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Sandusky trial

Discussion in 'Psychology [Psy.D. / Ph.D.]' started by Pragma, Jun 17, 2012.

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  1. Pragma

    Pragma

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  2. mcvcm92

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    I'm just confused why the defense would try to pull out something like this seeing as the article said "personality disorders can be used as an explanation for behavior, he said, but are not a legal defense like insanity." Thus, I'm not sure how much impact this "diagnosis" could have, but I guess we'll see...
  3. AcronymAllergy

    AcronymAllergy Neuropsychology Fellow Moderator

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    It mentioned in the article that they're trying to use it as a way of explaining the letters he sent (i.e., they're "histrionic displays of affection" or something similar rather than attempts to "groom his victims"). Maybe it's an attempt to reduce the severity of whatever he's convicted with and/or of the sentence he may eventually receive...? Although as the article mentions, without knowing anything else about what's going on, it does sound a bit like his defense team is grasping at straws.
  4. BlackSkirtTetra

    BlackSkirtTetra

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    Unfortunately, just because somebody is a psychologist--or because they have a PhD, EdD, MD, PsyD, etc--doesn't mean they're necessarily reliable or even competent.

    I can't speak the specifics of this case (I'm not familiar with it), but I've run across some very "interesting" doctors whose opinions on all sorts of professional or medical matters I would never trust.
  5. cara susanna

    cara susanna Predoctoral Intern

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    Whaaat. They are so out of ideas. Sandusky's basically admitted that he's sexually attracted to children, what else can they do?
  6. Pragma

    Pragma

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    The term "hired gun" comes to mind...

    It is cases like this that give our profession a bad rep.
  7. erg923

    erg923 Psychologist-Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

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    Um, yea. When you have to pause for ten seconds before answering "Are you sexually attracted to underage boys?...then you are attracted to underage boys.

    Psychology, the science of the obvious....:laugh:
  8. cara susanna

    cara susanna Predoctoral Intern

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    Even worse, he actually once said that he was attracted to them. When asked to clarify, he said that he meant he enjoyed spending time with young boys and girls. Because, yeah, that's what most of us mean when we say "attracted to."
  9. dumbledoresgirl

    dumbledoresgirl

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    "Dr. Elliot Atkins testified that he had diagnosed Sandusky with histrionic personality disorder after interviewing the former coach. But a second psychologist, Dr. John O'Brien, disputed those findings Tuesday, saying that the "personality profile Mr. Sandusky exhibited was within normal limits.""

    From below article....at least someone corrected him. Although I'm still concerned that a psychologist would jump to such a drastic diagnosis when there doesn't seem to be much evidence pointing to it.

    http://www.cnn.com/2012/06/19/justice/pennsylvania-sandusky-trial/index.html?hpt=hp_t1
  10. KillerDiller

    KillerDiller

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    Perhaps the larger question is whether things like histrionic and narcissistic PD are scientifically valid diagnoses in the first place. These differing testimonies could simply indicate how subjective the criteria for most PDs are, not that one psychologist messed up and the other "corrected' him.
  11. dumbledoresgirl

    dumbledoresgirl

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    That makes sense...I guess I just assumed the first diagnosis was completely off base because they the evidence they cited was not related at all. Something about the content of letters written by Sandusky that supposedly hinted at a histrionic personality, when later on they said those were just "grooming techniques"...or something of the like. Shouldn't have jumped to conclusions like that!
  12. Pragma

    Pragma

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    If I recall correctly, Axis II diagnoses are typically a) highly correlated with each other, b) highly correlated with Axis I disorders, and c) Not reliable over time (e.g., 50% or so no longer meet criteria 2 years later).

    I know DSM-V is trying to address Axis II quite differently. But it seems like pretty wishy-washy grounds for a legal defense, and I personally am reluctant to ever give an Axis II diagnosis unless the evidence is extremely compelling.
  13. bmedclinic

    bmedclinic

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    I wish that wasnt the case, but I've met enough professionals to completely agree with you. A decade ago, I imagined all clinical psychologists are what I am striving to be. How foolish of me.
  14. voyeurofthemind

    voyeurofthemind

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    Agreed. Good topic. I had the evening news on and heard this and at no point would Histrionic PD come to mind. It seemed completely out of context and unsupported given what they reported on to be the basis of the diagnosis. Simple paraphilia - Pedophilia would suffice here.
  15. wigflip

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  16. cara susanna

    cara susanna Predoctoral Intern

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    Sadly, I'm not surprised. The question is whether Sandusky's wife really knew about what was going on, was willfully ignorant, or was actually oblivious.
  17. wigflip

