Excusing a child abuser - Granite Grok

Excusing a child abuser

This could take place in a lot of places – it has now happened in our small village of Gilford, NH. 

Doug has addressed the case of Matt McGonagle here – now convicted, he plead guilty to abusing a 14 year old female student at his school when he was 30 years old – almost old enough to be her father. He has received, in my opinion, a relatively light sentence for someone who has abused his power of authority and standing as a teacher – but I will leave that in Doug’s hands to follow up on that aspect.

My problem?  What has drawn my ire is yet another circumstance when a bleeding heart liberal is upset ("troubled" is the word he used) with the way that the abuser was treated by the court system.  In one of the local papers (The Citizen) came this Letter to the Editor (8/5/06) from (Dr. William Zechhausen, a United Church of Christ Pastor and frequent writer in psychological and counseling journals.

On Friday, July 28, I attended the sentencing hearing of Matt McGonagle.

I found instances of insensitivity and even humiliation troubling. An official within the county legal system said what I perceived is what happens daily in court, and nothing can be done about it. A lawyer told me that what I observed is why he’s leaving the profession. He added, someone should write about this. I wish he were doing so. Though perhaps it takes someone outside the system, to speak up about what happened. I believe most insensitivity, mine and others, is through lack of awareness, and conversation about it can produce change in people of good will.

Taken in total, Dr. Zechhausen is setting the stage that we should be showing as much concern and compassion for Matt McGonagle as we should for the actual victim.  After all, Mr. Zeckhausen is troubled by the insensitivity and humiliation undergone by Mr. McGonagle – “troubling” is the word he used.

I, on the other hand, have a real hard time with this sentiment, and it is a lot harsher than "troubling". He continues on…


To consider the plaintiff as the sole victim is too limited, and blind to the psychological and spiritual reality of all the people involved.

I agree with Dr. Zechhausen – he is absolutely right that considering that the plaintiff is the sole victim – her family has suffered mightily. Who knows the ramifications of their family life will be based on this McGonagle’s acting selfishly on his urges?  I cannot imagine the loathing and the utter blackness that has confronted her parents.

Oops, I spoke too soon! 

It opens the door to unconscious or even intentional abuse, toward those who are considered the villains. To practice what we profess to believe as religious people in the broadest sense, as in choosing kindness over hurting others, doesn’t undermine the justice system in its judgment and penalty requirements. Rather it strengthens, and humanizes, the justice system.

Now he and I start to diverge.  "Considered the villains"?  Considered?  You have got to be kidding me! If McGonagle is NOT a villain, who the heck would be? How high (or low) does the bar have to be set nowadays before we are ready to castigate wrong doing?  I am just beside myself reading this try to humanize a monster. Frankly, I do not care what McGonagle feels – he deserves, IMHO, much more than the jail time.

I know that just before these words, he was setting this up by talking about the reactions of many doctors when sued for malpractice.I’ll go along with this as I’ve known good doctors sued by perfidious people just out to make a buck.  But now, he tries to make the moral equivalence of a doctor being sued for malpractice and the depression that they may undergo over the suit to heartache of this guy who abused his authority as a teacher in going after this defenseless girl AFTER SHE SAID NO.

Repeat – she said NO. And I say NO in trying to show compassion to this lowest of criminals – those that prey on children. No, they do not deserve any compassion – they deserve as much scorn, ridicule, and shame as we as a society can muster! So often we hear from those that are from the Left side of the aisle that we on the Right fail to protect the most vulnerable among us – trust me, trying to soften the image of this convict isn’t helping your cause any.

Oh, and before I forget – let’s address the unconscious or even intentional abuse part.  I keep seeing this word – unconscious – used more and more in terms of "bad" things.  Examples are often used in connection with racism as in "unconscious racism" or "unconscious white privilege".

I make no claim to be a student of psychology, but this seems, more and more, to be an excuse to hammer home points for whomever is trying to make them.  After all, how does one accused of having "unconscious" feelings defend themselves against such a canard?

He goes on:

here was impressive sensitivity for the officially designated victim at the hearing. Her anonymity was protected. Her statement was read by her lawyer. She wrote that she didn’t know if her rage would ever fully subside, and that the jail sentence would assure that McGonagle would "never use his power over children to ensnare them in his web." Hopefully that will prove helpful for her healing. But many reading the character assassination of Matt would likely not make the distinction between a dramatic expression of a victim’s pain, and Matt’s reality.

