Features Australia

Sympathy for the devil

Our moral decline should not include empathy for child molesters

2 May 2015

9:00 AM

2 May 2015

9:00 AM

When future chroniclers of our particular moral decline designate milestones on our long slide into nihilism, efforts to mitigate the evil of sexual abuse against children must surely rate a dishonourable mention. A particularly disgraceful example of this genre appeared in the Advertiser from the pen of its political editor Tory Shepherd. In a meandering piece whose speciousness only surpassed its noxiousness, Shepherd argues that paedophiles are blameless because their brains are (un)naturally hardwired to lust after children. It’s ‘not their fault’ she declares, citing a University of Toronto study that found child molesters on average have lower than average IQs. She argues that if paedophiles were only given ‘sympathy’ and ‘respect’ the end result would be ‘fewer children raped.’ In essence, Shepherd wants to wager the lives of our sons and daughters on the hypothetical proposition that a ‘softly softly’ approach to paedophilia will reduce child sexual abuse.

That’s not a gamble we should take. Nor should we endorse Shepherd’s plea for government funds to support treatment programs she claims have a success rate of 83 per cent in preventing recidivism by sex offenders. Even if true (a very large ‘if’), those figures still leave an unacceptable 17 per cent of the paedophile pool that will go on to destroy children’s lives. That’s not good enough. It may be the case that sexual attraction towards children is natural to paedophiles. But whether paedophilia is the product of nature or of nurture is irrelevant. Our overriding concern must always be to shield our most vulnerable from the predators who would maim them physically and emotionally. And the most effective means of achieving that goal is through criminal sentencing that takes into account the incorrigible nature of paedophilic sexual desire. Child rapists must be imprisoned until they are too old, too frail, and too impotent to reoffend.


The moral misjudgements that blight Shepherd’s article are one of the uglier by-products of our rights-obsessed culture that has debased personal responsibility. We hear constant attempts to explain away bad behaviour through appeals to extenuating circumstances supposedly beyond the perpetrator’s control. One of the most popular tactics to evade individual responsibility is through the pathologising of anti-social activity. We now live in a society that routinely ascribes disease-like characteristics to deeds that would have simply been described as bad actions by bad actors in previous times.

We’re taught that crime is caused by socio-economic depravation rather than a conscious decision by individual criminals to violate the law. And now Shepherd tells us a similar exculpatory principle should apply to child rapists who allegedly: ‘have a problem with brain development.’ But how low is she willing to go in her benighted quest to excuse the inexcusable?

Adrian Bayley is the degenerate who raped and murdered Jill Meagher in 2012. He had a prolific history of sexual violence, serving 11 years in prison for the rapes or attempted rapes of eight women. Recently he was convicted of three additional rapes, two of which were perpetrated only months before the murder. The malign spirit that motivated Bayley’s campaign of sexual terrorism was something he reportedly described as his ‘urge’, a term that would indicate some deeply ingrained mental compulsion. By the logic of Shepherd’s argument, any brain abnormality that might afflict this serial sexual predator should absolve or diminish his criminal and moral culpability. Is she really prepared to argue that we’re bound to shower Adrian Bayley with ‘sympathy’ because his criminal history is symptomatic of a man afflicted by a pathological inclination to attack women?

Shepherd’s piece is disfigured by a grotesque moral masochism that seeks to bestow aid and comfort upon sadists. She has the perverse arrogance to deride those who value children over sexual predators as ‘self-appointed virtue police shuddering in their jim-jams.’ In the bizzaro world-according-to-Tory, child molesters deserve empathy while those who endorse traditional values are worthy only of contempt. The sheer depravity of her attitude makes a mockery of our sacrosanct responsibility to protect those least able to protect themselves – our children.

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  • Ian Nairn

    Baby, they were born that way. Simply they are just using the same arguments used by homosexuals to get their lifestyle approved. It won’t be long before paedophilia will be normalised like homosexuality has been normalised.

  • Dogsnob

    Are some people ‘naturally hardwired’ to murder innocent strangers?

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