Thursday, September 20, 2007

Atchison's Health: What We Don't Know

Today's news only deepens the tragedy that has befallen the Roy Atchison family. The Pensacola lawyer, arrested Sunday in Detroit as part of an F.B.I. sex predator sting operation, tried to hang himself in his cell early this morning, according to the Detroit Free News.
The 4 a.m. suicide attempt came only one day after Atchison asked a federal judge to take him off a suicide watch and assured her he would not try to harm himself.

Atchison tied a sheet around his neck, but the suicide attempt was discovered by sheriff's deputies before he had a chance to harm himself, Sheriff Virgil Strickler said today.

The tragedy that has befallen Assistant U.S. Attorney Roy Atchison and his Gulf Breeze family doubtless has many dimensions. The general public knows almost none of these, in truth. All that is known, when one looks at it critically, is very sketchy:

  • Atchison is a widely admired husband with a long history of working with a children's sports association.
  • Unlike most sexual deviants, there was no known manifestation, until now, that Atchison harbored any pedophiliac thoughts or urges. Yet, he has been arrested on horrific-sounding charges of crossing state lines with intent to have sex with a five year old girl.
  • Allegations that for nearly a month he engaged in on-line messaging back and forth certainly reflect a paraphiliac condition.
  • Many long-time friends and fellow parents in Gulf Breeze who have personally known Atchison for decades are shocked, or worse, at the news about a man they liked and trusted. They never had a clue, apparently, and even thinking back can't see one.
  • So far, as it seems, no one locally claims to have had so much as an inkling Atchison ever harbored untoward or sexual feelings toward children.
  • No one is able to explain how attorney Atchison could have become so suddenly, as it seems, ensnared in such a horrific situation after nearly 53 full years of blameless life.

We must remind ourselves, too, that at this writing there is not so much as a shred of a fact or even a rumor that Atchison has ever injured anyone of any age. The five year old girl in Detroit was a myth; the supposed mother of that child was merely an "online undercover persona" created by an FBI agent for the sting operation. Although Atchison in on-line chats allegedly "suggested" he had "previously had sex with minors" at this writing no fact has been revealed to show that such a "suggestion" was true.

Putting aside the question of guilt -- because, after all, under our legal system Atchison must be considered innocent until proven guilty -- there are reasons to suspect from all of this that something even more tragic may lie behind Atchison's actions in stepping off the plane in Detroit "with a Dora the Explorer doll, hoop earrings and petroleum jelly," as USA Today reports.

What if Atchison's on-line 'boasting' of previous experience was a lie grounded in a fantasy? What if he was acting out another fantasy with the Dora doll? Isn't it possible -- perhaps more than possible -- that Atchison was an upstanding citizen for all of his 53 years until something highly unusual happened in just the last few weeks or months?

We don't have a medical or psychiatric license, but from what we can unearth on short notice via the internet, it looks to us like the psychiatric world doesn't know much about paraphilia, either. As one recent researcher admits, the professionals don't even know the frequency and incidence of "hypersexual" desire:

Although hypersexual desire, a quantitative measure of enacted sexual behaviours, may be a meaningful construct for clinically derived samples, the incidence and prevalence of hypersexual desire in community samples of males with paraphilias and paraphilia-related disorders is unknown.

Nor can they agree, even among themselves, whether it should be included in the DSM as a mental illness diagnosis. Much less do they agree on the underlying cause(s).

The world of shrinks just doesn't know enough about this kind of behavior. But at least some research in the past few years suggests that in a minority of older men a sudden change in sexual appetite and interest can be traceable to dramatically "increased (or decreased) dopamine neurotransmission" and "central serotonin activity." In turn, changes in dopamine neurotransmission can be caused by organic changes in the brain brought on by lesions, disease, genetic disorders, or a comparatively rare type of dementia such as Pick's Disease. In these unfortunates, the organic changes lead directly to dramatic changes in the chemistry of the brain.

We know no more facts about the Atchison matter than you can find for yourself in the library or on the internet. And we're not making excuses for anyone. Nor are we in any way minimizing the horrific nature of the behavior Atchison is alleged to have exhibited.

But we would like to see a stop to all those cranks commentators out there who are so very quick to pollute the world wide web with their own sick fantasies about how Atchison should be tortured and executed without a trial. (No links provided -- there are plenty of comments of that character to be seen on-line; find them yourself, if you must).

And, we'd also like to see Atchison's Michigan lawyer get him an expert medical work-up, fast. Just as does the law, we presume Atchison is innocent of a crime. But we'll make no presumption he is free of disease.


Anonymous said...

Sorry, but just because he didn't exhibit outward signs of pedophilia doesn't mean that he was free of those thoughts and urges. I feel terrible for his family but I am glad that he was apprehended. Think about it -- what if the person he corresponded with on the internet wasn't an undercover police woman but actually some woman willing to let her child be raped? How would we feel if he had succeeded?

Anonymous said...

Your description of him not showing any deviant tendencies could have applied to the BTK killer as well - who appeared to all around him as well to be an upstanding individual. It really has no point if your trying to introduce this as some sort of evidence of non guilt. The fact this man has come into contact with many young girls in his "civic work" should indicate the need for these children to also be looked at as possible and likely victims, as the investigation of a crime IS the responsibility of police etc. If he can show that someone hijacked his computer, which could certainly be possible, then this would provide reasonable doubt to his guilt, BUT - he still has the problem of explaining why he was getting on an airplane at that time to that city to meet. Some research that your citing does not make fact. The burden is on the accused to show mental illness. Good luck proving that one in court with this character. In any event does it really matter weighed against the crime to the victim? Once this individual is convicted, which he will be assuming that no shocking other evidence is provided by the defense (a massive conspiracy to put him on a plane at the exact moment the person hijacking his computer agreed to meet the mother of a five year old) he will find that no matter what the judge gives him, the other prisoners will deliver the justice.

BeachLover said...

This post evidences the deep compassion characteristic of this blogger, who is to be commended for demonstrating both compassion and reason in the face of the wild lynch mob mentality being shown by the community at large.

Surely we can all agree that the Atchison matter is a tragedy for all concerned, and yes, thank goodness it didn't end in tragedy for a "real" five-year-old as well - but that's entirely beside the point of this blog entry. The blogger recognizes the horrific nature of the apparent crime and its equally senseless destruction of the entire Atchison family, even as he gropes for some plausible alternate explanation short of convicting the perpetrator without a trial.

The foregoing reader comments demonstrate that the writers just don't get it.

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