When the Husband is a Pedophile: Cheryl Roberts

Cheryl Roberts of Wales is one of my heroines.  I have never met her; and I do not suppose that I ever shall.  She is one of my heroes because she unquestionably did the right thing, although this involved entrapping her husband.  No lack of will on her part; no excuses on her part; no ambivalence on her part.  Upon suspecting that her husband was using chat rooms to lure young under-aged teenage girls into having sex, Ms. Roberts set out to entrap her husband.

As I remarked in the blog-entry regarding Nidal Hasen, there are some things that are unmistakably clear.  Unless an adult is part of squat team to entrap those who prey on children (as with To Catch a Predator), an adult has no business whatsoever in a chat room for children.  And it is this simple truth that animated Cheryl Roberts with regard to the behavior of her husband David Roberts.

Upon suspecting that he was entering chat rooms for under-aged teenage girls, she used a different computer and entered the same chat room, pretending to be a 14-year old girl.  And you guessed it: Cheryl’s husband took the bait, showing nude pictures of himself to the presumed 14 year old girl (who in fact was none other than his wife).

Cheryl Roberts is to be commended for the extraordinary presence of mind that she displayed from the moment she suspected her husband of inappropriate behavior to the end of the matter in the court room, where her husband was sentenced.

Her behavior reminds of a most fundamental moral truth that goes against the present-day mindset.  It is commonly said that love is blind, where the claim that one loves a person becomes nothing more than an excuse to tolerate wrongdoing on the part of that individual.  There is even a song with the lyrics “Love is Blind”.

Quite simply, tolerating immoral behavior is not a sign of love at all.  Rather, it is a sign unabashed cowardliness.  The best way to see this is by noting that the love of another cannot possibly be understood as an excuse to tolerate that person’s harming another.  Whatever else is true, I cannot be a morally decent person and at the same time give the person whom I love permission to harm others.

It is precisely this sort of clarity and moral will that Cheryl Roberts brought to her assessment of her husband’s behavior—a man to whom she had been married for 20 years and with whom she had 2 children.

What is lost on many now days is that being a decent and caring person is nonetheless compatible with there being lines in the sand that one draws.  There are times when indeed we can be helpful and supportive.  The spouse or friend who drinks too much would be an excellent case in point.  Notice, though, that drinking too much is not a wrong that is formally tied to wronging another person.

Of course, in this complicated world, taking a stand against wrongdoing is enormously compounded by a wealth of legalities which could end up making an individual worse-off for trying to do what is right in reporting a wrongdoer.  Indeed, without putting ourselves at risk, we are typically not in the position to obtain direct evidence that a person is doing or has done something wrong.  But even in these instances, we most certainly can end our association with a person.

Fortunately, Ms. Cheryl Roberts did not have to put herself at risk at all.  She needed only to use another computer in order to enter the chat room for young under-aged teenagers that her husband was entering.  Alas, it is her determination to entrap her husband and then to use the evidence against him that tells that she is indeed a woman of extraordinary character.

One might very well ask: Why did not Ms. Cheryl Roberts stay with her husband and try help him to heal from his sickness?  For she could have first approached her husband about the matter.  Now, not only might that move have put her in danger, since he might have threatened her, but it is also the case that talking to her husband about the matter would have certainly resulted in her being subject to tearful pleas from him: “Oh please, honey, don’t do that.  I promise you I won’t ever again enter a chat room for young under-aged teenage girls again”.  Even the most determined person can be moved by tearful pleas.

Thus, what so marvelously impressed me about Ms. Cheryl Roberts is that she entirely circumvented that sort of scenario by going straight to the law enforcement officers and presenting them with the evidence that she had obtained.  It is this move that tells us that she is a person of enormous character.  She knew what she had to do and she flawless accomplished that task, without in any way making herself vulnerable to pleas from her husband, or even to threats from him.  It is this kind of clarity and moral resolve that one rarely sees nowadays.

If more people in the world had the kind of moral clarity and moral resolve that Ms. Cheryl Roberts has the world would undoubtedly be a much better place.  And this is so on two accounts.  For one thing, lots more wrongdoing would be reported.  For another, the moral climate of societies would be significantly better.

When I think of wrongdoing, I am struck by the fact that what contributes to the thriving of wrongful behavior is the silence of so many.  Most people in the Old South never lynched anyone.  Alas, what is true is that those who participated in lynching could count upon the silence of those who never lift a finger to lynch anyone.

Ms. Cheryl Roberts is my hero because she did not remain silent when she could so very easily have taken that path.  She took a stand against the man whom she married and with whom she had two children.  If every priest who know about the sexual abuse that was going on in the Catholic Church had taken a stand against those priests who were committing that horror, it is safe to say that hundreds, if not thousands, of young boys would not been sexually abused.

Silence is one form that the fertile soil for evil deeds takes.  Ms. Cheryl Roberts is a most wonderful reminder of the good that we can do if only we refuse to be silent in the face of evil.  Most of us are not likely to catch someone doing wrong in the way that Ms. Roberts did.  But in the face of wrongdoing, we all have options.  And one of those options to end ties with those who do what is wrong.  And doing that is also a display of moral resolve.

For this very moment, and may there be many more: Ms. Cheryl Roberts is the poster child for exhibiting moral clarity and exercising moral resolve.  May the blessings of God be with her.

About Laurence Thomas

Laurence Thomas is Professor in the Department of Political Science and the Department of Philosophy at Syracuse University. His most recent book is The Family and the Political Self and his most recent article in French is "Juifs et Noirs: Au-delà du Mal" in Trigano (ed.) Juifs et Noirs: du Mythe à la Réalité. Thomas has published numerous essays on the topic of friendship. The essay "The Character of Friendship" has appeared in volume on friendship, entitled Thinking About Friendship, edited by Damian Caluori and the essay "Friendship in the Shadow of Technology" has appeared in the anthology Moral and Moral Controversies edited by Steven Scalet and John Arthur. His most recent essay--entitled "Being Moral and Handling the Truth"--is about circumstances under which it is morally permissible to lie. Indeed, an example is given in Section IV of a lie being morally virtuous.
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