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    Yeah, that's chilling (to think about), isn't it?
  18. futureapppsy2

    futureapppsy2 Ed Psych PhD student Moderator Gold Donor

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    Every day, the news about him just becomes even more horrific and sickening. :(
  19. wigflip

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    The thing that gets me about it is the same thing that's so sickening about the incidents in The Invisible War (see thread on terrific new documentary about rape in the military): the institutional cover-up. It's one thing to know that there are people out there who do what Sandusky is alleged to have done. It's another to know that they get away with it for years because there are networks of people who are so invested in protecting institutional structures that they're willing to turn away from abuse victims. Can you tell I'm a big fan of whistleblowers?
  20. BlackSkirtTetra

    BlackSkirtTetra

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    I used to think that people who had their MDs in particular were especially driven, intelligent, and reliable because of the amount of work and dedication that went into that career path, but as I've gotten older I've realized that not even that is the case. It's pretty distressing. I genuinely do not understand how some of the doctors I have met ever made it out of undergrad, much less med school!

    From our standpoint, yes. But not from a legal standpoint. That's what people involved in the case don't seem to want to acknowledge. Saying, "Oh, well, he's a pedophile and there's a functional 0% chance of a cure," is not a good defense, although it may be true, medically.
  21. cara susanna

    cara susanna Predoctoral Intern

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    The thing about the coverup is that SO many people dropped the ball. Not just people at Penn State, but even the kids' school employees like the janitor.
  22. Pragma

    Pragma

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    Paraphilias aren't in my knowledge repertoire. What does the latest research say about "cure" rates, etiology, etc.? Is this actually considered a biological trait?
  23. BlackSkirtTetra

    BlackSkirtTetra

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    It's been a while since I studied them, and admittedly it was only in one abnormal psych class, but a woman who worked in the prison system and had done work with child molesters and published on the topic came to speak to us and relayed that "functionally zero percent" of offenders are ever "cured," and that the most they can hope for is successful long-term repression of their sexual desires (which are to harm children).

    I remember one case in particular because of how drastic it seemed. She said she had a client who had gotten castrated as part of the treatment at a hospital for child molesters in California, and he kept re-offending in ways that did not involve genital penetration, despite being castrated. She said (paraphrasing) that there was no hope for people like him and the best society could do was try to keep them away from children, forever.
  24. Iwillheal

    Iwillheal

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    Hope that ****er burns in Hell for eternity! Him and whoever knew about this and looked the other way. One of my friend was sexually abused by his coach and his life ended in a horrible tragedy. I have compassion for all kinds of people, for extremists, warmongers, Nazis, for all kinds of people who resort to violence for one reason or another. But not for people who abuse animals or kids. Nothing. I don't care about their past, I don't care how they were raised, I don't care if they were forced to do it, tortured, if they were ill, if they were insane, I don't care. ****ing swine.
  25. cara susanna

    cara susanna Predoctoral Intern

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  26. Pragma

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    The verdict itself is encouraging.

    But I still wonder how much that psychologist's fee was for coming up with an Axis II diagnosis. I couldn't find much on the person, aside from the fact that they are an EdD.

    Also, is anyone familiar with the etiology and treatment of paraphilias? Curious about that.
  27. Pragma

    Pragma

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    Was it a psychologist?

    I know the topic is taboo and it is generally socially acceptable to say derogatory things about sex offenders. But I do find it odd that we can be selectively empathetic towards other populations of people that have caused harm.

    If we lined up a pedophile, a murderer, an impaired physician, a therapist who has sex with their client, and a CEO of a car company that makes safety recall decisions based on statistical likelihood of a lawsuit, I wouldn't be surprised if most people still thought the pedophile was worse than the others.
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2012
  28. BlackSkirtTetra

    BlackSkirtTetra

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    IIRC she had her PhD in Brain Science Psychology (or something like that) at a University in California. That's all I remember about her credentials.

