Huckaby: Abuser Was Abused?

As upsetting and shocking as the circumstances of the child's death are, it doesn't mean Huckaby is crazy. Emotionally traumatized, with no functional way to release her pain and anger, yes.
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No one ever expects that a 28-year-old Sunday school teacher and mother of a 5-year-old girl could sexually assault her daughter's 8-year-old playmate with a foreign object, murder her, stuff her in a suitcase, and throw the suitcase into a pond. But that's what it seems Melissa Huckaby did to little Sandra Cantu. Although none of us knows for certain at this point why it happened, as an attorney, an expert on sexual abuse (I've worked with thousands of abuse victims), and and a victim of it myself, I am regrettably qualified to speak on this subject.

I strongly suspect that Melissa has been previously abused. She likely learned that the way to release stress and feel a sense of control over her own life was to disempower a child in the same way she she had been disempowered. She probably didn't mean to hurt Sandra so badly that the child would tell her parents about it. Typically, an abuser makes it look like a game, something enjoyable, so it can be kept a secret. It's even more unlikely that Huckaby intended to kill Sandra (unless she was involved in Satanic ritual abuse). The most plausible explanation is that the initial act spiraled out of control through the mindless release of Huckaby's suppressed inner rage, resulting in injury and death of the child.

What happens when children are traumatized is that they take that part of themselves--the part they simply can't accept or understand--and dissociate from it. Huckaby may well have split off from some trauma in her childhood that she never resolved. All that suppressed and denied emotion needs a way out. So how does she get rid of the rage? Not by any means she learned or taught in Sunday school, but by repeating what had happened to her as a child.
Think of Chris Brown for a moment. As he told Tyra Banks, he had grown up seeing his stepfather beat his mother, and he swore he would never do the same. But we repeat what we experience, and now Brown is facing charges from the bloody beating he gave Rihanna. It was a coping mechanism he had learned all too well.

As someone who suffered through sexual abuse that included the use of a foreign object, I would speculate that that was indeed what had happened to Melissa as a child. I wouldn't be at all surprised to learn that she had abused other children, possibly even her own daughter. If I were to reconstruct the crime in my mind, I would suspect that there is a pattern of behavior she was following, that it got out of control, and the child's death was an accident.

Watching Huckaby's tears as charges of kidnapping, molestation, and murder were levied against her in court yesterday, I could tell she was ashamed - her body language gives every indication of it. Her darkest secrets are now exposed for all the world to see. Her family has said that this was out of character for her, but we have a hard time recognizing problems in our own children. It's like the mom who keeps wondering why her son isn't married yet, when everyone else can clearly see he's gay.

The public keeps looking for mental illness in Huckaby--it's the only concept they can grasp that gives us some handle on what happened. After all, only about 6 percent of sexual abuse against females is carried out by females alone. When women are sexual predators, they are usually accomplices of their partners rather than initiators of the abuse. If Huckaby's defense team can't establish some sort of diminished capacity, she is in line for the death penalty.
As upsetting and shocking as the circumstances of the child's death are, it doesn't mean Huckaby is crazy. Emotionally traumatized, with no functional way to release her pain and anger, yes. Diminished capacity? Likely, and if so, in California, that will save her from the death penalty. Crazy, no.

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