Brown: Pedophiles deserve punishment, yet need help

Phil Brown

There is no crime as universally or vehemently repudiated as the sexual abuse of a child. To take the innocence and naivete of a young person and subject them to the horrors of various forms of rape strains the bounds of humanity itself. Why any adult would willingly participate in such an act or provide support for it through the consumption of child pornography escapes rational understanding.

Those that choose to engage in such heinous behaviors should rightfully be seen for what they are: extremely dangerous individuals who need to be held accountable for their transgressions. There is something else that these people need, however, and it can be very difficult for those of us not familiar with their situations to offer it to them. They need help.

Of course, child molesters are not merely victims who should receive every benefit of the doubt. They are sick, and in addition to the condemnation they deserve, they should be given the tiniest bit of mercy along with what little understanding can be summoned.

In order to see why these individuals should be shown anything but disgust, it is important to think about why they might commit their offenses. We can all grasp some notion of why a person might steal or kill — at some point in our lives, we have wanted something without the desire or ability to pay for it, or we have become so frustrated with another individual that we wished, however fleetingly, they were no longer living.

It is completely foreign to most of us, however, why anyone would sexualize a child. It is simple to assume that anyone who would coerce a child into a sexual act is just an evil person, born that way and totally unredeemable, deserving of nothing else but a swift end to his or her miserable life. This is simple, but it is far from true.

Jesse Ryan Loskarn, a former chief of staff to Senator Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., became the subject of intense public scrutiny after he was arrested for the possession of child pornography last December. Loskarn was later released under restricted house arrest and committed suicide Jan. 23.

A final note, published on, details the struggle Loskarn went through in dealing with his own experiences as a child victim of sexual abuse. In his note, he does not ask for forgiveness and does not expect to be found guiltless. He admits that his behavior was “defenseless” and understands that his abuse is not an excuse, merely a part of his story. Loskarn goes on to say that he admitted what had happened to him only rarely, and never in detail until he spoke with a counselor after his arrest.

The abuse to which Loskarn could never freely admit in life is what drove him to child pornography and what drove him to suicide. Yet even in his last message, the shame and guilt are almost overbearing. Far from being an evil man with malice in his heart, Loskarn appeared to be a completely “normal” man, who happened to have one of the darkest secrets possible.

He kept that secret close not because it pleased him to do so, but because he saw no other way. He claims to have unintentionally exposed himself to child pornography, yet instead of seeking help or counseling when he found himself drawn to it, he hid his thoughts and feelings.

Whatever his reasons for doing so, Loskarn can be heard in death. His story is available for all to see, and as the anonymous forward to his suicide note says: “If his words can help just one person who is suffering in silence, it will be his greatest accomplishment.”

We do not have to hate those who would harm the innocent. They should be held responsible for their actions, but none of us know the inner demons that cause their behavior. Pretending that there is some mythical collection of born-into-evil men and women who perpetrate these crimes may make us feel a little better, but it does not help us address their problems. More importantly, it does not help us stop them from creating new victims.