Monday, April 29, 2013

Liberal or Conservative?

I have just been asked a question by a friend, one who describes himself as a “liberal pointy-head,” and I’m not sure what the answer is.

He started by asking, “How come YOU conservatives….?”

Many people today are of mixed ethnicities. I am of mixed ideologies. Therefore, when he said, “YOU conservatives…,” I was not offended, nor would I have been had a conservative friend said, “You liberals….”

But my ideologies and the areas in which I am conservative versus the ones in which I am liberal are not the topic here.

He really wants an answer to his question, and since I can’t answer it, maybe a reader can.

The question, minus his inflections, is: Why do those who tend toward the conservative stance, when discussing how to “fix” our educational system, insist that “throwing money at it” isn’t the answer? This is usually followed by opinions that teachers and administrators need to work smarter, be more innovative, find better solutions, try different techniques, and that money isn’t the answer.

But when the subject of improving our law enforcement system arises, the same conservative-leaning individuals will insist that more police need to be hired, better equipment needs to be bought, police presence must be increased, state of the art tracking and monitoring and computing are essential; i.e., “throwing” money at the situation is what is needed.

My friend asks why; why is increasing the amount of money spent the answer for one situation but not for both? If working “smarter” and finding better solutions and techniques is the answer for teachers, why is it not also the answer for law enforcement officers? And if more and better trained policemen and better equipment will improve the quality of law enforcement, why won't more and better trained teachers and better equipment and supplies improve the quality of education?

I don’t know. If anyone does, be he a liberal pointy-head or the conservative to end all conservatives, feel free to help us out.

Thank you,


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Are We Looking at Sex Offender Management Backwards?

For some states, the legislative sessions are over or drawing to a close; for others, they are still in full swing. One would be hard-pressed to find even one state in which an issue or a concern about the management of those on sex offender registries was not reflected in at least one piece of legislation. Some states, such as Texas, have so many that even those doggedly tracking them have lost count.

They have one thing in common: they all pit the safety of communities, especially children, against the rights of registered offenders.

One editorial made the statement, “Victims first, sex offenders second.” Another included a quote from a parent saying, “ ‘We are not trying to welcome more and more of these people [registrants] into the community…. Let us not be worried so much about their rights….’ ”

Any news story or editorial on the subject with a comment board will garner massive amounts of comments with one common theme: “How can anyone care about the rights of sex offenders? The rights and safety of children must come first.”

What is wrong with this picture? We can answer that by looking at what research and experts in the field tell us are the most effective methods of dealing with those who have sexually offended. These include laws, policies, and practices that afford former offenders living in the community the ability to find and maintain employment and decent housing; have access to appropriate counseling and community services; stay connected with family, community, and faith-based support; have the means to adequately provide for family and children; and reintegrate into society and a stable, law-abiding lifestyle.

Those are the factors shown to reduce the risk of recidivism and work toward public safety, less crime, and fewer victims.

And what creates safer communities? What will truly put children first? Lowered recidivism, less crime, and fewer victims.

Why do we see what is best for victims and what is best for former offenders as two separate things? They aren't. It isn't either-or. It isn’t one or the other. What is best for one is also best for the other.

In a recently released report, this statement, originally found in Criminal Justice and Behavior (May 2010 37:477-481), was used: "…sex offender policies are often inconsistent with empirical evidence about sex offender risks, recidivism, reintegration and supervision.... Legislators cite the news media and the views of their constituents -- not research evidence -- as their primary sources of information about sex offenses and offenders…."

Should our legislators be held accountable for the effectiveness of the bills they write and the laws they pass? Does the public have the right to demand legislation and laws and policies formulated from research-based evidence?

ARE we looking at sex offender management backwards? YES, absolutely. We must insist on laws that are based on facts and evidence rather than feelings and opinions. That is the only way to protect the rights and the safety of everyone.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Are You a Sociopath? A Sexual Sadist? Are You Sure?

Six years ago a little boy named Christopher Barrios was sexually abused, tortured for days, and murdered by a mentally disabled man and that man’s father with his grandmother complicit. The father is on death row, and the grandmother is serving a 50-year sentence. She will almost certainly die in prison.

The third participant in the nightmare for young Christopher, George Edenfield, has several times been judged incompetent to stand trial and committed to a state mental hospital. With the recent upholding of this decision by another Georgia court, the defense and the prosecution are in agreement with the findings and the commitment.

