Perpetrators: What to do with them…

Someone once asked me what I thought would be an appropriate punishment for Marco Tamburro, the man who attacked me. I did not have an immediate answer. To me, Marco has a broken brain; he is a defective human. He seemed incapable of ever feeling remorse, regret or understanding of his crime. Just remembering his pack-of-lies witness statement hammers that home.

I have long felt that people such as Marco are best shipped to an island where only rapists, molesters and pedophiles live. Just separate them from society because they can never be fixed. And maybe while they are all hanging out together on that island, they’d realize how horrible they all are. Or maybe the island would just sink into the sea and we’d never hear from them again.

The reality is few convicted rapists, molesters, pedophiles, etc ever get locked up for very long. They go to prisons where any number of perversions take place, and then, they are released back out into society. They never entirely go away and they are never fixed. And that seems pretty dangerous to me and it should to you too.

A recent training session forced me to think about perpetrators on a deeper level than I ever wanted to. I mean, who wants to think about perpetrators as people? Demons, yes. Humans, no. The training was aimed at gaining insights into why perpetrators perpetrate. About attempting to understand the motivation. The expert who gave the training has the unsavory task (one that she actually enjoys) of trying to rehabilitate the offender. I am sure that sentence induces eye-rolling in most of you reading this. And I totally get it. But there were some valuable learnings here I wanted to pass along:

In most cases, perpetrators suffered some sort of abuse, neglect, difficult/damaging relationship in their youth. I don’t write that to gain your sympathy. But it would be more scary to me if most perps had healthy, stable and loving childhoods.
Perpetrators lack an ability to be empathetic to their victims because they themselves were not afforded empathy or the chance to develop close bonds to people who produce byproducts such as trust, security, love, boundaries and respect. So severe is the negative result of these dysfunctional upbringings, perpetrators commit the crime as an outward expression of their inner deficiencies and inability to cope. Whereas women most often turn their rage, sadness, etc., upon themselves (eating disorders, cutting, drugs), men express outwardly. What this means is, the selection of a victim is not about anything that person has “done to them.” It’s a matter of timing (when the overwhelming desire to act out occurs inside the perpetrator) and chance as to who is in the perp’s presence or who they have access to when they seek to act out in this most disgusting and violent of ways.

To answer the question victims often have about “why me?” … it is little comfort to realize most perpetrators do not “see” their victims. They are not thinking much of them or considering their lives as individuals when they decide to commit sexual assault. They just see the person as an outlet in the coldest, most detached sense of the word. Is it wrong that I see that as somewhat comforting? Stay with me here… I never felt that I had done anything to induce Marco’s assault on me. I never felt responsible for his behavior. Somehow, through it all, I never for a moment thought I was connected to him in any way other than happenstance. I took my grievances to God. THAT is who I was mad at for quite some time. But I always knew that Marco was rotten inside and trying to fill a bottomless hole. What that must be like, I will never know.

I won’t bore you with the process by which therapists work to rehab perps, but suffice it to say it is akin to taking one of those big balls of rubber bands, identifying each strand and then trying to undo each one, one at a time, in order to then neatly stack them. I’d like to believe there is some value in making the attempt. And I see why it is off-putting to know people try to help perps. Sexual assault victims still can’t get justice, proper care, resources or understanding, yet people are actually trying to help perpetrators. I get it. Not sure where I come out on this yet. But it was interesting and made me think.

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