A colleague of mine has a very difficult case. His client sexually abused his children. We have spent a great deal of time talking about it.
When his client was a child, he was violated in the same way. The Supreme Court had already predicted what would happen next. Long ago, the Court recognized that, “sexually exploited children are unable to develop healthy affectionate relationships in later life, have sexual dysfunctions, and have a tendency to become sexual abusers as adults.”
What should we do with victims of sexual abuse who predictably repeat the cycle? Is their moral culpability diminished by the abuse they suffered themselves? If so, does that fact mitigate the harm of the offense?
The simple counterargument is that the present client has already telescoped the same harm, endangering children down the road. But that facile position imposes a false moral equivalency. The desire to divide people into camps of victims and perpetrators elides the reality that a lot of perpetrators are victims. We should recognize that.
This horrific story encapsulates the problem. It is worth your time.