This will not be about what happened to Christopher or the grief of his family. And even though many feel that Edenfield should have been tried and executed, or worse, this is not about him or his multi-generational dysfunctional family, although a brief statement about his outcome is in order. One of the hallmarks of a civilized nation is persons are not put on trial who are incapable of assisting in their own defense, nor are the mentally incompetent executed. It is to our credit that America still falls in this category.

No, this is about the perceptions of the public about who commits these rare, heinous crimes. Some of these perceptions are captured in responses to news stories about this case. One such pronounces it a proven fact that one in every five people is a sociopath.  Another comments that “Our system has become so bogged down with murderers, rapists, child molesters, kidnappers….”  

Almost all comments to articles about the Edenfield trials include comment after comment from parents terrified for their children, terrified at the high risk of something like this happening, some sounding consumed with panic and fear. 

Though understandable, how realistic is this fear? Long-term studies at every level and an analysis of police and FBI reports show that this type of offense is the rarest of the rare. Virtually all sexual harm done to children is at the hands of those known and trusted by them, and so seldom it is almost incalculable does it reach a level of depravity and violence even close to that in this case.

Why then the perception that these cases are so prevalent? What could make someone believe that one in every five people is a sociopath and that virtually everyone who has committed any type of sexual offense is capable of actions such as these?

Dr. Karen Franklin, in her recent “In the News” blog, has this to say about how public perceptions are formed and shaped: “The burgeoning infotainment industry has perfected a profit-making formula of sensationalized true-crime 'reporting' that plays on viewers' emotions, whipping audiences into a frenzy of self-righteous indignation….The Internet fosters this culture of hate. Its cloak of anonymity is disinhibitory, emboldening people to spew bile with impunity.” While this specific article deals with the media's role during a murder trial, Dr. Franklin's analysis is spot-on for any high-profile subject matter.

In other words, our rapid-fire, instantaneous, supply of constant and never-ending articles, alerts, reports, video, posts, comments, blogs, tweets, bulletins, and news-flashes inundate us far beyond our ability to assimilate and make sense of what we hear and see. And the competitive nature of the sources of this stream of information drives the tendency to go more over the top than the competition with the “if it bleeds, it leads” style of reporting.

And then there is public feedback--if enough people are saying the same thing, and if they say it often enough, it takes on the semblance of truth. And when they have the ability to say what they please in the “cloak of anonymity” created by the Internet, the worst examples of hatred and bigotry will surface.

We absolutely must remember, in reflecting on these heinous situations, that they are rare and terrible and not indicative of people in general. 20% of our population are not sociopaths. The terms “predator” and “pedophile” are used with great abandon in connection with anyone who is charged with any type of sexual offense whatsoever, and neither of them is accurate in 95%, or more, of the situations. We have a warped and inflated perception of how frequently these situations occur because, when they do occur, they are magnified in the news to such a high degree that we are all but incapable of seeing anything else.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Sex Offender Registry Innovations Conference sponsored by Offender Watch - I guess anyone can have a conference

 When I saw the announcement on a Facebook page, I did a double take:
“Sex Offender Registry Innovations Conference—sponsored by Offender Watch, the nation’s leading sex offender management and notification solution officially endorsed by the National Sheriffs [sic] Association.”

The description of the conference, which will take place in August of this year in New Orleans, includes these words: “We are bringing together law enforcement professionals from all over the country to explore national 'Best Practices' of sex offender monitoring in an effort to accomplish the mission of 'no sex offender left unaccounted for.' Meet the OffenderWatch® National Advisory Board members, a group that has helped establish best practices among thousands of agencies using OffenderWatch® nationwide. Provide your input to help set best practices and consistent techniques that will leave 'no offender unaccounted for.' "

Wow. Is this the same Offender Watch, part of Watch Systems, LLC, that has, for several years now, been called on the carpet by journalists and watchdog groups for printing false, deliberately misleading, and inflammatory statistics as part of its routine PR? (1) (2) (3)

A cursory investigation confirmed that it is, indeed, one and the same. This company makes millions each year selling fear and panic to parents, school districts, and municipalities. They "manage" the sex offender registry in an undetermined number of states for a significant monthly fee. They provide apps for phones and computer alerts. They provide screening systems for schools and libraries. (4) (5) (6) They are among the forefront of those who have benefitted from today's sex offender industry.

