Monday, July 22, 2013

The Sex Offender Battle

There is a battle going on. It is exemplified perfectly in these two opposing headlines that were right next to each other in a list of subject-related articles: “Prevent Rape and Kidnapping With a Sex Offender Map Online” and “Nature of sex crimes limits registry's effectiveness.”

The first is an advertisement posing as an article: it is touting the necessity of subscribing to an alert system that provides information about registered sex offenders via your computer. It is mysteriously lacking any reference to factual information. In fact, it includes false information, such as saying that no one on the registry is allowed to live close to schools, parks, daycare facilities, or other similar places. Since some jurisdictions have such restrictions and some do not, the implication that any registrant living there is breaking the law is erroneous.

It goes on to offer “advice” as to how to respond if one is unfortunate enough to actually spot someone on the registry in a--gasp--public place. “Once you’ve become familiar with the sex offenders that are living in your area it’s important to keep in mind that if one is recognized by you, do not confront them as they may be dangerous and unstable. It’s important to notify your local police department immediately.” I would like to be a fly on the wall when the calls come flooding in to the local police precinct alerting them that Mr. XXX, a registered sex offender, is shopping at the corner store right NOW!

The second article includes references to many studies. It includes quotes from law enforcement and from experts in the field. The essence of its message is captured here: ”But while sex offender registries do inform the public about who might be living nearby, they don't (and can't) warn people against the more likely threat — the potential offender who is already in their lives….Incidents of sexual assault where the perpetrator was a stranger to the victim certainly do occur, but in the overwhelming majority of cases, the perpetrator is someone the victim knows.”

In the words of a prosecuting attorney when asked about the effectiveness of the registry in preventing sexual assaults, " ‘The registry does not prevent that….The registry would be more appropriate to the stranger situation, but at least 95 percent (of incidents) are not the stranger variety….I very rarely have what I'd term a stranger rape where the victim does not know the defendant.’…”

And the battle continues—myth versus reality, opinion versus fact, emotional appeal versus documented research, the words of those making a buck from the sex offender industry versus the words of experts and those actually in the field.

The battle continues.

3 comments:

  1. Very well said! The battle you describe is fueled by the ambitions of those who profit from perpetuating the myths, lies, fears, and hysteria. "Don't bother me with facts, I've made up my mind."

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  2. My profession is advertising... and when I read something so blatantly misleading -- sent unsolicited to my inbox -- I wonder: What ever happened to laws that demanded truth in advertising...?

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