Mind of a Predator
As the nation watches what may be one of the worst cases of sexual abuse of children ever, we wonder: What makes a pedophile? The possibilities will frighten you—but not for the reasons you may think.
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Critics of such legislation say the system is too harsh, that a one-time sex offender should not be grouped with someone who has committed several sex crimes.
“There are too many people listed on the registry. It’s diluted, so it’s doing nothing more than giving people a false sense of security,” Leon says. “It creates complications in the community. Employers don’t want to hire a sex offender because it means that their name will be in the registry. It has a negative effect on the family of the abuser because their name is there. We’re so focused on the sex offender, we’re not focusing on solving the problem of sexual violence. If knowledge is power, then let’s make it good knowledge.”
Leon, author of the upcoming book “Sex Fiends, Perverts & Pedophiles: A Social History of Sex Crimes Since 1930,” suggests that when sex offenders leave prison and re-enter society, they be given more access, through corrections officials, to treatment.
She also wants to see an increased sensitivity toward the public information provided on sex offenders and, in the long term, an increase in social service programs that would provide both education for children and advocacy for victims.
“I am not against punishment. I understand the need to punish,” Leon says. “I think there are instances where it is very valid. But after the punishment ends, after probation and jail time, what do we do then?”
At the time he told his story, the man with the oversized glasses at Plummer had just three weeks of incarceration left on his sentence. He had arranged to move into a transitional house for a month or so, but feared that, after leaving, he would be homeless, due mainly to the public’s perception of sex offenders and the reluctance of any prospective employer to hire him. “I would love to go live and work on a farm somewhere, just tending to the fields and keeping to myself,” he says.
The woman from Hockessin says that when she first decided to meet with someone at SOAR, Inc.—and later, accept treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder at the University of Pennsylvania—it was like ripping open a long-forgotten wound that had been made tolerable by decades of silence.
“And now, I am rising,” she says. “I want to believe in the quality of life, that there is good in people, and that people can change. If I make the abuse about my abuser, then it becomes his world again, but I will no do that. This is all about reclaiming myself. This is my journey, to work from within.”
She is happiest beside the ocean. She goes there when she can, to Rehoboth Beach, where she and her husband have a second home. There, the sound of waves surging against the shore makes her feel blessedly small, nearly invisible.
“The waves make me feel that there’s something greater than me,” she says, “greater than anyone or anything.”