One thing they do not provide is the truth and the facts. Their claim of a 50% recidivism rate for sex offenders was plastered on their promotional materials and even on the websites of states whose registry systems they “manage.” In spite of complaints from advocacy and watchdog and truth-in-advertising groups, they would not remove it—until an investigative reporter named Tom Condon wrote an article exposing the lies. He wrote that the 50% recidivism claim “… is spectacularly inaccurate. The real number of sex offenders who are convicted of another sex crime in Connecticut is not 50 percent, it is 2.7 percent. You may be surprised and you should be troubled. 

”The number comes from an extensive study of recidivism among sex offenders in the state (see, recently completed by the Office of Policy and Management.” (7) 

The 50% claim vanished from the CN website as well as others.

Nor is Condon the only journalist to raise the issue. Several articles have been written calling into serious question the integrity of a company that plays on the universal instinct of a society to protect its children and does so by offering products and using techniques whose benefits are, at best, questionable.  In fact, they are in direct opposition to everything research and factual evidence shows about the actual risk from registrants and the most desirable and society-beneficial techniques for managing those who do offend sexually. (8) (9) (10) (11)

The stated purpose of the Offender Watch conference to leave "no offender unaccounted for" signals the focus of their campaign and their very existence. As a parent and grandparent, I would be much happier hearing from a company selling a service such as this that their purpose was to leave no child unprotected. 

If they adopted that as their goal and the focus of their conference, the content of that conference would look entirely different. It would include a session explaining that most sexual abuse of children is at the hands of those not on the registry but rather within their circle of trust of family, peers, and authority figures.

It would include expert speakers sharing studies showing that a focus on the registry and on those already convicted for sexual offenses has not prevented the victims of today and will not help those who will be victims tomorrow. The reason for this is simple; a sexual assault on a child by someone already on the registry is very rare. This situation would normally involve someone unknown to the family and the child and therefore would almost certainly necessitate an abduction of the child, an occurrence that, according to FBI statistics, involves a registered sex offender in less than one percent of child abductions cases. 

Offender Watch’s hypothetical new conference would present the facts about what will be effective in reducing child sexual abuse: a system that looks forward, not backward; that focuses on education and prevention for present and future offenses rather than revenge and eternal punishment for past ones; that focuses on victims and victims’ services; and that offers meaningful rehabilitation and reentry programs for former offenders. These are the things that will help the victims of yesterday and today and help prevent those of tomorrow.

Such a program might well include a presentation by victims’ advocacy groups such as the Southern Tier Child Advocacy Center. They were featured in an April 15th article in the Olean (New York) Times Herald. Their points of advice for parents acknowledge the potential for sexual abuse by someone unknown to the child but stress that children are much more likely to be molested by those they know and trust. 

Their main points include a sprinkling of what our parents taught us—don’t go into public restrooms alone; walk or ride your bikes in pairs or groups—then throw in a heavy dose to address what is now known as the greatest danger: know who your children spend time with and be on alert if anyone seems to be with them frequently; get ample references for babysitters; get to know the families where your children visit; get to know your neighbors; pop in and out frequently when they are playing with peers in the yard or in their rooms—and end with totally-today precautions about the Internet.

What is most significant is what is not included.

There are no directives to check the sex offender registry. Apps and alerts for phones and emails are conspicuous by their absence. Choosing schools or libraries based on the presence of a sex-offender-alert system is not mentioned. The value of companies like Watch Systems and the products they offer through Offender Watch are not significant enough to warrant even a token suggestion.

Offender Watch will hold its conference as planned, and those who are determined to ignore facts and statistics will attend and feel they have gotten their money’s worth. The crime and the shame is that, once again, the cries of children will be drowned out by the half-truths and outright lies and the sound of the cash register in the background. 


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Sex Offender Registry - A Matter of Proportion

“Susie, you can’t take a teaspoon of green beans
and a huge bowl of pudding. Things must be in proportion.”           

“Our budget allocates three times as much for entertainment as it does for groceries; that isn't a good proportion.”

“The punishment should fit the crime; someone who stole a loaf of bread shouldn’t receive the same sentence as someone who embezzled his company's entire retirement investments. It isn’t proportionate.”

