November 9, 2018
Apsara Reddy’s documentary ‘Unmaking of a Monster’ reveals the sickening truth about the deviant minds of pedophiles, hebephiles, rapists and sex offenders lodged at Tamil Nadu’s Puzhal Central Prison. The prisoners have no remorse or guilt and majority of them deny their crime.
The 27-minute documentary was made possible because of the guidance of Chennai Commissioner A K Viswanathan. Apsara beautifully showcases how criminals from outside come in all shapes, sizes, colours, race and ages. However, it is difficult to trace if they have become better individuals and do not relapse after reformation therapy.
A child is sexually abused every 15 minutes, according to the government data released in December 2017. “There should be a sex offenders registry in Tamil Nadu and with the help of Hindustan University I want to take this initiative forward where it’s easy for law enforcement agencies to identify repeat offenders. The public at large would be aware of those involved in sex crimes and be cautious while subletting a place or giving jobs,” says Apsara.
“Often prisoners like Dhasvanth, a Chennai techie convicted for sexually assaulting a seven-year-old and murdering his mother, showed violent streak, got offensive and defensive. It’s like his whole personality flipped during the interview. His stories had multiple versions. Another prisoner, a tailor who raped a four-year-old, portrayed himself to be innocent. However, once the camera was off, he showed his dark side,” she added.
Psychologist Archana says, “Criminals often use psychological manipulation with the intent to change the perception of others through deception, exploitative and innocent behaviour to get out of the jail early or throw a tantrum for sadistic pleasure. Sometimes they may not tell the truth to counsellors as well because they feel he/she works closely with the judiciary and would rat them out.”
Counselling alone does not help. Research suggests that cognitive-behavioural models are effective in treating people with pedophilic disorder. Such models may include aversive conditioning, confrontation of cognitive distortions, victim empathy (show videos of consequences to victims), assertiveness training (social skills training, time management, structure), relapse prevention (identifying antecedents to the behaviour [high-risk situations] and surveillance method (family members who help monitor the patient behaviour) work best.
Death penalty is the only punishment which will give closure to the child’s family. There is no other punishment that will keep society safe, says Apsara. The prognosis of sexual offenders is very difficult to determine. For offenders to curb their sexual urges and refrain from fantasizing about children is difficult. There can be various strategies devised to reduce the intensity and chart coping strategies. However, the most important factor is the prisoners’ willingness to recognise the problem and participate wholeheartedly and be invested in the programme. Realistically how many prisoners take it seriously is debatable.
In this classic case of moral bankruptcy, it is pertinent to ask if one should tolerate those who commit unspeakable crimes and let them walk free or should they be awarded the death penalty.