The Human Denial System Can Be An Accomplice to Crime

In the 1970’s, John Wayne Gacy, respected member of the community and husband and father of two children, raped and murdered young boys and buried them under is home in Chicago. Gacy was convicted of murdering thirty-three boys and was executed by lethal injection in 1994.

Maybe you saw his younger sister on Oprah? She appeared on the show in order to reveal who she is and to talk about her brother. Most people who watched Karen on the show were probably seeing a victim –someone who got caught up in a tragedy and who deserved nothing but sympathy. As usual, I don’t follow the crowd.

I was angry with Karen. She spoke about Gacy’s sodomy on a fifteen year-old boy in 1968, as if the boy was not a victim at all, but a willing participant. She sat there on Oprah and –in my mind– defended her brother, saying that it was “consensual sex.” She believed this because her brother told her it was.  I don’t have much sympathy for the human denial system in this case because her denial served only two purposes. It served herself and her brother. Karen chose to believe the rape was consensual. That is what was convenient for her –what was more comfortable for her to believe.

Fifteen year-old boys don’t have the mental capacity to give consent to sex with a grown man.  He was just a child for God’s sake.

Karen spoke about believing her brother, “I stop and think sometimes that maybe if he hadn’t been so believable, maybe the rest of his life wouldn’t have turned out like it did.” Gacy was believable because she wanted to believe him.

Even though Gacy was convicted of sodomy on the boy, and received a ten-year prison sentence, Gacy was released on good behavior after serving only eighteen months.

(Booking photo of John Wayne Gacy)

After Gacy got out of prison, Karen says she noticed a strange smell coming from his home when she visited him, but she never suspected that he had dead bodies under the house.  She attributed the smell to must, and when Gacy told her it was from lime and mold, she believed him. Reasonable enough. But when his second marriage fell apart, Karen said about the marriage that Gacy always “pushed people away,” and that she thinks he did it to “protect his wife and children.” Here again, she is defending a child rapist and child murderer to her own benefit, and to his. She doesn’t say that he had serious psychological issues, including a sexual deviancy and sexual identity problem, and that this is the reason he could not make his marriages work. She instead attributed his two failed marriages to Gacy somehow heroically self-sacrificing so that his children would be safe. Never mind the 33 children that he raped and murdered. Gacy didn’t give a shit about the safety of the boys he sodomized and murdered, but he wanted his own children safe? I don’t buy it.

I was angered when Karen told Oprah that she forgave her brother for what he did to her and their family, but she did not say anything about what he did to his victims and their families. Her remark was all about her and her loved ones. Maybe the Oprah show cut out mention of the victim’s families. I will give her the benefit of the doubt on that one.

According to the Oprah program, Karen says she lives with guilt for his crimes but is speaking out “to end that cycle.” She says, “I don’t know what I feel guilty about. He was my brother; he did it. They weren’t my choices.” True, they were not her choices and she does deserve sympathy for being the sister of one of the most notorious mass murderers in history, but I am curious why she feels guilty. Is it an unwarranted guilt? Or could it be rooted in the fact that she chose to believe his story of “consensual sex” the first time he raped a child?

In her defense, Karen finally believed her brother was guilty of the murders and she said, “I had always said to my husband and my family that if any appeal ever worked, I’d see to it that he never walked the face of the earth again,” she says. “That’s said because I did love him as a brother, but I didn’t like anything about what he did. “

The Oprah Show, Feb 17 2010

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2 Responses to The Human Denial System Can Be An Accomplice to Crime

  1. Child rapists and their supporters forget something crucial: in order for sex to be consensual, both parties need to be able to provide *informed* consent. A teenager is a child who does not have enough knowledge of the world to be able to provide informed consent for sex. As such, an adult cannot possibly have consensual sex with a minor, even if the child says yes; because while that ‘yes’ might be bandied as ‘consent’, it is far from *informed* consent, which is what the law requires.

    • Alethea says:

      Hi Urooj,

      I would consider it “conscious” or “rational” consent. A person can inform a child they have to go to the doctor, or inform a teen they need to go to boarding school in another state. But if an adult with deviant intentions informs a child or teen they are going to engage in sex with them, and informs them of the activities etc….the child still does not have a rational or “conscious” understanding of what is going to happen.

      What do you think?


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