    I would definitely think that.
  29. futureapppsy2

    futureapppsy2 Ed Psych PhD student Moderator Gold Donor

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    I think there's something about crimes against children that make them seem especially awful to people--even among prisoners, those who commit crimes against children are often prime targets for rape and violence by other inmates.
  30. ClinPsychEnthus

    ClinPsychEnthus Psy.D. candidate, VA intern

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    Pragma-

    this is an interesting and very thought provoking for me. Though I do think some of it is due to the nature of the crime being against children, I haven't thought through all of the justifications and implications there... or even the biases I (and possibly others) have. I wonder where we do draw the line when we think about someone as no longer human because of a crime they've done, mistake they've made, or even destructive set of behaviors they are drawn to.....
  31. Iwillheal

    Iwillheal

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    They all get little empathy but sure, pedophilia stands apart. I don't know why but let me brainstorm. Well, first you got a story of older man sexually abusing/raping some younger boys. So you have the standard abuse relationship stuff there (helplessness, power difference, inability to emotionally process the trauma, lack of protection, deep shame, breach of trust, unexpectedness of it, etc). That in itself is enough to make this thing felt more at the gut level than a system or business or businessman valuing bottom line above that of safety and well being of the customers. That is not too personal nor is it too surprising to see this kind of thing in business or politics. It's awful, it's ugly, but not as unexpected as a coach at one time associated with respectable and presumably trustworthy college like Penn State raping children over period of many years. <br><br>
    But there is more. Human potential movement usually plays a role in how I value things. I suspect for many others too. An older person getting abused is awful. But a younger person getting abused is not only an awful event, it can totally change the direction of their lives, their identity development, pretty much everything, for worse. That is why, similarly, killing a young person is worse, from that perspective, than killing an old person.

    In addition, there is the issue of suffering, at the time and as the victims process all this and as they grow older. The trauma and especially the shame can cause intense suffering for years to come. Come to think of it, another issue here is that it was an older man, almost a father type figure who raped these kids. Perhaps it would have been "more excusable" if a young person had done it? Though this is not related to the abuse itself, and more about society's biases, I think that it was a same sex abuse may also make some people uncomfortable in terms of trying to process this, though personally I don't think I would feel differently if he had raped girls as opposed to boys.
    <br><br>
    Lastly, it's the fact that this abuse was sexual in nature; sex is taboo, it's very personal and private, invasive, it's special, sacred, involves so many strong emotions, is so central to our identity and development, and has many sociocultural, spiritual, and religious implications. <br><br>
    Sorry for rambling on and on, it's very late but I wanted to share some speculations with you.
  32. Pragma

    Pragma

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    Very interesting indeed. However, I still have a tough time placing a value on what is "more" morally repugnant. I consider elder abuse just as big of a deal as child abuse. Perhaps you haven't worked with older adults as much as I have, and dare I say ageism may be at play. Yes, children have potential and many older adults probably would agree with you, but I have trouble with the concept.

    I guess for me, as a psychologist, I wonder what lines in the sand are appropriate for me to draw. Obviously if one feels very strongly about this particular issue, it is ethical to remove yourself from the potential treatment of these offenders.

    But is that just a cop-out so that we never have to challenge ourselves to understand psychopathology that is "icky" to us? So the offenders who commit these other crimes can have environmental factors taken into account or theories applied to understand their existence, but someone who is a pedophile essentially does not qualify as a human being?
  33. ClinPsychEnthus

    ClinPsychEnthus Psy.D. candidate, VA intern

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    Another interesting point by both of you...

    Initially my gut reaction is that the power differential, helplessness etc. that children face would make their abuse more impactful than abuse of an older person, until I stop and think about what it must be like for a person who is experiencing their own loss of power (via the aging process) who is then taken advantage of, and I think that the power differential and helplessness are different but of a similar intensity, and therefore could be experienced quite similarly.

    Part of me says that the most meaningful difference I can think of is the identity development piece and length of time a person would carry around those struggles in a sense- a child may develop a sense of shame, worthlessness, inability to be safe and all that other baggage-y stuff that comes with all of that, and have to deal with it for the rest of their lives. An older person may have lived much of their lives relatively psychologically stable, with a fair amount of resiliency etc, and a set of events (even abusive in nature) would effect them much differently.

    HOWEVER, IMO, it could stand to reason that one of the populations most at risk for abuse being experienced as extremely destructive would be older persons who have a previous trauma history, who could experience the aging process as signifying a return to deep powerlessness and vulnerability.

