19 March 2012


Warning – This blog topic contains minor spoilers for IVRRAC.

People may feel there is a contradiction in IVRRAC that it seems to promote forgiveness, yet also puts forward a lack of punishment is detrimental to a person’s moral character. Janine explains to Simon why he became a serial killer. “…you wanted to be punished. But they didn't, the law put you in a home for wayward youth… The unpunished guilt of that murder drove you to do it six more times. Each time you secretly wanted to be caught.”

I would dare say that many people reading Janine’s monologue would agree with her sentiments and using it as a good reason why people are given the death sentence and life imprisonment. But then the book does a ninety degree turn with Simon asking for forgiveness rather than more punishment.

I know this has upset a few readers, some enough to comment on IVRRAC’s lack of continuity and erroneous psychology, however it is not contradictory or erroneous at all. (If you still think so, I welcome your post below).

Firstly Janine over simplified the issue, she is not a psychologist and thus only grabbed what she felt were the main points of Andrew’s explanation to her the day before. (Andrew does have a doctorate in Psychology). I did not put this meeting between Andrew and Janine in the book as it would interrupt the flow and most of the conversation between Janine and Andrew was absolutely boring and irrelevant to the plot.

The major point in Simon’s past was not so much the lack of punishment, but more the lack of acknowledgement that what Simon did was wrong. There was no trial, no court case. He was deemed a minor and merely shifted from one institute to another, without any real word to him why. As far as Simon was concerned the murder was a non-event.

A side note here is that with New Zealand’s justice system moving more into revenge than true justice it is increasingly rare that teenagers are getting away with being a minor on severe crime, so Simon was an exception to the rule. There were other reasons alluded to in the book why Simon was not treated as an adult in this case.

When a person is guilt ridden and yet no one acknowledges the crime it can tear that person apart. In Simon’s case it caused him to repeat the offense again and again until someone acknowledge it was wrong.

I can see this in my own children, if I ignore a misdemeanour, e.g. my son throwing his toy train across the room, he does not stop but throws it even harder a second time. Once informed that it is wrong to throw toys in an appropriate disapproving tone, he stops and plays more sedately.

I heard of a person who got away with murder. He eventually came clean and confessed, afterwards he noted that the time he spent in prison he was freer  than he was bundled with the guilt of an unacknowledged crime.

So what I am saying in IVRRAC and here is that forgiveness is king, but we still have to acknowledge wrongdoing and make certain that the perpetrator knows his/her actions are inappropriate and they have to live with the consequences, whether it be buying a replacement or spending time in rehabilitation programmes, or if they don’t acknowledge the wrongdoing themselves, time in prison to at least give them opportunity to realise they made a mistake.

But what IVRRAC is not promoting by Janine’s comments on lack of punishment is a person being incarcerated until the victim feels adequately revenged. Every time I read of victims reliving their terrible experiences at sentencing hearings or parole boards I feel deeply saddened as I see they are just being eaten alive by hatred rather than taking on board forgiveness and freeing themselves from a lifetime of emotional death.

There is a reason Jesus spoke many times on the requirement that we forgive others. Forgiving others does not do much for them as often they don’t  even know they are forgiven, but it does an amazing amount for the person who forgives.