In February this year, a little girl’s voice was finally heard in an open letter to The New York Times, almost twenty five years after it had first cried out in anguish. Let me read you an excerpt from it…
“……When I was seven years old, my father took me by the hand and led me into a dim, closet-like attic on the second floor of our house. He told me to lie on my stomach and play with my brother’s electric train set. Then he sexually assaulted me. He talked to me while he did it, whispering that I was a good girl, that this was our secret, promising that we’d go to Paris and I’d be a star in his movies. I remember staring at that toy train, focusing on it as it traveled in its circle around the attic. To this day, I find it difficult to look at toy trains….”
That was Dylan Farrow, now 30, speaking about the sexual assaults that she claims she faced as a 7-year old, from her own father, someone whom the yuppies, the humor junkies and nouveau literati of the world still admire and idolize – Allan Stewart Konigsberg, known to us all as Woody Allen.
Allen may well be innocent and his daughter might well have been lying all these decades. A full 48% of readers in a poll believe he was set up by Dylan. They are positive she was incited by her mother, actress Mia Farrow, who was trying to get even with her estranged partner by screwing up his chances of winning an Oscar that year, with a scandal. To that 48%, Woody Allen is a loveable, self-deprecating, laugh-a-thon neurotic.
Woody Allen and daughter, Dylan Farrow, front page news. Farrow is now 30
In comparison, only 42% believe Allen actually molested his daughter. I am one of them. I do not believe that Mia Farrow is so devious a woman. Obviously, the judge felt so too or otherwise, he would not have refused to let Allen have custody.
When folk eulogize Allen and sometimes write glowing tributes and reviews of his work, I wonder if art and the artist can be held and viewed apart. Personally I do not think they can. Woody Allen fans live inside a cult-like state of mind, where they wait in a trance for his movie offerings which come out like clockwork every year.
Generations of British citizens saw the same artistic wonder in the late Sir James Wilson Vincent “Jimmy” Saville, OBE, TV star and host of the hit show, ‘Jimmy’ll fix it’. For five decades, between 1955 and his death in 2011, this highly decorated all-British hero and multimillionaire sexually assaulted more than 450 people between the ages of 8 and 47, as revealed for the first time by a documentary on British television in 2012. His victims included 28 children under the age of 10. ‘Sir’ Saville did not live to receive his comeuppance though, dying a year before the revelations were aired.
British serial child rapists have a convenient habit of passing away at a ripe old age, just before their dastardly deeds are outed. A friend of Saville’s, an equally high profile guy who was at one time in the 1970s, the most recognizable and larger-than-life British politician, Sir Cyril Smith, MBE, had 144 complaints of child molestation and rape directed against him, in a spectacularly successful spree of child molestation and rape, beginning in the 1950s when he was a trustee in a boys’ orphanage.
Sir Cyril Smith (left) & Sir Jimmy Saville (right)
Famous British sexual deviants seem to follow a pattern. They nearly always find mention in the British Queen’s birthday honors list as Knights of the Garter, though I’d see them as knights of the gutter. If you happen to come across a British man who sports a title, better not leave your children alone with him.
The patriarch of the folk rock group ‘The Mamas and the Papas’ (famous for their hit single ‘California dreamin’), John Phillips, first injected his daughter, Mackenzie Phillips, with cocaine when she was 11. Thereafter he turned her into a cocaine-riddled sex slave, even getting her pregnant at one point.
Mackenzie later wrote in her shocking 2012 exposé, High on arrival, that she regularly passed out from an overdose and woke up in her father’s bed with her panties around her ankles.
Mackenzie Phillips, with Daddy dearest. Just like the Woody Allens, the Phillipses too seemed like the perfect family, to the outside world
If you are a Catholic over the age of 60, you might still have vivid memories of a now largely abandoned religious routine – weekly visits to your church for confessing your sins to a priest. In advance of your visit, you examined your conscience, trying to determine if you had broken any of the Lord’s ten commandments or succumbed to any of the seven deadly sins.
On confession day, your entered the church and proceeded to this tiny dark enclosed space like a little room set in a corner. There was a hard wooden bench to sit on and a shuttered grille on one wall to your right, at the level of your head. The priest waited for you on the other side of the grille, inside a similar dark space. You began unloading your perceived failings and the priest rarely interrupted you At the end of it, he sent you on your way with three Hail Marys and you walked out feeling bright, sunny, relieved and virtuous.
On your way out you dropped a couple of tenners inside the donation box in a you-scratch-my-back-I-scratch yours deal. Soon as the huge wrought iron doors closed behind you, you headed for the nearest pub for a pint and some sinning. Confession had turned into a kind of fix, to remove your guilt without making you any better as a human being.
But, if you were a pre-pubescent boy, confession took a different route. You ended up blurting out to the priest the fact that you had started masturbating and that it felt great. The priest who was leaning against the grille on the other side, was waiting for some keywords he had come to recognize, like flagstones.
When he heard you confess haltingly about your first experience with masturbation, he promptly decided to shift the venue of the confession to his private chambers or in the bushes behind the seminary where he commanded you to show him what you meant by masturbation, like he didn’t know. One thing led to another and soon you found yourself being sodomized by a priest you had placed your trust upon, supposedly a man of God.