 Boo frickin’ hoo. Now the good doctor is whining about what the real victim is saying!  She was the one that was approached and persued AFTER SAYING NO!  She was the one whose being was violated.  And all the good doctor is concerned about is McGonagle’s well being? 

I do not advocate physcial abuse.  However, in this case, he deserves any verbal abuse coming his way.  I am not concerned a whit about "Matt’s reality".  Any thing coming his way is a result solely of his actions.  What liberals seem to forget, or sweep under the rug, is that decisions and actions have consequences.  He made a really bad decision – now he will suffer for it.  And rightfully so.  But this attempt to humanize him only shows how wrongheaded people can be.

Allowing those soft on evil and those that commit evil to continue this only adds to the problem.
He rails against “But many reading the character assassination of Matt “. You go after a young girl, not obeying the word NO – frankly, he assassinated his own character.

Even the prosecuting attorney stated "McGonagle has taken responsibility for his crime and has no prior record." There also have been no further allegations in the years since the events being prosecuted. Matt’s attorney said defending him was a unique experience as a defense lawyer. Rather than hearing "How can you defend someone like this?" people have said to him, Matt is a wonderful teacher and person, whom we can’t afford to lose. That was not quoted in the papers.

Dandy, he owned up to it….does that mean we treat him with kid gloves?  So WHAT if he has no prior and no further allegations – it still does not ameliorate what he has done to a CHILD! 

Doctor, listen to yourself!  Frankly, anyone who attacks a child is NOT, by definition, a wonderful teacher and only a moron could say that with a straight face (or perhaps, a defense lawyer).  Any school system that has any ethical grounding would and should let him go in a flash as well.

The judge… addressed Matt, saying: Having been at the top of your profession, you are now at the very bottom. That comment felt like an unnecessary cruelty. At this point Matt needs no moral lesson. He faces penalties for the rest of his life. He’s not a repeat offender with an arrogant attitude. For someone already deeply wounded and in crisis, such a humiliating public comment can only wound more deeply. What’s the point?

It was cruel in that it did not go far enough. Shame on you for not shaming this so called adult!  And yes, it is obvious that Mr. McGonagle DOES need morality lessons.  And for this Letter, I tend to think it may be true of others as well.  How can one morally defend someone that has pushed themselves onto a child? 

How bankrupt of a society have we become?   We have given up on Shame in this society. Although it has been abused, this key ingredient is now seemingly missing from society’s toolbox in keeping outliers in line with acceptable social mores. We have been hit over the head so often about being too judgmental that we have lost the capacity to be judgmental when it is truly needed. We, as a society and much to my sorrow, have become so open minded that our brains are falling out.

Near the end of the hearing, the county attorney said there were
people present who should recognize what was being addressed happened on their watch. There were conflicting interpretations of who and why she was condemning supporters of Matt, but it was clear she was attacking suffering people who were present. What in the world was in her mind in doing that?

Her job. She protects society against society’s abusers and miscreants.  The law is the law – not a psychiatrist’s couch.  Her job is to take care of the real victims and not the "created" ones. If you protect or defend a child abuser, you become an enabler, a co-conspirator. She was doing the right thing by attacking the morals and judgment of those that would do so.

And there was never more than one girl whose boundaries were violated.

That we know of…..and does that mean it is OK that I rob a bank as long as I only do it once?

He ends with this:

This was the first plea bargain I attended. I left with a heavy heart. But it was an eye-opening experience and a reminder of one more context in which we may injure one another, deliberately, or thoughtlessly. I hope to take that to heart.

I have a good friend that I sent this Letter to for his comments, as he has a daughter this age.  His reponse was exactly what mine would have been if I had had daughters instead of sons:

 I’m guessing this was written by
                a) someone without a daughter, and
      b) someone who is clueless what it costs to keep someone behind bars.
what a compassionate society we have become – 100 yrs ago this individual
would have been shot on the spot.  seems we spend more time and money
protecting the perp than helping the victim.

We as a society must protect our children.  We as a society must learn that the perps must suffer punishment.  It is time to grow up. When people do wrong, they should be punished. In the case of abusing kids, they deserve everything they get, and more.