Are his actions justifiable?
Online registries for sex offenders are a contentious issue.
On one hand, these registries are an invaluable resource, helping the system keep track of individuals who may be repeat sex offenders. On the other hand, having their personal information publicly displayed can put people at terrible risk.
There are different kinds of sex offenders, too. While most of the names on sex offender registries very much deserve to be there, not all cases are as simple as we wish they would be. For instance, there are many "Romeo and Juliet" cases of young men (and sometimes women!) arrested at 18 or 19 for having sex with their 17-year-old partner.
The way our registry system works, there is no difference in how two so very different offenders would be treated
Vukovich, or as he's being called in the press, The Alaskan Avenger, identified three targets from the registry and is accused of breaking into their homes and beating their heads in with a hammer.
You know what may be worse than being killed by a hammer? Surviving a hammer attack with all skull fracture, like Wesley Demarest did. All three victims survived.
Demarest says that as he was being attacked, Vukovich said to him "‘I’m an avenging angel, I’m going to mete out justice for the people you hurt."
Vukovich was arrested the same night he attacked Demarest, and police found on him a notebook containing the names and addresses of his victims.
It's not surprising to learn that Vukovich himself is a survivor of child sexual abuse at the hands of his father, who was convicted for these crimes in 1989.
It's important to note that the vast majority of survivors of child sexual abuse will never grow up to harm anyone or commit sexual abuse themselves.
But in this case, it's clear that Vukovich probably did not receive the support and psychological attention he needed as a survivor. This isn't exactly shocking, considering the lack of resources offered to male survivors of sexual abuse. Luckily, that is changing.
I think we can all identify with Vukovich's desire to serve justice to people who sexually abuse kids, but obviously we know that beating strangers' heads in with a hammer is not the best solution.
It's just so frustrating that there isn't an easy solution to treating and reforming sexual offenders. Some are classified as pedophiles, and psychiatrists say that pedophilia itself is incurable, but a person can learn not to act on their desires. That's not exactly reassuring.
Vukovich's father should never have abused his son. That part is clear. The system succeeded in that Vukovich's abuser was incarcerated. But the system also failed in helping Vukovich lead a healthy, happy life.
As for his victims, it's tempting to shrug off their assaults. They got what they deserved, some might say. But that's not the way a civilized society thinks. These are offenders who have served their time. Vukovich's idea of "justice" is, in affect, no better than the treatment he received at the hands of someone who was supposed to protect him. On top of all of that, Vukovich is a man who was once a child victim, who deserved a better life than one focused on vengence that would likely land him in prison.
Ultimately, America loves a vigilante. We're the birthplace of Superman and Batman, heroes lurking in the night righting wrongs in the name of justice. But the truth is very often so much more complex than the pages of an artfully drawn comic book.
What we do know for sure, however, is that in a system where survivors of sexual abuse are not supported and given the help the need and deserve, no one comes out looking like a hero.
Editor's note: If you are a survivor of sexual abuse or violence, hope and healing are possible.