In response to some speculation in the comments section of this post, here are a few facts about how the sexual abuse of children usually works, especially when the perp (like Sandusky) is a serial abuser of unrelated children:
(1) The perp is often in a position of authority over the child, which would predispose the child to obey.
(2) The perp is often an experienced and almost uncanny judge of character, and chooses his (or her) prey carefully. The children tend to be insecure and shy, and to come from troubled and/or single parent homes. Therefore an organization such as Second Mile, the one Sandusky founded that served underprivileged children and from which he drew his victims, would be a perfect source.
(3) The victim is usually approached carefully over time in a series of escalating moves in order to test his/her receptivity and passivity in the face of the abuse. If the victim is too resistant or defiant or uncooperative, the perp moves to another victim.
(4) The perp counts on shame and/or fear to keep the child quiet. Sometimes (although I don’t think this was one of the allegations in Sandusky’s case) the perp overtly threatens that something bad will happen to the child or the child’s parents if the secret is found out or told: either the child will be punished or the perp will harm or kill him/her or his/her parents. Or there can even be just the milder threat that of course no one will credit the child’s word against the adult’s. In many cases the child has already had the latter experience—of not being believed or heard in smaller matters—so it is very believable for the child. It is speculated that the entire spectrum of the problem, including the fear, secrecy, shame, and sense of betrayal on the child’s part, can be even more damaging than the act of sex itself, although the latter is certainly damaging as well.
(5) Sometimes the evidence that the child is being abused is very subtle and easy for parents to miss. This is especially true in a home where parents are harried and not paying a lot of attention, but it can be the case even with attentive parents. Sometimes children, in their shame (or fear) at what has happened to them, are quite adept at hiding any evidence, even (or perhaps especially) from parents. Sometimes the changes in the child are limited to increased nonspecific anxiety and/or behavior problems. There is often no physical evidence (although in the case of anal rape, as alleged in the Sandusky case, there tends to be—but again, children can be determined and successful at hiding it).
(6) It is commonly thought that the spouse of the perp ought to suspect, especially if (as in the Sandusky case) some of the abuse occurs in the perp’s home. For example, Sandusky had many of the kids to his house on overnights before outings. They slept in a basement room, and he is alleged to have gone done there to abuse them around their bedtime. Many people in comments sections around the blogosphere have blamed his wife for not noticing this, especially if he was absent around bedtime. But a child’s bedtime is not the same as an adult’s, and if the perp times his approaches well (which Sandusky almost certainly did), he can easily accomplish the abuse fairly quickly, and while his wife is busy cleaning up or on a computer or reading or engaged in any number of solitary evening activities. The perp’s demeanor can otherwise seem rather ordinary and non-suspicious, and the married sex life of perps can actually be quite “normal”-seeming as well.
People who look at the phenomenon of child sexual abuse from the outside often prefer to think that the signs are clear, and that—had it been their spouse—they would have known. But sadly, that is just not the case. Perps can be very sly and able to present a convincing facade of normalcy. In other words, in addition to being sexual predators, they are often excellent con artists.