Remembering Sherrice Iverson {Trigger Warnings}

Today’s the anniversary of the day Sherrice Iverson’s life ended in 1997. She was seven years old. This crime has always stuck with me. It was the first time I realized child molestation didn’t always take the form of quietly molesting the same child over and over, and manipulating them into keeping the secret. That in many cases, child molesters callously take what they want from children, then literally dispose of them to protect themselves from getting caught, then seek another victim.

Picture of Sherrice IversonRead the story here if you can bear it. I warn you it is triggering – it’s one of the most brutal yet casual crimes I’ve ever come across. Retweet it or “like” it on Facebook, if you want to remind people that this sort of thing goes on, and people like Sherrice’s killer exist (and, in his case, still live).

Wikipedia doesn’t have an article on Sherrice. She’s not important enough, I guess. They have an article on her killer.

There’s nothing I can say about what happened to Sherrice, but one good thing came from this case. A friend of the killer witnessed what he was doing to Sherrice, told no one, and later listened to his friend’s confession. He showed less remorse and empathy (“According to grand jury testimony obtained by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Cash does venture one question: Had the little girl been aroused?”) in the press than did the killer himself. This prompted Sherrice’s mother and others to make the points until finally Nevada passed the Sherrice Iverson bill requiring people to report to authorities when they have reason to believe a child is being harmed.

Interestingly, imagine if it had been Sherrice’s mother, rather than her father, who was too busy drinking and gambling to keep track of his daughter in the casino where she was lured away, raped and killed. I don’t remember anyone blaming Sherrice’s father for having a blast while neglecting his paternal duties – remember, folks, if a man wants to spend 15 minutes with his own kids, we should give him a medal, but if a woman would like 15 minutes of alone time away from hers, she is a selfish bitch. If that had been her mother, I think they’d have sought new laws about mothers who don’t chain themselves to their kids instead of buddies who abet child molesters.

The killer got four life sentences, has lost all his appeals, and should have no chance of parole. His abetting buddy has a high paying job at an oil company and only profited from Sherrice’s death.

I also want to address a couple of mental-illness bashing points that came up. The killer’s defense attorney mentioned in trial that his biological mother (he was adopted) was in a mental hospital for schizophrenia and his biological father was in jail. His adopted parents later sued the Los Angeles County adoption service for not disclosing that his mother had been schizophrenic before saddling them with this, er, faulty merchandise of a son. Couple of points here:

  • Schizophrenia doesn’t make people rape. It just doesn’t. It does run in families, so its only possible significance to potential adoptive parents would be that their adopted child could inherit it. But schizophrenics are not any more dangerous or violent than anyone else.
  • The father being in prison could be an indication of a predisposition to violent behavior, but even that’s a bit of a leap.
  • Despite all the bullshit you hear, adopted kids do not automatically have all sorts of serious behavioral issues. There certainly are problems with our adoption and fostering system that do sometimes cause problems, but the suggestion that being adopted explains someone being a violent criminal is ignorant and really deeply offensive to all adopted kids who have grown up not to be violent criminals.
  • Most sex offenders have Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and despite some interesting findings about certain brain structures, there is no clear evidence that this disorder has a biological component. What most, if not all, NPDs do have in common are particular childhood patterns of neglect or abuse. That means it’s more likely the adoptive parents had something to do with this kid turning out a predator than did his biological parents. And even that’s not conclusive, since the abuse can come from a source other than one’s primary caretakers.
  • And even then, NPD does not force people to commit violent crimes. See the link above about schizophrenics not being more violent than anyone else: people commit violent crimes because of character deficiencies, not mental health issues. Sometimes one person has both, but it’s still the character issues and not the mental health issues causing the behavior.

I guess that’s all. This has been a difficult post to write, and I hope it didn’t meander all over the place. Sherrice deserves to be remembered, so pass it on.

Comments

  1. Sarah says

    I don’t agree with the adoptive parents suing but they should have been given as much medical background on their new child as was available. To me, it isn’t about finding fault with the child so much as being prepared for possible difficulties later in life. Them suing at this late date would indicate that they do not share my attitude and want to blame someone else for their son’s crimes.

  2. Sabrina says

    Sarah,

    I’d say that depends on the case. There are conditions and issues that are indeed important to know when you adopt a child (a history of violence/abuse, hereditary health issues etc.). But I’m not sure if stuff like non-hereditary illnesses or police records should be among these. Those would needlessly stigmatize those children and make adoption even more complicated.

  3. says

    I believe schizophrenia does seem to run in families, so I don’t disagree about disclosing that to potential adoptive parents. And maybe that’s the only reason they chose the schizophrenia to harp in in the lawsuit (and not, for example, the father’s jail history). But lawsuits are about damages that can be measured in money, and the killer’s mother’s schizophrenia cost his adoptive parents nothing, since they didn’t have to pay for her care and or his. But what did cost them a lot of money? His defense, assuming they footed the bill. In which case the lawsuit seems to be implying the schizophrenic family history caused the criminal behavior which cost them so much, which is just absurd on several levels.

    I really don’t know if the adoptive parents did anything wrong, but I did want to address that implication of the lawsuit.

    Nothing caused the killer to do what he did, except his own volition and a society that routinely tolerates crimes against women, and black women in particular. He didn’t have command hallucinations telling him Sherrice was an alien conspirator against him. He was just a young man who fantasized a lot about raping little girls, and when he saw a handy black little girl, figured now was his chance. I also wonder how much his pal’s lack of concern stemmed from her color as well as her gender. In any case, they were both legally sane and well in control of their actions. The blame rests on them.

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