Sick Vs. Evil

Today I went through my old articles submitted to local newspapers, and I found this one:

In Parade Magazine Andrew Vachss makes the excellent point that society tries desperately to label pedophiles, and those who commit child sexual abuse, as people who must be ‘sick.’ This is basically society’s attempt at self-comfort.

Vachss also proposes that there is a difference between evil acts and acts committed by someone who is sick with mental illness. On this point I must disagree. Vachss has done some wonderful work and written excellent articles. I admire and respect what he does very much, but I challenge his assertion that people who harm children are either sick or evil.

He feels that a woman who kills her child because she is hearing voices is “sick,” but a woman who allows her own child to be used by pornographers is “evil.” Both of these acts are evil, and the two women are neither evil, nor good. There is good and evil inside all of us.

So-called ‘good’ people have evil thoughts all the time and sometimes they even act on them. People who commit evil acts on a constant basis sometimes do good things for others. It is our actions and thoughts which are either evil or good.

There has been a rash in recent years of women leaving their children locked inside their car for hours in the hot sun. One of the most current cases was a woman who left her two children to die while she went shopping, had a massage, and had her hair done.

A few days later a twenty-seven year-old mother ‘forgot’ her infant son was in the car while she went to work. Are these women really any better than people who sexually abuse children? Is a woman who cooks her child to death inside a car oven at 120 degrees any better than the father who molests his daughter at night in her bedroom?

These women were either too busy, or too selfish, or both. It is possible that they sometimes quietly entertained thoughts of the days when they could go to work without restraints, or have their hair done and then a day of shopping, without having to care for their children’s needs. It is quite possible that -at times- these women felt their children had become an inconvenience. Sometimes our conscious wishes become unconscious impulses and we carry them out.

Prosecutors are currently seeking murder charges against the woman who went to have her hair done while her children suffered and died. Authorities say she was tired of having children and even gave up another child a few years ago like an unwanted pet at an animal shelter.

Some have argued that the only punishment these women should receive is to suffer with what they did for the rest of their life. If Andrea Yates, who systematically drowned her five children had been found not guilty by reason of insanity, or if these women who consciously or unconsciously leave their children locked in a hot car to die are given no punishment except whatever pain they endure from their actions, then it would be open season on children.

So when Andrew Vachss calls one person evil and the other ill, I feel he is missing the fact that all acts of child abuse, child endangerment, and the killing of children are evil acts. Some argue that forgetting your child in a car seat in 85-degree temperature is a mere ‘mistake’. A mistake is putting your car keys in the wrong place.

There is one evil that is perhaps the worst evil of them all, and that is the evil of silence. Silence can be found at the root of many acts of child sexual abuse. While the person who remains silent about the crime is not physically ‘doing’ anything to the child, they are just as guilty as the abuser themselves. It is the lack of action that is evil; especially when their silence is out of self-comfort –which is the worst kind of evil there is.

Vachss calls the sexual violation of children “unspeakable acts.” We must begin to change our terminology when talking about this issue. We must stop placing words like “unspeakable”,  “unthinkable”, and “unbelievable” in the same sentence as child sexual abuse and incest. The only way to stop the sexual violation and rape of children is through our voices; people must speak about these acts. We cannot attach these subliminal messages to the crime of sexual abuse. Incest, child molestation, and child rape are thinkable, and they are believable because they do happen. They are speakable crimes because we must speak about them to stop it from happening. In our society many so-called ‘good’ people are silent about abuse and injustice every day and this is how evil breeds.

The men in the modern Catholic Church who covered up sexual abuse and shuffled around the perpetrators for years or decades are just as responsible for the crimes they ignored.

Neighbors who see a child being beaten and choose not to call authorities, because they do not want to get involved, are partially responsible for any abuse that continues because of their lack of action.

Mothers who willfully look the other way while their husbands sexually molest their children are just as guilty and their silence is facilitating their child’s torment. A society which continues to stick it’s collective head in the sand needs to begin to openly speak about incest and child sexual abuse instead of not wanting to know about it.

Silence helps no one but the abuser. It is also time we stop labeling everyone as ‘good’ and ‘evil’ because it is quite often the so-called ‘good’ father next door who is raping his own daughter.



Source notes:

The Difference Between ‘Sick’ and ‘Evil’, Andrew Vachss, Parade Magazine, July 14 2002, Parade Publications, page 4-5

Mom Who Left Kids Faces Manslaughter Charges,, July 15 2002

Detroit Free Press on-line, Keeping Children Safe: Summer’s Danger Zone, Nicole Volta Avery, July 13 2002

Mom Who Left Kids Faces Manslaughter Charges,, July 15 2002

This entry was posted in Child Abuse, child molestation, child sexual abuse, Crime, Denial, evil, rape and abuse and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Sick Vs. Evil

  1. Little Nel says:

    Good and Evil seems to be the prevailing theme of all relationships and experiences known to humans.
    When we lack a way of cataloguing or identifying our feelings of remorse or shame, we go back to the old standard way of measuring our guilt and self-worth, by what we are told.

    It’s too bad that we can’t sort through our feelings, without thinking about Good and/or Evil about ourselves when we examine our childhood experiences. We are at a loss every time we consider our own sexual abuse and our ignorance of the consequences.

    I hate to think about how evil I felt for no logical reason.

  2. melissa lee says:

    Very true…

    Melissa Lee

  3. Reesee says:

    So many great points here, Althea. Thank you.

  4. tifed3 says:

    Love Andrew Vachss he operates

Comments are closed.