If I had to give a one-sentence explanation as to why today’s sex offender laws and policies are in need of reform, it is because they lack proportion.

This is true on many levels.

As lists of registrable offenses grow to include ever-more misdemeanor and “just stupid” offenses, restrictions and time required on the registry expand. Recently a man stuck a tip—a five dollar bill—down the front of a female golf caddy’s blouse and made her cry. He was found guilty of sexual assault and will be on the registry for twenty-five years.

As our society becomes more sexualized for children and teens in terms of their role models, of the availability and the content of technology, and of, not just the availability of birth control but the active promoting of it, the laws punishing children and youth for sexual curiosity, for sexting, and for sexual activity become harsher and more encompassing. New York just expanded the list of offenses that will apply to children as young as thirteen.

There is virtually no distinguishing minor from major offenses as far as the consequences of restrictions and registration go. The Texas man who had consensual high school sex, has been married to the “victim” for twenty years, and is raising their four children with her is still a lifetime registrant just as is the man who raped several women, strangers, over a period of several years before he was apprehended.

We need a new standard for determining who should be registered, even on a registry that is law-enforcement only. The standard needs to take into account a deliberate intent of harm. If there is no harm—the consensual sex between two high schoolers; two children close in age playing, “You show me yours, I’ll show you mine,”—or if there is no deliberate intent of sexual harm—the guy who stuck a five down a golf club employee’s shirt; the teenager who sexted his girlfriend nude pics—then the registry—any registry—should not even be in the equation.

Teach the kids respect for their bodies. Give the jerk a year’s probation and community service. Have the teens attend required counseling regarding the risks related to teenage sexual activity and the dangers of creating any media containing nudity and sexual content. Don’t put them on a sex offender registry and destroy their futures and that of their families.

Our current system lacks many things and is ineffective on many levels, and it involves problems and issues that will not be solved overnight. But surely—surely—we can start today putting some appropriateness and some proportion and some sense of the punishment fitting the crime back into our sexual offense laws.


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Thoughts on Sex Offender Recidivism

I strongly dislike arguments and discussions based on recidivism rates. However, I seem to be finding myself in them quite a bit of late.

Any report and any commentary about recidivism is only as good as the ability of the person reading it to properly decipher every factor that went into the study, and unless one is a trained researcher and analyst, that is next to impossible. That is why we cut to the chase: what is "the" recidivism rate?

Understanding all of the factors includes the vocabulary and the definitions. Are we talking any offense, including parole violations, that results in a re-arrest, or only a repeat sexual offense? Are we talking re-arrest, re-conviction, or re-incarceration before it is labeled "recidivism"? Was the study group a cross-section of all offenders, or did it focus on special populations? Were control groups in place? Was proper procedure followed? Was there peer review? (1)

Proponents of ever-increasing stringency and monitoring of former offenders claim that most studies track recidivism only for three years, and that with each year, the rate increases. However, while it is true that recidivism in general increases a little each year of a study, for every individual in the study, and actually for individuals everywhere, the risk or chance of re-offending goes down every year they remain in the community offense-free. (2) (3) (4) 

When you add to this the fact that the vast majority of those who are committing sexual offenses right now and will in the future are those not on a sex offender registry, and this is even more true in cases of child sexual abuse, the actual risk to any given child from a registered individual is minuscule.  

No one wants to take any risk or chance, no matter how small, with the safety of his children, but the precautions taken must be in proportion to the actual risk of harm. You don't totally ostracize and severely damage the lives of over 700,000 registrants and their families and their children based on such a small risk. You teach your children the common-sense precautions that our parents taught us and that you are probably already teaching them, and you keep up with where they are and who they are with--and that will also help, along with some additional instruction, against the much greater risk of sexual harm from those not on a registry.

And as much as it goes against the core of every parental instinct, we accept that we will never guard against all danger. Lightening will strike. Airplanes will fall. The baseball bat will break, and the flying piece will smash into someone's head. And every time we start the car engine and check in the mirror that they are buckling their seat belts, we are putting them at more risk of calamity the second we are out of the driveway than an individual on the sex offender registry will ever present. (5)

In the food-for-thought category, these are two accurate statements about chances and risks as they involve children and registered offenders.

