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Sick vs. Evil

"I think people confuse sickness with evil. To feel the feelings, to have the sexual desire for a child, that's sick. Acting on those things is evil. That is a distinction that psychiatry and the world fail to perceive. Ask psychologists and psychiatrists and they'll give me a diagnosis for it. They'll never say, 'He's a miserable worthless maggot, an evil, rotten son of a bitch.' They'll say, 'He has an antisocial personality disorder.' I once asked a doctor what was an example of an antisocial personality disorder, and he said, 'a mass murderer.' " Andrew Vachss, from his 1987 interview with Sandy Rovner, published in The Washington Post.

"A pedophile is an individual with intense, recurrent sexually arousing fantasies and urges involving prepubescent children. Such feelings are 'sick.' To act on such feelings, to make them reality, is evil. ... The ultimate protection of such criminals, the near-immunity they enjoy, is the perception that any individual who sexually molests a child must be 'sick.' That trump card is only played when they are caught and prosecuted. That rarely happens. And the 'rehabilitation' of predatory pedophiles is fast becoming a growth industry." From "How We Can Fight Child Abuse," by Andrew Vachss, originally published in Parade, August 20, 1989.

"Child molesters aren't sick; they are evil. If they have those feelings they are sick; if they act on those feelings they are evil." Andrew Vachss, from the article, "Suffer Little Children," published in the March 1990 issue of Time Out (London)

"[T]here's a difference between feeling the feelings and acting on the feelings. If you feel the desire to molest a child, I'll grant you that that's sick. If you act on it, it's evil. It's a different ball of wax. Can you see a couple of cops sitting around the interrogation room, and [a suspect is] being asked about an armed robbery, and he won't talk. Can you hear the cops saying, 'Well, gee, John's in denial.' Is there an offense called 'armed robberia'? These are child molesters. The fact that we have a pretty theatric term is simply a 'Get out of jail free' card. What you do, and not what it's called, is what counts. And to steal a child's soul, which is exactly what happens ... there is no greater crime." Andrew Vachss, from his 1991 interview with Paul La Rosa, published in Gallery.

"I am careful not to call [predatory pedophiles] simply 'pedophiles,' because 'pedophilia' is a state of mind, not conduct. To 'feel the feelings' may be 'sick.' But to act on those feelings ... that is evil. Why do I call it 'evil'? Because it is neither the product of ignorance nor a mental illness ... it is a choice. ...

"In truth, there is no such disease as 'pedophilia.' Literally translated, it means 'lover of children,' which would be their own self-definition, not a diagnosis. But a pedophile's love of children is the same love you might feel for a hamburger. Something to be consumed. An object you make for yourself ... or buy from another. Chronic repetition of the same crime does not entitle one to call his conduct a mental illness. If I were to walk into court with a man accused of a string of liquor-store holdups, I doubt the jury would buy the argument that my client suffers from 'armed robber-ia.' " Excerpted from Andrew Vachss' 1998 testimony before the United States National Commission on Libraries and Information Science.

"I don't think it's a sickness that causes somebody to engage in aberrant behavior. Whether you have a serotonin rush in your brain or you need a certain kind of adrenaline flow in order to be happy, you make choices. If you know that your illness causes you not just to sit in your apartment and vegetate, but to go out there and prey on children—prey on anyone, prey on old people; why are we just concentrating on children? Prey on 85-year-old ladies, prey on 30-year-old pregnant women who—we just had one that was brutalized getting her pocketbook stolen on the east side, you know, just brutalized—with a big belly—and going after her pocketbook—that person isn't sick. The person is evil. The behavior is evil, the person is evil. They are taking what they want and putting it above what society says, 'You can't do this. This is wrong. This is evil behavior. This is not only criminal.'" Judge Judy [Sheindlin] from her 2002 interview on CNN's "Larry King Live."

"A mother who puts her baby in the oven because she hears voices commanding her to bake the devil out of the child's spirit is sick; and a mother who sells or rents her baby to child pornographers is evil. But most cases of child sexual abuse—especially those whose 'nonviolent' perpetrators come from within the child's circle of trust—seem, on their surface, to be far more complex.

"That complexity is an illusion. The truth is as simple as it is terrifying: Sickness is a condition. Evil is a behavior. Evil is always a matter of choice. Evil is not thought; it is conduct. And that conduct is always volitional. And just as evil is always a choice, sickness is always the absence of choice. Sickness happens. Evil is inflicted." From "The Difference Between 'Sick' and 'Evil,' " by Andrew Vachss, originally published in Parade, July 14, 2002.

"These are the only legal cases where if you lose, the victim goes home with the perpetrator. The idea of pedophilia is a defense attorney's dream. I don't call it a sickness. I call it evil. Once you call it evil, you are obligated to fight it. People think they have to understand something if it's a sickness. Sociopaths laugh at our attempts to 'understand' them." This quote from Andrew Vachss appeared in the article "Best-Selling Novelist Also a Lawyer Who Fights Child Abuse," by Michael Heaton. It was published in the Cleveland Plain Dealer on March 6, 2003.

"I know people don't like the word 'evil,' because, to them, it has a religious context. And also it's overused. But you have to distinguish from 'sick,' because a sick person doesn't plot and doesn't plan and doesn't profit. Plot, plan, profit. If you see those words, you're not dealing with somebody who's sick. You're dealing with somebody who's evil. And that distinction has habitually been lost on Americans, because the media has muddled it so much.

"We tend to think of predatory pedophiles as sick people. And when we think 'sick,' we think 'cure.' So pedophile treatment, hell, it was the growth industry of the Nineties. Provided you had the money. If you're an impoverished predatory pedophile, well, you're just a freak and a child molester. But if in fact you're a person with money, then they have all kinds of other names for you, you see?" Excerpted from Andrew Vachss' interview with Ken Kesegich, for the Fall 2004 issue of Case [Western University] Magazine.

William Irey pleaded guilty to sexually abusing more than 40 children, some as young as 4 years old. He traveled to Cambodia, sexually abused prepubescent children over a four- or five-year period, produced video of the acts, and distributed those videos. U.S. District Judge Gregory A. Presnell sentenced Irey to 17 1/2 years. That sentence was overturned by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, forcing the sentence to be raised to 30 years. In the decision, Senior United States Circuit Judge James C. Hill commented, "I ... disagree with the apparent weighty consideration that the sentencing judge gave to the notion that this defendant acted on account of some type of 'sickness.' The defendant acted deliberately, cunningly and with obvious delight." [United States v. William Irey, No. 08-10997, July 29, 2010 (PDF)]



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