Over these last two decades, I have asked myself the same question that I know others ask when they hear about my sex crime. How could you do such a thing? Since my release from prison in 2018, I have learned a lot about myself and my crime through Sexual Offender Treatment and my own research and self-reflection. This kind of soul searching and critical thinking was not possible before my 2008 incarceration, but those 10 years in prison and subsequent years on parole have given me the opportunity to read about, reflect on and understand my past behavior, and I am continuing to educate myself and to grow into a healthier human being.
I’ve learned that people’s behaviors are strongly determined by several motivational factors, and I’ve applied this to my sex crime to better understand it. Biologically, humans have a need for sex, but my past drug addiction to methamphetamine intensified desire and arousal to unnatural levels. According to a 2020 study by Johns Hopkins, there is a direct link between methamphetamine use and risky sexual behavior due to the amped-up sex drive paired with a loss of inhibitory control. The intense sexual high spurred on by meth created an inappropriate sexual thought and also subdued my ability to resist that thought or urge. In 2005, I was ignorant of the facts and dangers associated with meth, but I have since learned of the phenomenon of “sex and meth” and that it even has its own name, chemsex. As mentioned, at the forefront of my past drug addiction, not only were my sexual urges far stronger than normal but my judgment was seriously impaired. This was a recipe for disaster because my spouse was often gone or had locked herself up in her room, and my victim, a minor, was left in my care.
Another thing I have come to realize is that the unhealthy household in which I was living at the time of my crime was a huge factor in the development of my deviant sexual behavior. Even though the relationship with my then-wife was extremely toxic, I did everything I could and anything she asked in order to keep her from walking out. This was due to my deeply-rooted abandonment issues. Because my parents gave me up as a ward of the court at age 9, I viewed any relationship, even one as flawed as what I had with my spouse, as better than no relationship at all. For fear of being abandoned again and for fear of losing my two small sons at the time, I allowed her to control almost every aspect of my life. This meant losing not only ties with friends and family (eventually, no one would come around her), but it also meant giving up employment to satisfy her request of my doing so. My decision to remain married to this woman meant losing custody of my 5-year-old daughter from a previous marriage, meant being exposed to excessive drug use and verbal abuse, and it meant being the victim of recurrent infidelity. I was completely emasculated, belittled, and psychologically destroyed. With regard to my crime, I felt I had nothing left to lose.
Cognitively, I had the mentality of a pubescent boy, and although it’s embarrassing to admit, I was reading at a 3rd-grade level when I entered prison. My arrested development was due to a combination of neglect, within both my childhood home and later in group homes, and subsequent poor attendance at school. As a child, my parents rarely engaged with me and consistently found ways to keep me out of sight and out of their hair, and once they turned me over to the state, I stopped attending school with any regularity. The resulting cognitive deficits led me to make poor judgments throughout my teens and twenties, and then in my thirties to erroneously engage with my victim as a peer, or an equal. At that time, I didn’t see my victim as a child or someone younger than me because, within that dysfunctional household, my spouse treated us both as incompetent and annoying children, which forced an unnatural and inappropriate aliance between me and my stepdaughter. I didn’t recognize any of this then, but I see it clearly now.
Furthermore, just before my first offense, my emotional health was severely impaired. I already had extremely low self-esteem as a result of my parents throwing me away at such a young age. My self perception only grew worse as a result of the seven years of marriage to this woman, who, on a regular basis would remind me of how stupid and worthless I was. She would kick me out of the house and then beg me to come back because she needed a babysitter, have affairs and rub the details of each one in my face, all the while reminding me of my, to her, inadequate penis size. Any chore I completed was insufficient, and any holiday I planned was a failure in her eyes. Because of this routine emasculation, I felt worthless, like I wasn’t a man at all. So the routine drug use and deviant sexual behavior allowed me to mask those negative feelings with pleasure and to subsist in an altered, albeit sick, reality.
In the past few years, I’ve also learned about the power of psychological conditioning. My reward, or positive conditioning, came in the form of sexual pleasure and the routine release of dopamine. I’ve read that the pleasure sensory receptor is almost 10x stronger for a meth user than a normal person. I was classically conditioned in the worst way possible. In addition, positive reinforcement was present with every sexual encounter, a ratio of 1:1, with no variation in the pleasure reward. Last, negative reinforcement was also a factor because those sexual interactions, as perverse as they were, meant avoiding feelings of abandonment and unworthiness. Avoidance learning was implemented because time spent with the victim meant avoiding abuse from my then-spouse, and it meant avoiding the threat that my stepdaughter repeatedly made – to report our involvement to authorities, when I wouldn’t do what she said, like buy her expensive items or take her side against her mother. I was often blackmailed and held hostage. Finally, in my conditioning at the time, there were no consequences for my sexual misconduct, only the repeated reward of drug-amplified sexual pleasure.
I realize that people assume that a man in his early 30s would consider the fact of age impropriety and that the young age of the victim would act as a strong deterrent to sexual activity; however, because of my own secret history as the victim of sexual abuse, starting at age 7, age discrepancies and familial, or incestuous, sexual contact was my perceived norm. Now, looking back at those years of myself as a victim of molestation, I recognize the violation and early loss of innocence, but 20 years ago, my memories of those encounters were of the pleasurable physical sensations, not the psychological damage.
The point that I hope I have made is that I take complete responsibility for my past actions, but a dark and complex set of conditions brought my crime to life. I am not a pedophile, and I am not a threat to anyone, including minors. Although under much duress and layers of negative circumstances, I once molested a child, I am not a child molester. Before this situational recipe for disaster came together in 2005, I had never fantasized about sexual activity with a minor, and I haven’t had inappropriate fantasies since. Once I was removed from that cesspool of a household in 2006 and rehabilitated from the drug and resulting sexual addiction, my life began to take an entirely different, and positive course.
I value education and wisdom over superficial needs and ideas. Only two classes remain in my program at a local community college, and I look forward to leaving the scars of my home county behind and starting my life and work elsewhere. My fiance and I have a wonderful friendship and solid, respectful communication, which is a strong foundation for building our home and future.
Before incarceration, my life revolved around isolation, abusive scenarios, toxic interactions, drug abuse, and feelings of worthlessness. After 10 years of incarceration and ensuing therapy and education, my life is centered around positive goals, hard and consistent work, travel, healthy plans for the future, a mutually respectful and loving relationship, and rebuilding my character.
We all make mistakes, have struggles, and regret things in our past. But I am not defined by my mistakes. I am not the embodiment of my struggles, and they aren’t me. I am here NOW with the power to shape my day and positively live my future.