Sunday, May 19, 2013
Sexual Offense Laws--Are They Really for the Children?
Every time a “tough on crime” politician mesmerizes the public with his “doing it to help children” stance, I almost laugh—and then I think about how many lives, including children’s, will be further damaged, even destroyed, and anger replaces the laughter.
Ask the 6-year-old boy who was prosecuted for playing doctor and will, at 18, go on the Wisconsin public registry for what he did at six if he has been helped. Ask the many children ages 9—12 already on registries in dozens of states for age-appropriate play and curiosity. Some of them will take their own lives before many more years have passed. Ask the myriad of children whose parents are registrants how they have been helped. They have suffered massive instability, ridicule, physical assault, and damage to self, home, parents, and property as a result of vigilante action. The horrible offense of some of their parents was that their fathers slept with their mothers before they were married and she was under the age of consent. Ask Gary Blanton’s little sons, growing up in Washington State with no father because a self-appointed vigilante murdered their father for being on the registry for consensual teenage sex, if they feel the love and the help flowing for them.
And then of course there are the children of those wrongly convicted and later exonerated and freed. Some have spent many years in prison before a determined family member, often by getting a wrongful conviction advocacy group such as the Innocence Project involved, pushes until true justice is done. When released, these people will often have lost everything they had in their lives; their parents will have died, as was the case with Michael Arena, exonerated and released in Texas last year; when his mother died, he was not allowed to attend her funeral even though at that point the findings of his innocence were clear. Even more egregious is that their children will have been raised without them. Even though some states pay compensation for each year wrongly imprisoned, no amount of money can compensate for all the milestones missed in a child’s life.
And most of all, ask the victims of child sexual abuse, past, present, and future. Except for the tiniest percentage, they were and are molested by those not on the registry, the greatest number by far those in their lives within their circle of trust. Explain, since every research study shows no correlation between residency and presence restrictions for ex-offenders and less sexual crime against children, how this will keep those children safe. Explain how, because the government chooses to spend many millions monitoring a vast number of ex-offenders who pose little or no risk to them, there is no money left to launch educational or prevention programs that would help them, and there is no money to fund much-needed victims’ services, which would help them.
And please tell all of us when people who have the power to question and to effect change are going to demand that laws be based on facts and research-based evidence rather than myths and obfuscations that work against rather than for public safety. When will we do what really will help children?