or discovering we don't know something about someone we thought we knew. Sure, it's usually not something this horrible. But it's the same basic idea. It's terrifying to think that you can really believe you know someone and trust them and have it be a total lie...but that's reality. Most of us aren't checking out the people we love most to see if they are predators. And they don't always wear big obvious signs. Scary, but true.