Human sexuality is supposed to be all about love, tenderness, giving and receiving. The Lord had meant for it to be practiced for the purpose of reproduction and nothing more. By attaching the sensation of physical pleasure to it, He provided the incentive to reproduce. Little did He realize where we humans would take it, from being just a way to multiply. From the days of the Trojan War to the horrific depravity of today’s sexual predators, sexuality has been the cause of some of the worst deeds ever imagined. Civilized society has routinely been the locus of random and horrendous acts of cruelty, betrayal and infidelity on account of it.
Our justice system has always based its principles on the presumption that adults of competent mental capacity are free to choose how they wish to behave and if the way they behave happens to be a criminal one, the law says that they have to be punished. We have a choice, to do the right thing and not stray, says the blind-folded lady with the balance.
Over the past few decades however, the field of neuroscience has been advancing rapidly and we have gradually gotten to know the inner workings of the human brain in greater depth. Scientists have concluded that we do not always have a choice on how we behave. The choice is made for us by the way our brains are wired.
An inter-disciplinary field of study has emerged, to deal with criminal culpability and to make the judiciary understand the science behind criminality – Neurolaw. It is beginning to explain away the causes of even the most horrific crimes as purely neurological conditions that the perpetrators have no control over. Judges and juries are becoming so influenced by neuroscience that a time is approaching when there will not be any actions left, however horrific, that shall be considered entirely criminal. Give it a few more years and the Woody Allens and the Jimmy Savilles of the world will no longer have to worry about going to jail. That will be the ultimate triumph of Evil, achieving what has been its goal all along – to cease to exist and still proliferate at the same time.
If the above is cause for alarm at the prospect of heinous crimes going unpunished through the use of neurologists as expert witnesses at trials, there is a scientists’ lobby that is trying its best to put a positive spin to it. They are confident that a legal system that is in step with science can be built, in which sentencing shall be customized and rehabilitation regimes tailor-made to suit the crime. They promise a new justice system that would be a more cost-effective and humane institution than what we have today.
I disagree. In my opinion, understanding the human brain shall always remain a work-in-progress. At some point those scientists shall have to deal with the question of evil as an unexplained force against good, a question that does not fit into their scheme of things and cannot be explained through neuroscience. Neurolaw is effectively trying to split a human being into two stand-alone parts, his brain and his body. It is in effect, telling us that, when a child is raped, it was the brain of the pedophile that did it, not him.
Take the famous 1966 incident of the Texas Tower Shooter.
On a steamy day of August 1966, 25-year old Charles Whitman climbed the stairs to the observation deck of the University of Texas clock tower in Austin. He carried with him a large case full of rifles and ammunition. On his way up, he killed a receptionist with the butt of his rifle and shot a few tourists who were also climbing up to catch the view.
On the observation deck, he methodically laid out the contents of his case, spread a mat, opened up a lunch box that had steaming coffee and sandwiches and began indiscriminately mowing down anyone who came into sight, before a police sniper finally managed to shoot him dead him from a chopper that was circling overhead.
In all, Whitman had killed 13 people and wounded 32.
The previous evening, Whitman had sat at his typewriter and composed a suicide note, “…I don’t really understand myself these days. I am supposed to be an average reasonable and intelligent young man. However, lately (I can’t recall when it started) I have been a victim of many unusual and irrational thoughts….”
At his home, the police found that he had murdered his mother and his wife and left a note that said, “..It was after much thought that I decided to kill my wife, Kathy, tonight. I love her dearly, and she has been as fine a wife to me as any man could ever hope to have. I cannot rationally pinpoint any specific reason for doing this…”
Immediately the quest began, to determine why he did what he did. In fact Whitman himself had requested in his suicide note that an autopsy be performed to determine if something had indeed changed inside his brain, because he suspected it had, “…I talked with a Doctor once for about two hours and tried to convey to him my fears that I felt overcome by violent impulses. After one session I never saw the Doctor again, and since then I have been fighting my mental turmoil alone, and seemingly to no avail….”
Charles Whitman and the clock tower from which he shot and killed 13 and injured 31, August 1966
Whitman’s skull was opened up and his brain examined. A tumor the size of a nickel was discovered beneath the thalamus, which brought a region called the amygdala under abnormal pressure. The amygdala is involved in emotional regulation, especially of fear and aggression.
By the late 1800s, researchers had discovered that damage to the amygdala caused emotional disturbances. In the 1930s, the researchers Heinrich Klüver and Paul Bucy demonstrated that damage to the amygdala in monkeys led to a lack of fear and blunting of emotions. Female monkeys with amygdala damage often neglected or physically abused their infants. In humans, activity in the amygdala increases when people feel threatened.
Whitman’s intuition about himself, that something in his brain was changing his behavior, was spot-on. Did the discovery of the tumor in Whitman’s brain change the way I look at him? Had he survived that day and I was given jury duty, would I have found him not guilty due to a serious medical condition?
I read about a case where a little boy was holding on precariously to a ledge outside the balcony of his 20th floor apartment. He had been trying to retrieve a battery operated car from the parapet and had slipped through the railings. There was no one at home, he was alone and it seemed as if he would not be able to hang on much longer and would have to let go.
