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Aug 312013
 

diminished-capacity

I recently received an e mail via Family Arrested from a lady I will call “Sue.” Sue said she is 59 years old and that her father has just been convicted of molesting a child. Sue didn’t say how old her dad was, but I would “guesstimate” he is at least 80 and maybe more.

I’ve worked with the elderly a great deal as well as psychiatric patients, both old and young, and one of the things I have observed with elderly patients, especially men, is that they start to lose their judgment first as their minds start to diminish and one of the things they gain is the desire for sex. Many men act out sexually in very inappropriate ways due to this lack of judgment and impulse control. They may be “basically” sane and in touch with “reality” but they are not what they were before their neurons started to die. While the law allows for a person who is “completely out of touch with reality” to use an “insanity defense” that usually does not apply to these elderly people (and others) with diminished capacity. These people are generally held by the law to the same standards as everyone else, but in reality, they should have mitigating circumstances taken into account. Prison may not be the appropriate venue for these people.

Once when I worked the geri-psych ward at a large local hospital we had an elderly male  patient who came in so depressed he wouldn’t even swallow if you put food in his mouth.  He would simply sit in whatever place or position you put him, staring at the wall with his mouth hanging open. After several weeks however, the man started to perk up with medication, though he still had some short term memory problems, fairly normal for a man in his early 80s, and I had become fairly attached to the now pleasant  old man. One day he put his arm around my shoulders and like a 15 year old boy might do on his first date, “accidentally” reached far enough around to grab hold of my breast. I didn’t make a big deal out of it, and actually saw it as a POSITIVE THING because though he was inappropriate, at least he was showing some interest in living again.

When I told the psychiatrist about the incident he was going to light into the guy, but I told the doctor that I was not offended, that I actually saw it as a positive thing in that he was starting to interact with others.

Another example is my elderly neighbor down the hill from me. After 60+ years of marriage  his wife died and he was very lonely. Kids and grandkids all grown, and he was mildly sexually inappropriate with the nurses aids sent to clean house and help him with personal grooming, etc. He tried mildly to hit on me a few times, but then he lached on to a “meth-ho” that he met in a Wal Mart parking lot.  Because he was lonely, starting to lose his judgment (one of the first signs of senility) he was a perfect victim for this con woman who was willing to trade sexual favors for a place to stay and for money for drugs, tobacco and alcohol.

I helped my neighbor’s daughter keep an eye on him, but one thing led to another and the woman got into a fight with my neighbor and he ended up with a broken neck. After he left the hospital against medical advice, he moved back into his remote home by himself. In the meantime his truck had been stolen (a blessing from God as he did NOT need to be driving) and eventually became “senile ENOUGH” that he was transferred to a nursing home. Because he was, again, sexually inappropriate and combative in the nursing home, they pitched him out, into a locked psychiatric facility for ambulatory people with diminished  mental status.

A true pedophile never loses the urge or maintains the impulse control not to offend again if let out of prison. I read an article a few years ago about a serial child rapist who was in prison and was 100 years old and still dangerous to release. Here are a couple of links about him. This man is what I would call a “true” pedophile, probably for his entire adult life.

http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-201_162-5966563.html He was released on parole, but then shortly violated it and was sent back to prison.

http://www.chron.com/news/nation-world/article/100-year-old-pedophile-seck-to-upstate-NY-1530532.phphttp://www.cbsnews.com/2100-201_162-5966563.html

The elderly or mentally retarded or mentally ill with diminished capacity to control their urges and diminished judgment are not true pedophiles or sexual offenders. That does not mean however that they don’t need to be in a facility where they can not practice these behaviors, but they should not be lumped with the true pedophiles and sexual offenders.

Unless this woman’s father has been a pedophile all along and was only now discovered, I hope that he will receive the appropriate treatment  but not sent to prison to die incarcerated with true offenders, but that children will be kept safe from his behaviors.

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  12 Responses to “Offenders with diminished capacity”

  1. Joyce, there is such a thing as “diminished capacity,” even if the offender isn’t diagnosed with a mental disorder or some other label. I’m a perfect example of that.