The person who will sexually molest your child is many times more likely to be found sitting around your table at holiday meals than on a sex offender registry. 

Your child is more likely to end up on a sex offender registry him or herself than he or she is to be harmed by someone on the registry.


(3)"Still Time to Rethink the Misguided Approach of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act." AMY BARON-EVANS. Sentencing Resource Counsel, Federal Public and Community Defenders. FEDERAL SENTENCING REPORTER. VO L. 2 0, NO. 5, JUNE 2008, p. 357.

(4) No Easy Answers. Human Rights Watch. September 2007, p. 5.


Saturday, April 13, 2013

What Is Best for Abusers Is Also Best for Victims

Debate is going on in the Oklahoma legislature about toughening current sex offender laws. This is all connected with increasing required time of registration to lifetime for many on the registry, and that is all connected with a move toward becoming SORN, or AWA, compliant. 

Both sides are being heard, which is encouraging. One opinion, printed yesterday in the Muskogee Phoenix and titled, "Victims first, sex offenders second," ends with this appeal: 
"But rather than making state legislators worry about a sex convict’s ability to return to a normal life, the convicts should be thinking about whether their victims will ever be able to return to a normal life."

First, a victim's ability to return to a normal life is not dependent on the outcome of the offender. Ask Elizabeth Smart. Ask Jaycee Dugard. Ask Jacob Wetterling's mom. Ask other high profile victims and thousands of low-profile ones who chose not to remain victims and who chose not to benefit from their positions of victim or family of victim, and they will tell you that their recovery depended on themselves.

Secondly, we must stop seeing what is best for victims and what is best for former offenders as two separate things. They aren't. It isn't either-or. Research and experts agree that what helps former abusers recover--ability to find employment, find housing, have access to counseling and community services, ability to stay connected with family and community, ability to re-integrate--are the very factors that reduce the risk of recidivism and work toward public safety, less crime, and fewer victims.

It really doesn't seem to be a difficult concept.


Friday, April 12, 2013

Warning--Sexual Predator Lives Here

The second week of April, 2013, a picture appeared in varying media outlets—mainstream papers, blogs, news broadcasts, and, of course, Facebook. It came from Florida and depicts a smiling  man clad in typical sheriff’s dress, lawman’s star proudly visible on his chest. He holds a posthole digger in one hand and stands beside a large red sign planted firmly in the ground.
The white letters on the sign proclaim that pursuant to Florida Statute 775.21, a sexual predator, who is named, lives here.

According to the articles, Sheriff Gordon Smith of Bradford County, Florida, is causing 18 of these signs, differing only by the individual’s name thereon, to be erected in front of the homes of Bradford County’s 18 registered sexual predators. Based on the pictures, one would assume that Sheriff Smith will dig every hole and plant every sign himself. However, Fox News 30, WAWS reports, “They'll use inmate labor to post them this week, making the burden on the taxpayer minimal.” 

This blog does not have enough space to contain all that should be written about this, so I will focus on a few legal questions.

In FS 775.21, named “The Florida Sexual Predators Act,” is an attempt, but not a very good one, to distinguish between a sexual predator and an ordinary, garden variety sexual offender: “Repeat sexual offenders, sexual offenders who use physical violence, and sexual offenders who prey on children are sexual predators who present an extreme threat to the public safety. Sexual offenders are extremely likely to use physical violence and to repeat their offenses, and most sexual offenders commit many offenses, have many more victims than are ever reported, and are prosecuted for only a fraction of their crimes.” Does the second sentence still mean predators, or is it, misinformation aside, a statement, as it says, about sex offenders in general? 

The sheriff’s department and his supporters make much of the fact that a clear line is being drawn between sex offenders and predators for the purposes of these signs, yet the ordinance being used to justify the signs is vague in making that distinction. In an attempt to clarify, Fox News printed, “The difference is that a predator is either a repeat offender and/or their crimes are violent with a victim under 12.”

But that is not what the ordinance says. The ordinance says, as given above, the predator designation is assigned to those who 1) are repeat offenders  2) use physical violence  3) prey on children, and, in regard to the last element, a few lines down is this clarification: “…where the victim is a minor…” In Florida a minor is anyone under the age of 18. Nowhere is the age 12—or any age—given as a requirement for the classification.

