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A Vicious Cycle

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When we hear the term, "evil," we tend to think of shows like Supernatural, where there are clear-cut entities, both good and bad. However, though evil exists, the devil has yet to show up at your door with his pitchfork, so you can settle the score. That would be too easy, and if it were a physical fight, we'd have a better chance at winning.

I've often heard, "the greatest battle you'll ever fight, is in your mind." It is a valid statement. In most societies, child abuse is punishable by losing our children, jail time, or even the death penalty, depending on the case and the severity of the crime. Many of us teach our children from an early age, to not hit or call names. So why is it that the following statistic, taken from ChildHelp, remains the case?

"Every year 3.3 million reports of child abuse are made in the United States involving nearly 6 million children (a report can include multiple children). The United States has the worst record in the industrialized nation—losing five children every day due to abuse-related deaths."

Clearly, "many of us" is not enough when it comes to how many parents are making moral behavior a priority. Perhaps post-partum depression occurs. It must be difficult to have children and sacrifice your independence, tighten your budget and lose a lot of sleep, along with balancing a job. Are we so plagued with stresses of life that impulse and emotion have taken over? Is that what evil is, no interception, just acting on pure emotional impulse? Perhaps, but for those who do not have the mental capacity to intercept their impulses, it could be quite difficult to fight that ongoing battle in their mind. Some people, such as Elaine Whitfield Sharp, believe a person must be mentally ill if they are capable of committing murder.

"You see, I truly believe that murderers are mentally ill," Elaine states in regards to capital punishment. "Their brains don't work like the rest of ours do. To deliberately kill someone requires crossing a profound boundary. Most of us couldn't do it. We couldn't even think about it. But they can. They do. Why? Because they're mentally ill. And fundamentally, as a society, I believe it is barbaric to kill people who are ill."

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reported that in 2010, 1 in 5 Americans struggled with some type of mental illness. That's a lot of people dealing with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and those are just a few names to start. Although mental illness clearly plays a role in the lives of many Americans, it is probably not the only factor in violent crime against children or other adults. Do you ever wonder how many of criminals imprisoned have suffered as victims of abuse? Here are some more statistics, again from ChildHelp:

  • 14 percent of all men in prison in the USA were abused as children.
  • 36 percent of all women in prison were abused as children.
  • Children who experience child abuse and neglect are 59 percent more likely to be arrested as a juvenile, 28 percent more likely to be arrested as an adult, and 30 percent more likely to commit violent crime.

And the worst part of all:

  • About 30 percent of abused and neglected children will later abuse their own children, continuing the horrible cycle of abuse.

Now let's take this one step further, how many murderers have been victims of abuse? I disagree with Elaine Whitfield Sharp when she says, "we couldn't even think about it." Many of us have seen someone bending over into the trunk of a car, and thought, "what would happen if I slammed that trunk door on their head?" However, our conscience stops us, we know the consequence, or we get the cold feeling over our heart and realize what we're thinking is immoral. But back to it, those who actually commit the crime, were they victims?

According to The Incidence of Child Abuse in Serial Killers, from the Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology March 2005, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 40-47, "For serial killers, the prevalence of physical abuse was 36 percent; sexual abuse was 26 percent; and psychological abuse was 50 percent. Neglect was equally prevalent in the serial killer (18 percent) and societal norm populations."

It is obvious from these statistics that abuse has affected moral conscience in some people. So I pose a question; Are those who commit crimes and violent crimes against children and adults evil, mentally ill, or a victim of a vicious cycle?


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