This past week, actor Mark Salling, best known for his role as Noah Puckerman in the musical TV show "Glee" –– was found dead from apparent suicide. He had formerly been convicted of several counts of possession of child pornography and had pled guilty to the charges. He was awaiting sentencing, which would likely occur in March.
Many people took to Twitter to voice their grief or outrage at others' grief. Some took it as an opportunity to talk about mental health, while others thought the focus should remain on Sallings' victims and his crimes.
While it makes me uncomfortable to see people tweeting about the loss of Mark Salling –– or Noah Puckerman, as most have been referring to him –– without seemingly any level of awareness of his crimes, it also makes me very uncomfortable seeing people act as though his crimes detract from his humanity. No matter the crime, a human is still a human, and that’s something that we as a society often forget or disregard in discussions of the criminal justice system (especially with prison conditions and the death penalty) with alarming frequency.
Also, while yes this happened right before sentencing, I have to imagine this was an ongoing mental health struggle with which Salling had been dealing well before his crimes were brought to light, especially given the nature of his crime, which is very often coupled with mental health troubles.
Further, and this is more disconnected from his suicide but still connected to the discussion as a whole, we need to provide some sort of resources and counseling to people afflicted with sexual affectations toward children.
It is qualified as a mental health problem by the APA and is not something people can choose. Obviously that in ABSOLUTELY NO WAY excuses his (or anyone’s) crime, nor does it lessen the horrifying effects on his and others’ victims.
But other countries have found substantial levels of success when pedophiles are able to speak to some kind of counselor or therapist about their sexual urges without fear of ostracism or shame. Many of these same countries also offer the (voluntary) option of chemical castration or drug treatment to reduce those sexual urges, which has also shown levels of success.
That’s something the US should look into if we ever hope to actually affect change for potential future victims of this sort of sexual exploitation and abuse, rather than just hoping eventually all of the perpetrators are in prison. Even the seemingly worst among us, such as pedophiles, are still human and are therefore capable, at least potentially, of being rehabilitated.
And when we completely dehumanize them to the point that we often do, it becomes counterproductive because we don’t ever reach any real solutions, and we make it even more likely that the vast majority of pedophiles who never act on their urges will be too frightened to seek help.
Suicide is bad. Pedophilia is bad. Dehumanization is also bad.
These statements don’t have to be mutually exclusive.