There is nothing in the ordinance that requires all three elements, or any two elements, to be present, as Fox News has indicated with saying their crimes are violent with a child victim. A repeat offender could be someone who has run naked around the town square three separate times. A person who had a victim under the age of 18 could be the 20-year-old boyfriend of a 17-year-old consensual partner. Are such people designated as predators in Florida? In Bradford County? I don’t know. But using Florida Statute 775.21, they could be. Will they wake up one morning and find bright red signs outside their front doors?

An additional legal issue is the need for this in-your face action. The legal authority, again from FS 775.21, is the directive to provide “…for community and public notification concerning the presence of sexual predators,” and “…upon the court’s written finding that an offender is a sexual predator, in order to protect the public, it is necessary that the sexual predator be registered with the department and that members of the community and the public be notified of the sexual predator’s presence.”

The same Fox News item reports, “Florida law states, as Sheriff, he can notify his community about sexual predators any way he sees fit.” I’m not sure that it does. Any way he sees fit might include branding the letters “SP” with a red-hot poker on the faces of those defined as predators.

The more important issue is the necessity of the signs as means of public notification. The Fox article states, “To alleviate any confusion parents might have about where sexual predators live, he's posting big red signs, bearing the predator's [sic] names, in front of their homes,” and, “He [Sheriff Smith] said parents kept calling with concerns.”

However, the registrants in question are already on a public database, easily located by concerned parents. Furthermore, in a response on a blog called “The Right Sphere,” a citizen of the community wrote, “Thing is, all the neighbors already knew because by law, a sexual predator has to tell all of his neighbors, and the officers will also inform the area to be doubly sure. So the sign only serves to make the knowledge known to visitors.”

To visitors? To people driving through Bradford County on their way elsewhere? To people visiting the designated predators? If they know them well enough to visit, surely they know their status. To people visiting the neighbors of the designated predators? They would surely share such knowledge with friends and family dropping in.

Then why does Sheriff Gordon Smith feel this is a job that he needs to undertake? I wonder if the answer does not lie in these words of the Sheriff in his interview with Fox 30 news: “And if the predators have a problem with it, he said, ‘If they don't like it, they got an option. Leave!’ "


Coursey, Leslie. "No more hiding out for sex predators in Bradford County." 
         (4/8/13) 30 WAWS.

Tommy. "Check Out How This Sheriff Informs Public of Area Sex Offenders." 
         (4/10/13) The Right Sphere.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

What Is Rape Culture?

Rape culture, according to the blog article "So you're tired of hearing about 'rape culture'?" is an environment in which the rape of females by males is, not exactly encouraged, but only disparaged with a wink-wink, nudge-nudge. This article, prompted by a conviction of rape against high school athletes, as well as others on the subject, evoke a perpetuation of the good-ole-boys’ club where the little woman is kept barefoot and pregnant and, if she knows what’s good for her, quiet, by gosh.

Okay, time out here for a bit of a disclaimer. I do not disagree with much that Lauren Nelson, writer of the above-referenced blog, and the writers of similar pieces, have to say. Rape is abhorrent. Cover-ups and “handling the situation internally; no need to involve the police” have and continue to occur and are deplorable. Blaming the victim has a long and dishonorable history and still, to some extent, continues. Rapists should be prosecuted, and victims of forced rape should never be made to feel responsible.

I see rape, however, not as a separate “culture,” but as part of a whole, a piece of a terrible puzzle, with the whole being that we, as a society, have come a long way down the path of losing our ability to show compassion and feel empathy and are rapidly approaching the demonic goal of seeing how cruel and vicious we can be to our fellow human beings. I think back to the cruelty imagined by Ray Bradbury in the futuristic Fahrenheit 451, where teenagers in fast cars found sport in trying to run down senior citizens crossing the street, laughing with joy when they succeeded, and that seems almost benign in the face of teen boys joking about a rape and filming, then posting online, the assault of an intoxicated young girl.

Surely the rape of a male, perhaps never fully understood before the film Deliverance, is part of this whole, yet it is not included in the rape culture paradigm. Although it is acknowledged—barely—as occurring, every article, including Nelson’s, found in a search of the topic deals with the dominance and arrogance of males and the domination/victimization/subjugation/belittling/ objectification/controlling of females. The only attempt found at treating the rape of males as worthy of even a consideration as part of rape culture is in an article about prison rape.