    This is why I think I struggle with understanding and working with perpetrators (aka back to the original point of the question of why pedophiles or even sexual perpetrators are seen as worse than other persons who commit crimes...), because I can't fathom a person not thinking about or caring about the implications of these types of actions on the life of another. I only feel genuine compassion for perpetrators in cases where they are not thinking (either through serious active mental health symptoms or intoxication to the point where they truly are not reading the situation), because IMO that can be similar to a person committing murder under those circumstances and, upon sobriety or remission of symptoms must forever live with what they did....
  34. mTOR

    mTOR | veritas.vos.liberabit |

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    [​IMG]

    This question of suffering is an interesting one. One that intrigues me as well. I posted about it elsewhere, in fact:

    In other words, what entails suffering is highly culturally-contingent. That said, I'd like to modify my last statement in the above by acknowledging that although it's unclear how someone from a society with these practices would interpret such a childhood experience, I would think it's probably not considered among the most enjoyable or fondest of memories (I could be wrong?). Anyways, Sandusky is danger no doubt -- I wouldn't want him near any of my young family members. But I see his problem as primarily a (culturally-delimited?) psychopathology best addressed by mental health and social services as opposed to the criminal justice system. Unfortunately, I realize the structure of our society and the capacities of our institutions are set up in such a way as to make imprisonment and other rather punitive penalties essentially the only way to keep him away from children.
  35. Iwillheal

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    Oh, how thoughtless of me, I somehow ignored my very first post in the thread during this debate. I can humanize anybody. I was not in a "therapeutic state of mind" when I made that post. :p

    But it's true, I won't work with pedophiles (nor certain psychopaths who enjoy seriously torturing and abusing animals) because I find it difficult to control my emotional reactions. We all have our own biases. I once heard from a respected professor of mine after 9/11 that looking into Bin Laden's past in trying to understand him is pointless because he is just "evil." That shocked me. This is a guy who humanized Hitler for us, humanized Saddam, even Jeffrey Dahmer (who I personally find most frightening of all given the very nature of his abuse.) For me personally, it's easier to humanize someone who following orders drops an atomic bomb and kills tens of thousands of people than someone who abuses and tortures others in person and of his own will. But going back to my prof, that's the nature of human beings, we're irrational or rather, not fully in control of our emotions and gut reactions. This was a few weeks after 9/11 and I was his research assistant when he made that comment to me. But this was not his "official" position. Thinking about this usually makes me chuckle a bit because my prof was a "hardcore" atheist and I'm still not sure what "evil" means to him.

    Lastly, no, I have not worked with elder abuse. But everything else being equal, I would still consider child abuse worse in part because of the human potential argument. But I can't fully defend this belief on logical ground because it's partly subjective and dependent on a number of factors including one's system of values and how these values are prioritized.
  36. wigflip

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    I don't think anyone here has said anything to this effect, but I find it offensive when people take satisfaction in prison rape, as if further sexual abuse is a satisfactory form of "justice" for sex offenders. I think rape/sexual violence is terrible regardless of who the victim is, and don't relish the idea of anyone being violated in that way, regardless of their own crimes.

    Pragma, you bring up a great point, as does someone else who pointed towards culture. I think you both have it right: if we're talking about mainstream North American contemporary culture, we tend to have particular ways of thinking about children and childhood that contribute to the special revulsion people tend to feel towards pedophiles. All of these sentiments, however, are historically and culturally situated.

    I'm not sure that ranking types of abuse is a productive activity, but I'd like to suggest that elder abuse can be every bit as terrible as child abuse. There's certainly a power differential there (in its perpetration). And fewer institutional resources, less public sympathy for the problem, etc.
  37. audchik

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    I find this whole thing re: child abuse being worse than elder abuse because of the effect being greater to be a dangerous argument. It's a slippery slope to say one type of person's suffering is worse than another's. Who gets to determine the value of a life...? That's a rhetorical question because in my opinion that's not something that's knowable. Meaning that an old person could have just as much if not more potential than a young person. Even looking at it psychologically, yeah you can say children are more impressionable but that's not always the case. Adults can have tons of psychological damage as well from these things and children can be amazingly resilient at times too.

    I get the gut reaction and the "ick" factor but to me it has more to do with the helplessness. Although I find that equal in child, elder and animal abuse because they are all seemingly helpless. Even that though is somewhat dangerous to assume because nobody who gets abused wants to be (i.e. battered wives who stick around).

    At the end of the day it's all terrible but I think culturally we view things as more icky than others and it's hard to really separate from that.
  38. wigflip

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    I'd like to suggest that animals truly are helpless. Under current laws they are property. You can take a perfectly healthy animal to a vet and have him/her euthanized without any rationale other than your wish to do so. (Not any and every vet would comply, but eventually you would find one to agree to euthanize).

    Children are also vulnerable under current laws. The parent-child relationship is the only one in which violence is legally permitted (i.e. one may legally strike one's child, within certain parameters, if it is framed as discipline: spanking, restricting movement by grabbing, etc.).

