Experts say the Georgia shooting suspect's claim of a sex addiction is unlikely to help his murder case

Experts say the Georgia shooting suspect's claim of a sex addiction is unlikely to help his murder case
Investigators believe Robert Long is the gunman in the 3 deadly massage parlor shootings in Atlanta.Crisp County Sheriff's Office
  • Authorities on Wednesday said the Georgia shooting suspect blamed the attacks on a sex addiction.
  • They said he indicated that he saw the businesses he attacked as a "temptation" to "take out."
  • A criminal forensic psychiatrist said sexual addiction wasn't understood to be a driver of violence.

Law-enforcement officials investigating Tuesday's Atlanta-area shootings are examining whether the suspect, Robert Aaron Long, was motivated by sex addiction.

A source told CNN that Long was kicked out of his house because of a sex addiction. A former roommate also told CNN that Long felt ashamed about his addiction, would frequent massage parlors for sex, and had previously received treatment for it.

At a press conference Wednesday, police officers said Long told them he had a sex addiction, that he saw the three businesses he targeted as "a temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate," and that he "may have been lashing out."

The remarks from police officers immediately attracted scrutiny. Critics pointed out that they looked past a potential racial motivation: Six of the eight people killed were of Asian descent, according to authorities. And the killings come amid a massive increase in reports of hate crimes against Asian Americans in the US. One of the officers who made the remarks had himself spoke approvingly on Facebook of racist T-shirts that blamed China for the coronavirus pandemic.

Psychiatrists also don't generally believe sex addiction - itself a nuanced subject within the field - can be a driver of violence.


Dr. Ziv Cohen, a criminal-forensic psychiatrist who often testifies in criminal cases, told Insider the term "sex addiction" was normally applied to different circumstances, such as people who are watching so much pornography that it ruins their relationships or who are pursuing risky activities that destabilize other parts of their life.

"We certainly don't think of them as committing mass murder like the Georgia shooter," Cohen said. "That really does not fit the profile."

It's unlikely that a sex addiction would be a factor when the case goes to court, according to Judith Knight, a former prosecutor and a Massachusetts-based criminal-defense lawyer.

Knight told Insider she "cannot fathom" how a sex addiction might be useful or relevant in the suspect's defense or sentencing.

There have been mass killers who were famous for sexual abuse, such as Ted Bundy. But Cohen said people like Bundy were very different from people who are treated for sex addiction.


"That is not a sex addict - that's called a sexual sadist," Cohen said. "And that is a certain profile with serial killers where there's a sexual component to the killing. But it's really about killing. It's not primarily about sex."

The very idea of sex addiction isn't always acknowledged in the field of psychiatry. Historically, only substance addiction, as with alcohol, has been recognized as an addiction. Only in 2013 did the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, considered the profession's bible, include its first behavioral addiction, for gambling.

Psychiatrists, Cohen said, do treat people who struggle with what can be described as sex addiction. But professionals are careful to distinguish between people who are living happy lives with hyperactive sex drives and those who are driven to self-destructive behavior and feelings of guilt or remorse.

For the Georgia suspect, Cohen said, he can't imagine there being a psychiatric defense for his case in a trial or if he seeks a lighter sentence.

"Homicide? It's really not part of the profile of sex addiction," Cohen said.


This article has been updated.