While the boy screamed, there was a man standing, smoking a cigarette, looking the other way, in a neighboring balcony but he seemed not to take any notice. Turns out he was a deaf mute and hadn’t heard the child’s cries. He had a solid reason that satisfied our sensibilities. The world forgave him. The deaf-mute neighbor’s disability, at least clinically, was as serious as Whitman’s tumor. Yet society chose to leave him alone and not Charles Whitman.
Imagine this real-life incident……
Dave is a 36-year old university professor in Windsor, Ontario, and a member of an informal Shakespeare discussion group which is made up of mainly faculty members, besides a few outsiders, professionals such as Julie Sims, who is an account exec in a large retail firm. Dave and Julie meet twice a week at this Shakespeare forum and gradually come to know each other more intimately.
Dave had never hidden from Julie the fact that he had epileptic seizures and was under medication. It didn’t stop her from moving in with him one Christmas eve in 2003. For a while life seemed blissful. They were in deeply in love with each other and Dave’s seizures, though they did happen at unexpected moments, were not a big deal.
Earlier, Dave’s neurologist had suggested surgery but Dave hadn’t made up his mind then. Now, with Julie in his life, he decided to go ahead with the surgery so the seizures would stop once and for all. The surgery happened but wasn’t successful. Dave’s seizures came back after a while, growing even more frequent and violent.
A second surgery later, he stopped having seizures altogether. In fact his overall energy and enthusiasm about everything improved sharply. His appetite, which all his life had bordered on anorexia, began growing till he was raiding the fridge at all odd hours. Another thing blossomed – his appetite for sex. Dave became insatiable. Julie was delighted when he began to want to get it on anytime and at any place. She began dreaming of starting a family. Little could she imagine what was in store for her in the coming months.
As the days went by, Dave’s sexual proclivities became kinkier and kinkier and Julie didn’t mind them, till one day he suggested after a bout of lovemaking, that they might try coprophilia. He told her he wanted her to defecate on him. That should have rung an alarm bell in Julie’s mind but it didn’t. She thought that maybe he was just trying to annoy her by being disgusting.
Dave wasn’t trying to annoy her when he suggested coprophilia. He meant it. Soon Julie began noticing a change in him. Sex with him had always been very soft and silky but now it was getting violent. Dave wasn’t gentle anymore, wanting to hurt her. Lovemaking started leaving her feeling battered and bruised. She started wondering whether he should go into some sort of therapy. Meanwhile Dave was eating like there was no tomorrow. He would put just about anything inside his mouth.
All this was going on while Dave held down a teaching job and showed no outward signs to his colleagues and students that something had drastically changed within him.
One day, Dave was still at the university and Julie had returned from work early, when two men in grey suits presented themselves at the front door. RCMP. They had a search warrant and wanted to go through his computer. They claimed to have tracked hundreds of files on explicit child pornography, animal sex, defecation and urination sex, sado-masochism sex and snuff sex being downloaded virtually every night into Dave’s computer. Nearly every file had been downloaded multiple times for reasons unknown. The frenetic rush of log-ins and the repetitive downloads of the same files over and over, left the RCMP wondering if maybe hackers had taken over Dave’s computer as an unwitting host.
Turns out Dave’s computer had not been hacked. Dave readily admitted to everything. He told the RCMP that the reason why he downloaded the same files multiple times was because he invariably became overcome by guilt and erased them and then later on, felt possessed by a yearning to watch them again. He told them that he even solicited prostitution at a massage parlor, something he said he had never previously done.
If convicted of using child porn, Dave could be locked away for years and probably wouldn’t survive the ordeal, the population within Canadian prisons not taking very kindly toward child porn users.
Enter stage right, Dave’s neurologist. He testified in court that what happened with Dave could happen to anybody. He gave expert testimony that, during his second surgery, certain parts of Dave’s cerebral cortex had been altered, creating a condition that sharply enhanced his desire to eat and have sex. It was a rare neurological disorder known as Klüver-Bucy Syndrome and Dave couldn’t have helped himself even if he tried. (Kluver…Bucy… ring a bell?)
While others before him got a minimum of 5 years, Dave got off with six months’ probation. Julie had been planning to sue for divorce but the moment she heard that he had something that had a name, she decided to hang on. It is two years now, Dave is back at his job and life is back to normal. He is on medication and claims that he no longer has any libido. Thank God, says Julie.
But let’s step back and look at the facts. Dave accessed child porn fully knowing what he was doing. He was not possessed by this neurological disorder 24/7 since he held down a steady job all the while and gave no inkling to fellow faculty that something had gone horribly wrong inside his brain. He admitted being driven by guilt. Dave had the opportunity to seek professional help but he chose not to.
Perhaps it is time to ‘amend’ the Ten Commandments. For example we could bring an Amendment ‘2014.1’ to the Ten Commandments. ‘Thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s wife’ could read as – ‘Thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s wife unless thou has Klüver-Bucy Syndrome’.
Obviously, we have grown to become way more complex than what the Almighty had bargained for.