    But I think it's a mistake to confuse a power differential between abuser and victim with "helplessness" on the part of the (human) victim. Victims don't typically appreciate being considered "helpless." They do have some amount of agency, even if their opportunities to exercise it are limited due to the abuse. And if we're alluding to the "learned helplessness" literature, the battered women and advocates I know aren't particular thrilled with that line of reasoning either. The reasons that women sometimes choose to stay with abusers are often more straightforward than that (e.g. fear that he'll make good on his threats to kill her, the kids, or the family pets; lack of resources; previous attempts to leave being thwarted by individuals or institutions, etc.).
  39. wigflip

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    +1
  40. audchik

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    I agree. Maybe I wasn't clear but what I was arguing is that yes, animals, children and elders can all be helpless which is why I think we tend to have a stronger feeling toward those types of abuse. But I'm also arguing that that doesn't really add up either because that tagline can't be applied to many situations but that doesn't make the abuse any less terrible (using the example of battered women). Perhaps helplessness is the wrong word but I used it for lack of a better one.
  41. audchik

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    I actually find it borderline insulting that in thinking about all types of assault and abuse that rape, elder abuse, physical abuse, murder etc. are somehow more understandable/forgivable than child abuse. When you think about the implications of that, it's quite disturbing.
  42. erg923

    erg923 Psychologist-Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

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    I would venture to guess that you don't have kids. When you do, you'll probably get it.
  43. audchik

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    Trust me, I get it. This whole trial makes me sick. I'm just venturing to say that the implications of saying that other types of abuse are somehow not so bad is a little disturbing.
  44. cara susanna

    cara susanna Predoctoral Intern

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    Having just written a review article related to why women stay in abusive relationships, let me say that there is not a lot of support for the learned helplessness theory.

    One of my favorite things ever is a statement written by Frankel about how we shouldn't judge different types of suffering as worse than others. Suffering is suffering, no matter the reason for it.

    Speaking of animals, I don't know why, but animal abandonment is pretty much the saddest thing to me ever. I do research and clinical work with trauma, I've worked with sexual and domestic abuse victims, I've heard so many stories. But for some reason, I am consistently choked up by stories of people abandoning their pets in the wild, at shelters, etc.

    I think the main issue is innocence. Our society views children and animals as the epitome of innocence. It removes any question of culpability. I mean, it's pretty hard to argue that an 8-year-old boy wanted to have sex with a middle-aged man. I know that this reasoning is wrong, but it's more emotional than logical. Another issue is the idea of understanding what happened. Animals and children don't really know why this horrible thing is happening to them, and our society likes to think that they had this sunshine and kittens view of the world that was burst when this event happened. Adults are already thought to be jaded and at least understand how the world works, that some people are cruel. I think our society wants us to learn about the world's cruelties as adults, not children.

    Again, it's not logical--but this type of reaction never really is.
  45. wigflip

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    And I'm guessing that you never had parents or grandparents. Otherwise you'd understand what's so disturbing about elder abuse. And you never met any women, so you don't get what's so disturbing about rape. And you never met...:rolleyes:
  46. wigflip

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    +1
  47. audchik

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    Yeah, I think you have a good point about the innocence thing. Animal abuse is especially sad to me as well for the reasons you mentioned. Emotionally, it's a really hard thing to think about.

    And yeah, I totally agree about suffering. I think we have no place to judge which suffering is worse. Every type of abuse results in suffering and that's the common denomintator for me. A being suffering is terrible and I don't think it's right to say that a certain type of being suffering is not as bad as another (i.e. it's not as bad if a 90 year old suffers as it is if a 9 year old does).
  48. wigflip

    wigflip

    Joined:
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    Messages:
    1,555
    SDN 2+ Year Member
    Yeah, it doesn't show much regard for human life if we approach older adults as though there's some kind of expiration date after which their worth is diminished. "I'm sorry, Dr. Chomsky, but you're 83 now, and we simply don't think you're worth as much as that child kicking pigeons in the park."
  49. audchik

    audchik

    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2011
    Messages:
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    Status:
    Psychology Student
    Seriously! I guess as we get older we decrease in value (inflation? :laugh:).
  50. audchik

    audchik

    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2011
    Messages:
    76
    Status:
    Psychology Student
    As a side note, I'd be really curious to hear more about the wife's psychological state. It seems like she found the boys to be a competition, as if they were somehow seducing/luring Sandusky. That would be an interesting (and disturbing) case study.

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