Who is the Victim? Who is the Victimizer?

A note on a criminal's perspective

Posted Jan 20, 2019

“I know what I have to do, get away from my parents’ house,” said Alex, a young man who was a thief, burglar, and heroin user.  Unemployed, he was living a comfortable existence at his parents’ home.  They had done their utmost to help him get treatment, support him emotionally, and find him opportunities for self-improvement, all to no avail.

Unable to have children of their own, his parents had adopted Alex from Russia when he was an infant.  They looked forward to providing this boy a good life while fulfilling their desire to be nurturing parents. 

Things did not work out.  Even though they had done nearly anything parents could do to help their wayward son, Alex’s parents felt a mix of guilt, sadness, and anger. Reluctant to give up, Alex’s mother and father might be faulted, not for being bad parents, but possibly for “enabling” his bad conduct because they would not throw him out of the house. 

Alex preyed upon his parents’ vulnerability.  He asserted, “My mother has a whole bucket of issues.” Claiming that his mom was “neurotic,” he offered as an example that she would hide her money then forget where she had put it. As he talked about her “neurotic” behavior, Alex disclosed that actually he was the source of the problem.  Alex had frequently stolen cash, jewelry, credit and debit cards from his parents.  Not knowing when he might strike, they took protective measures to secure items of value.  Alex characterized them as having the flaws whereas his problem was that he had to endure their idiosyncrasies, put up with their constant “misunderstandings,” and be the recipient of their frustration.

Alex had no concept of his parents as victims.  Rather, he saw them as  adversaries who tried to thwart his plans.  Alex’s father told me, “He has no moral compass. I’m at my wit’s end.”

Fearing what might happen to her son if he were on his own, Alex’s mother had decided it was better for him to remain at home rather than end up in jail or worse.  Alex actually faulted his parents for not putting him out.  Asked why they continued to allow him to live with them, he replied, “I don’t know why” with the implication that they were irrational and did not have his best interest at heart.  Either way, he was the victim.  If he remained at home, he had to put up with his parents and their “issues.”  If he left, he’d be forced to forage for himself.