    I attacked the exspath in a violent rage. I was arrested and charged with assault. I own my actions and regret them, to this day. I am not an abuser, nor were there any incidents of domestic violence in that ill-fated union. But…….I still lost control of my faculties and committed a crime. All criminal charges were dropped by the exspath at the hearing and the matter was legally dismissed.

    Some things occur – organically, emotionally, or environmentally, that can impact on a person’s judgement. True offenders, IMHO, present a pattern of behaviors that can be clearly identified.

    Good topic, here.

  2. The e mail I got from this poor woman had such a heart breaking tone to it. I can only imagine what she is feeling. Then it dawned on me with her age being 59 that daddy must be elderly and I’ve seen that kind of behavior in so many cases.

    It is one of those things though that requires some WISDOM not just revenge or punishment for a “sex offender”—the trauma to the child is still REAL, but putting daddy in a treatment facility where he will not be ABLE to behave in that way is a much better solution than prison. I hope my reply to her gave her some comfort. God bless them both.

    • Joyce, your experience as a mental health professional will (hopefully) put this woman’s mind at ease. Most pedophiles have “tells” that have presented a pattern over their lifetime. They don’t just wake up, one day, and decide that they suddenly have an interest in children.

      Bless her heart……….

    • Joyce, again your insight and your experience as a mental health professional has personally helped me. I agree with Truthspeak that most pedophiles have ‘tells’ that have presented a pattern, however in this case of Sue, and other cases that are similar it does require some Wisdom not revenge or punishment for those who are elderly.
      God Bless

      • Welcome, Saw wientsh, glad to have a new “voice” on board FA…I’m glad that my “words of wisdom” (tongue in cheek) have helped you…I’m still a work in progress…and I’ve changed my mind on many different subjects, including capital punishment, since I’ve been on this journey of understanding (or trying to, at least) offenders and my reaction to and society’s reaction to these people…and learning which ones may be capable of reforming and which ones are not capable of reforming by the time they have gotten arrested a time or two.

        I’ve been counseling a neighbor whose son has gone back to prison for another 10 year sentence, no telling how long they will actually keep him before he gets out. Bless her heart, she’s blaming herself and blaming God and going through all the depression and grief we all go through when someone we love offends.

        My diagnosis of her son is Bi-Polar, ADHD, possibly paranoid
        Schizophrenia , but I ALSO believe that her son is a psychopath. No conscience, no remorse, no impulse control. Apparently the parents have had some counselors who have blamed them for how their son turned out. So there’s a lot of previous “damage” which has been done to these people by supposedly “helpers” Plus the mother can’t let go of the thing that there must be some FIX, some medication, some operation, something that can fix her son. So she’s got lots of denial, and boy can I identify with that.

        But recognizing and accepting the truth is the first step toward healing. Sometimes that truth is totally painful, but we can’t heal until we figure out what is wrong, and fix OURSELVES, because we can NOT fix someone else. Each of us must fix ourselves.

        I’m just grateful that he didn’t rob me, and I think the fact that I have a heavy duty security system AND he knows my son and I are well armed and not reluctant to protect ourselves is the reason he didn’t rob us as he did rob just about every neighbor and person they knew in the area.

      • Welcome to FamilyArrested, Saw wientsh – patterns and “tells” are something that I was never taught to acknowledge, except in the “obvious” situations. I had NO idea that “bad people” could be spouses, offspring, siblings, parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins………

        Again, welcome.

  3. Well, it is also POSSIBLE that an offender (actual toucher) may have had the DESIRES in the past but was able to control those impulses, but when the judgment goes and the lack of impulse control takes over in the elderly person that they start to ACT on those impulses and desires, but still the point I’m trying to make is that these people who have DIMINISHED CAPACITY to control desires and impulses should not be punished by prison.

