Sexual Predators Don’t Need Therapy
A recent New York Times article “Therapy for Sexual Misconduct? It’s Mostly Unproven” explored the potential for therapeutic treatment for sexual predators like Harvey Weinstein, who after accusations of sexual harassment and assault, have claimed to seek professional help. In my opinion as an NYC therapist, these sexual predators don’t need therapy. They need jail. They need consequences in their professional lives in as much as they exploited their professional positions in perpetrating their crimes.
Sexual Predation Is Not The Same As Mental Illness
Sexual predation isn’t mental illness. Individuals with a recognized mental illness are no more likely to commit crime than anyone else. They are, in fact, much more likely to be victims of crime, especially sexual abuse and assault. The assertion of “treatment” as a mitigating intervention for sexual predators is an insult to their victims.
It’s important to delineate between bad people who do bad things and people who suffer from serious mental distress. There are people who have sexual disorders and there are people who commit violent and/or oppressive acts who have a capacity to be rehabilitated. We have to appreciate, however, that these are very different things.
It’s also critical to note that there are people with very serious mental illnesses who are inappropriately imprisoned (the prison system is the primary mental health treatment system in this country). We just need to stop mixing this up.
Sexual Predators Aren’t Ill, They Are The Illness
Weinstein is Weinstein. Trump is Trump. They’re predators and misogynists. There’s nothing “ill” about them. They’re not “disturbed.” In fact, it’s worked out very well for them (Maybe less so with Weinstein finally, but we’ll see).
Illness causes discomfort to the person who is ill. The “illness,” in this case, is ours as a society. These sexual predators aren’t ill–they are the illness inflicted upon us, upon women in our society and upon those who are most vulnerable.
The imperative to health, then, is on us, as a society, not on them. They do need our intervention–our punitive intervention–so that we may protect those who are especially vulnerable from them and change the culture that allowed their abuse to happen. These aren’t necessarily two separate things.
Sexual predation is a penal matter. As with theft, reckless driving and embezzlement, the decisions about how these matters are regulated and how deviance from a legal standard is punished is a matter of criminal and civil law. It’s also the case that criminal standards of misconduct are but one way we fix and reinforce societal standards. Money is another. Individuals should face civil consequences for abusing power and this enforcement should be both at the hands of the state, as well as their would-be consumers and employers.