In like manner, there is apparently no place either for the issue of false claims of rape and sexual assault and the part it plays in our society’s march toward total self-interest and the resulting lack of empathy for anyone else. According to Nelson, it isn’t even a discussion worth having because, you see, there really isn’t any such thing as false rape claims or false accusations of sexual assault or wrongful convictions or coerced pleas, or at least not enough to be “significant.” Apparently the attempt was made to interject this discussion into the comment board of her original blog because this appears at the end of that piece: "UPDATEI will no longer be publishing comments which caveat the discussion of rape culture with false rape accusation concerns. There is a reason for this, which you can read here.”

Her defense of her position is unequivocal; “First off, the idea that false accusations are a significant problem in rape is patently untrue” (emphasis hers). Using some mathematical formula, which she prefaces by labeling hypothetical and conjecture, she whittles the instances of actual false reports from the FBI’s estimate of 8%--which she admits would be significant--down to 1%. Many experts put it higher than 8%. The reason it is said to be so high, she claims, is a function of—you got it—rape culture.  And then, in a cutesy attempt to portray the reactions she will get from those who don’t agree with her, she wrote, “But wait, wait, wait! You might say. What about that one report with the DNA thing?”

One report? The DNA thing? One case overturned on DNA and other legitimate evidence? One recantation by false accusers, some ignored for years by prosecutors while innocent men languished in prison?

I posted a link on her blog to the Brian Banks story that by now has aired on television. * It wasn’t printed. I posted a link to Innocence Project reports; it wasn’t printed. ** I wrote her an email politely asking that she consider some actual dialogue on the issue.  I had long given up hope of a response—almost three weeks—when I received a reply, friendly and congenial, apologizing for the delay and agreeing it was an issue that she would revisit. I look forward to the result.

It may be true that we live in a culture that tolerates rape. It is also true that we live in a culture with examples on every side of man’s inhumanity to man. And we certainly live in a time and a place when all a woman or a child need do to virtually assure an assumption of guilt and a guilty verdict is point a finger and say, “He touched me,” or, “He raped me.”

I am reminded of another well-known literary work, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, set in Alabama in the 1930’s. During the trial of Tom, a black man falsely accused of rape by Mayella, a young white woman, in an attempt to stave off her father’s fury at her interest in Tom, the young daughter of Tom’s attorney ruminated to herself that even though her father Atticus had proven Mayella had lied and that Tom could not have done what she claimed, that Tom didn’t have a chance with the jury, that Tom was as good as dead the second Mayella opened her mouth and screamed.

Maybe, baby, we haven’t come a long way after all.


False accusations….just a few:

Blog Overview

Like everyone who has lived over half a century, I have some firmly held beliefs and values. I believe in God. I believe in redemption and that everyone deserves the opportunity for a second chance. I believe in our Constitution and that it either protects all or it protects none. I believe in America while acknowledging that she has some serious flaws and frailties that must be addressed before it is too late.

I believe in personal acceptance of responsibility, in appropriate consequences for wrong-doing, and in forgiveness and restoration when those have occurred. I believe that our laws must—must—be based on facts and research-based evidence to be fair and effective.

I believe that one of the most serious issues in America today is the government-driven and sanctioned policies against those required to publicly register as sex offenders. I believe this is based on a large and erroneous set of myths that have been held and repeated for so long and so often that they have taken on the semblance of fact and truth when they are, in fact, the opposite. I believe an equally serious and related issue is the abuse of our children, physical, emotional, and sexual, and our policies that virtually ignore that issue and devote almost no resources to it.

What can you expect from the blog entries you will read here? Most definitely you will see commentary on current articles and legislation relating to sexual offense issues and other criminal justice, political, and human condition issues. You will see approval and agreement with positions that are moving toward a fact-based system and supported by empirical evidence, and you will definitely see disapproval and criticism when the opposite occurs.

Thank you and enjoy the blog.


Comment Policy

I welcome comments, both in agreement and those with opposing viewpoints. I ask that all comments address the issues, refrain from personal attacks, refrain from profanity and obscenity, and show respect for the holders of all opinions even if you do not agree with the opinions themselves. Comments will be moderated before appearing in print; those that do not meet the criteria for acceptable as stated above will be discarded.

Thank you,