    I’ve had plenty of bad impulses in my life but I had enough judgment and impulse control NOT to do the ACT. I’ve wanted to murder a few people, but I controlled that impulse because I had my judgment and impulse control enough to NOT act on that desire. But maybe I would be like that 75 year old grandmother who killed her grandson who had threatened her….I firmly believe that woman had lack of judgment and impulse control to keep shooting the boy, yet she went to prison for life. Everything I have read about that case SCREAMS early senility and lack of judgment and lack of impulse control. Yet never was it mentioned anywhere. If that had been my mother I would have brought it up.

    As it is, my own mother is supporting my son, and I realize WHY and actually I feel sorry for her. She no longer has good judgment and is going with her early training as an enabler and functioning poorly due to all that. She can’t help herself. Sure, it is dysfunctional and harmful to me, it might actually cause me to be murdered, but she isn’t fully responsible at this point in time to control her emotional response.

    • Joyce, I agree 100%. EVERYONE has intrusive thoughts, to my knowledge. And, some people have pretty deviant interests, as well. But, acting on those impulses or “urges” is a completely different matter.

      The “treatment” using actual visual input is repellant to me. That any child is subjected to such destruction for ANY purpose is intolerable.

      Yes, I “get it” about your mother and the pity that you feel for her. Diminished capacity doesn’t mean that someone WANTS to be in that state or that they deserve to be manipulated because they are diminished. UGH…..

  4. Here’s the link to my article and the news report on Sandra Layne who killed her grandson

    http://familyarrested.com/nightmare-in-the-news/

  5. Truthy, in working with my poor neighbor’s daughter to try to get through to him about the danger he was in from this “meth-ho” that he had picked up, I used all my professional skills, and all my boundary setting, as he would hike up the half mile VERTICAL hill from his house to mine at age 83 on a 100 degree day to ask to borrow 2 gallons of gas or $5 and I would have to say “NO!” He started stealing things from his daughter, and getting gas out of her car when she wasn’t home, he learned to get just enough gas from a neighbor to get to the highway and then when he would run out of gas some nice motorist would come along and buy him five gallons. Oh, he learned a lot of things from this woman and became someone other than who he had been before the lack of judgment kicked in.

    I had to work professionally with families of men and women just like my neighbor, and as long as they are “legally sane” then there is nothing you can do to stop them from self destructing, giving their money away, neglecting their health, refusing to take medication, etc. “it is not against the law to have poor judgment” and this is what gets these people into lots of hot water, including inappropriate sexual behavior.

    I still believe that Sandra Layne had diminished capacity to know what she was doing, and the emotional pain that woman must be in, to be deserted by her family, separated from her elderly husband, etc. all because she tried to help her grandson and his parents. I also realize that the parents were under tremendous strain with a daughter who had a brain tumor, but many times our children have conflicting needs and this is one of those times that I think the parents dropped the ball big time, so I hold them as responsible or more so than poor Sandra. It was just a lose-lose situation for everyone concerned and more stress than any one family, even a healthy one, could have borne.

  6. Here’s another case of what I believe to be diminished capacity of an extremely elderly man that happened recently in my state, a swat team killed the old man who was barricaded in his bedroom with a gun…why didn’t they just WAIT it out? I see NO need to kill this old man.

    It wasn’t like he was going any where, he was locked in a bed room.

    http://rt.com/usa/107-suspect-killed-swat-568/

    Once the victims were out of the way (the ones he pointed a gun at) I believe he really wasn’t a danger to anyone but himself, so I don’t see why they couldn’t have just waited him out, or used more or different gas. My guess is that he would have calmed down if they’d just left him alone in the room and made sure he didn’t leave the house. What a waste!

  7. There’s more information coming out about the 107 year old man who was killed by the SWAT team in Arkansas recently, and his 80 year old roommate indicated he had become violent after being there about a month and that she had told him he had to leave which made him more violent.

    From all she said, the man was blind and deaf as a post which indicated to me that he may not have heard the cops talking to him, and I do believe the man had diminished capacity and that the cops could have backed off and found someone else to negotiate at a safe distance from the man and this episode ended with him alive and in an appropriate elder-care facility.

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