Bad, Very Bad, Fathers Not Worthy of Father's Day

Sadists like 'Brazilian Fritzl' who imprisoned children leave lifelong scars.

June 17, 2010 -- This case will sound familiar: Jose Agostinho Pereira, a 54-year-old man from a remote corner of Brazil, has been charged with raping his daughter daily and abusing the seven children he fathered with her.

Headlines last week declared him the "Brazilian Fritzl" because the case was so similar to that of Josef Fritzl, a German engineer who locked his daughter in a cramped basement for 17 years, impregnating her four times.

Some fathers, it seems, are not worthy of celebration this Father's Day.

An estimated 772,000 children are the victims of maltreatment each year in the United States, according to the Administration for Children and Families, which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services.

About 71 percent of these are crimes of neglect. But most are not as horrific as those committed by sadist fathers, those who derive pleasure from cruelty to others.

Psychologists say these men seek psychological domination, often lacking empathy for the emotions of others, feeling a sense of entitlement and experiencing sex not as an act of intimacy, but as purely gratification.

Police allege that for 12 years Pereira imprisoned his daughter, Sandra Maria Monteiro, now 28, in a two-room thatched hut in a small fishing village in the northeast state of Maranhao in Brazil.

She was only 12 when the abuse started, police said.

Police were tipped off by an anonymous phone call during a local campaign about pedophilia, according to Reuters. They found six of the seven children -- four girls and three boys between the ages of 2 months and 12 years old -- naked, dirty and malnourished.

Pereira, who reportedly gave a partial confession to police, had threatened to kill them if they tried to escape. He said the abuse began in 1998 after his wife left him.

Like the Fritzl children, they were barely able to communicate, speaking in growls and groans.

The alleged abuse is thought to have begun when Pereira's wife walked out on him in 1998.

Last year, an Austrian court found Josef Fritzl, now 74, guilty of locking up his daughter Elisabeth and fathering seven children with her.

The underground family sat just below Fritzl's upstairs wife and family in their home in Amstetten, Austria. When police found them, the children did not know how to speak.

Elisabeth, now 43, had been raped almost daily in the dungeon below. After her father was imprisoned for life, she started a new life with her six living children. A seventh child had died after birth and Fritzl had burned the body in the garbage incinerator.

Fritzl reportedly hatched the plot to lock up his daughter as a sex slave just after his first sexual assault, when Elisabeth was 11. Seven years later, in 1984, he drugged her with ether, dragged her downstairs and locked her up.

He reportedly handcuffed Elisabeth to a metal pole and kept her in total darkness, returning only to bring her food or to rape her. Often she had to decide whether to have sex or starve.

These crimes have also been seen in the United States.

"Genie" Wiley, born in 1957 in California, spent the first 13 years of her life confined to her bedroom, strapped to a toilet by day and bound in a sleeping bag under a metal screen in her crib at night.

Her only human contact was with her father, Clark Wiley, who beat her every time she vocalized, and barked at her like a dog to quiet her. By the time Genie was liberated in 1970, she was nearly mute, uttering only a handful of phrases, including "stop it" and "no more."

The girl was known for her "bunny walk," because she held her hands like paws, and her social interaction was limited to sniffing, spitting and clawing.

At 53, Genie is still alive and living in a California group home. She never grasped complex language.

According to psychiatric experts, children who are raised in isolation, in addition to their health problems, struggle with attachments to others, language development and the capacity for impulse control and self regulation.

Men who repeatedly molest their children are not only pedophiles but psychopaths, according to Dr. Igor Galynker, Associate Director of Psychiatry at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City.

In a paper he co-wrote with psychologist Lisa J. Cohen, he compares pedophiles to opium addicts, "only they are much sicker."

Repeat pedophiles are psychopaths, according to Galynker, because they repeatedly break the law.

"A psychopath is somebody who perpetrates a crime and breaks the law internally," he said. "They perceive victims as tools and lack empathy and a conscience."

A high number of pedophiles report that they were also abused as children, but not all go on to victimize children, said Galynker.

His studies have also shown that these types of men are "odd and bizarre" people, loners who are disconnected from others with a "twisted logic" that helps them justify their behavior.

"In the real world, they would be in jail where they are probably murdered, because they don't like pedophiles," said Galynker. "If they end up in the psychiatric hospital, they can be treated, but it's not that effective."

Fritzl said last year while awaiting trial that he wants doctors to use him as a "guinea pig," to learn more why he treated his daughter like a sex slave.

"I may be in prison for a while, and I would like to offer myself to as many of the world's best profilers, psychologists and psychiatrists as possible," he told the Austrian Times. "I realize now that I am not normal, and I see that somebody who did what I did cannot be regarded as normal.

Ronald Levant,

a clinical psychologist who specializes in issues of fatherhood and masculinity at the University of Akron in Ohio, said men capable of these heinous crimes have often been forced to conform to rigid standards of masculinity in their childhood.

"[They are] boys who are beat up for crying or made to feel ashamed of themselves when they show fear or have the inability to identify their own emotions," he said.

In a disorder Levant calls normative male alexithymia -- difficulty processing and understanding emotional experiences -- men often numb themselves with alcohol or violent behavior.

"People think masculinity comes with the Y chromosome but some psychologists think masculinity is a set of norms that little boys are pressured into conforming to," said Levant.

"The inability to experience their own emotion makes it hard for them to empathize with another person," he said. "These guys can do horrible things."

"These are men who essentially rape their children and sire children from their own children without the ability to feel empathy. They feel entitlement for whatever they want and see sex as a narcissistic pleasure, rather than as an expression of normal intimacy."

As for the children of these ferocious fathers, they bear the scars.

"A child depends on the parent and when that parent betrays trust and hurts them, their trust in the world is destroyed," said Levant. "They go into the world without a fundamental anchor."