Psychologist on childhood trauma following developments in Jesse - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

Psychologist on childhood trauma following developments in Jesse Matthew case

Jesse Matthew at a pre-trial hearing (Credit: NBC12) Jesse Matthew at a pre-trial hearing (Credit: NBC12)

Just days before the sentencing hearing for convicted rapist Jesse Matthew, there’s a new development from someone who was once close to the man also suspected of murder.

In a letter to a judge, Matthew's former girlfriend reveals he was sexually abused several times as a child and she believes that played a role in the high-profile cases he's now linked to.

An area psychologist says revelations like this are not uncommon, especially for sexual offenders. But she makes it clear - one's past doesn't have to define their future.

As we await a Fairfax Court's decision to decide if 33-year-old Jesse Matthew should spend life in prison following a rape conviction back in June, a letter from an anonymous woman has surfaced saying she dated Matthew for two years more than a decade ago.

She says he was sexually abused by at least three different people in elementary school. One of them raped him on several occasions, she says, and forced Matthew to keep it a secret.

The revelations come as Jesse Matthew awaits trial for the murders of college students Morgan Harrington and Hannah Graham.

"It explains the behavior, it doesn't excuse the behavior,” says Dr. Catherine Mills.

If the claims are true, the psychologist says it wouldn't be a first.

"A large majority of people who are sexual offenders have been abused. They do what they know…You're going to see the world as an aggressive and fearful place and all of your experiences will unfortunately be geared from that foundation of this world being a place where I need to fight, I need to attack, I need to take from you before you take from me,” she says.

It's why Dr. Mills says therapy and early intervention are important. 

"Even if you have an aggressive and violent upbringing, it is not necessarily a prescription for becoming an aggressor,” she said. 

While some turn to violence, Mills has found others use their story to save rather than hurt someone else.

"[They] decide that they want to heal others and help others so they end up healing themselves by healing others and using their story as a way to
help inspire other people,” she said.

In the letter, the ex-girlfriend claims Matthew did seek therapy but couldn't afford ongoing treatment.

His sentencing in Fairfax is scheduled to happen on Friday.

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