Saturday, May 31, 2014

I want to title this WTF but I'll settle for What the Hell?

This has gone too far. In "If It Saves One Child," I referenced a case where three-year-olds were "investigated" for "sexual fondling" in their pre-school bathroom for looking at and touching each others' wee-wees. The article reports that, in the wake of the publicity about the incident, the mother of another student at the school "...called the state's child abuse hotline to report she witnessed her child, who was not involved in the first incident, touching himself." 

Then there was the case where the mother of a three-year-old was given a ticket when her son, playing outside, couldn't get into his house in time and urinated in his yard in view of horrified--my emphasis and my sarcasm--neighbors and, unfortunately, the policeman who gave the ticket.

What was fortunate is that, in both of these cases, nothing resembling actual charges were filed, and subsequent reports indicate that they were dismissed as being without merit.

However, a six-year-old in Wisconsin was not as lucky. When he and playmates engaged in a "playing doctor" episode and the mother of one of the children pressed charges, she found a district attorney not only willing to prosecute the case but eager to do so. This case is fraught with accusations and a host of issues, but the bottom line is this: this child, charged with and adjudicated for first degree felony sexual assault, will be required to be on the public sex offender registry when he turns 18 for something he did at age 6. In the words of the article, "...District Attorney Lisa Riniker has guaranteed that one local 6-year-old boy will have a series of awkward therapy sessions as an adolescent, and again as a middle-aged man—if he lives that long. In a less-rosy outcome, Riniker’s targeted kid just might succumb to the stress of life as a publicly listed sex offender, and retreat from society, or even kill himself."

This is appalling; this is unacceptable; this is criminal in itself.

And now, today this is printed. A nine-year-old boy in Ohio has been charged with gross sexual imposition for pulling down another child's pants and touching him inappropriately. This is a breaking story, and nothing has yet been finalized as to how it will be handled. Even though the news report stresses how prosecutors use discretion in handling juvenile cases, it is filled with words such as, "sex crime," "criminal," and "criminal charge," and it is titled, "9-year-old boy charged with sex crime."

Nine is older than six. Nevertheless, this, from all appearances, is a case of childish play and curiosity. If it must go beyond the purview of the parents of the children and the possibility of some counseling, why is
family court not adequate? Why are prosecutors and even the possibility of criminal charges and sex crimes part of the equation? If the juvenile prosecutors and the Juvenile Court referenced in the article preclude the possibility of this child having a criminal record and being required to register as a sex offender, then they are doing it right, and I hope that is so. However, my confidence level is not high.

The trend is to criminalize, more and more, behavior that is not criminal, behavior that is merely stupid, and, most disturbingly, behavior that is part of normal childish curiosity and play, behavior that is part of normal child development.

And most disturbing of all is the fact that the sex offender registry, something sold to the public on the grounds that it would protect children, is now a weapon used against children and putting them in unfathomable danger.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth

On May 20, an editorial was printed in the Keene, New Hampshire's Sentinel. Titled "State's sex-offender registry overreaches,” it says much that is good and grounded in facts.

Its primary thesis is that inclusion on a public sex offender registry is punishment and not merely regulatory. When this scheme was first conceived, it was pronounced to be a regulatory mechanism, and the Supreme Court agreed. Since then, being placed on a public registry has indeed become, increasingly each year, a
death knell for many.

Employers have fired productive workers due to threats of boycotts and, in some cases, vandalism to their property because they employed a sex offender. Many registrants can’t even get hired.

Registrants with children suffer many varied punishments: inability to keep suitable housing in which to raise their children, forced separation from their families due to the housing and a myriad of other issues, having their children terrified by vigilantes vandalizing the home or the family vehicle, and seeing them come home in tears and even bruises from the treatment received at the hands of their peers due to daddy being on the sex offender registry.

Registrants and their family members are indeed targets for all sorts of acts of vigilantism, up to and including murder, as witnessed not only in Maine, as the article points out, but also in Washington State--twice--in California, in South Carolina, and, ironically, in a very suspicious case right there in Keene itself--and these are only the tip of the iceberg.

So--well done, Sentinel.

Until you said, "Given the recidivism rates involved in sexual assault cases, especially those victimizing children, there’s a lot to be said for keeping the public informed of legitimate threats."

Which recidivism rates, Sentinel? Those of the latest study by the Department of Justice showing the re-arrest rate for a second sexual offense by a registrant to be 5.7% and the re-conviction rate to be 3.5%? Or possibly New Hampshire's own  2010 state report of sex offenders returned to prison within five years for a sexual re-offense, as reported by the Citizens for Criminal Justice Reform. "... the 5-year new victim re-offense rate for sex offenders was just 1.2%….

"These low numbers suggests sex offenders respond well to supervision and treatment, and don't commit new sex crimes at the rate the public thinks they do, said Michael Lawlor, Connecticut’s chief of criminal-justice policy."

And as far as those who victimize children, two facts come into play. Children who are sexually abused are
overwhelmingly victims of those in close and trusted positions in their lives, many of them conditions of incest. Studies show that, once these types of offenders are arrested and dealt with in the court system, they have extremely low levels of re-offense, lower than the average lows, and it has nothing to do with "keeping the public informed." These are not the "legitimate threats"; they almost always are correlated with those whose chosen victims are random strangers, and those situations are rare.

Those who advocate for fact-based legislation governing the treatment of those who have sexually offended appreciate the Sentinel's tearing away some of the myths and exposing the facts. We will appreciate it more when all of the facts are revealed.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Of sex trafficking and International Megan's Law and cabbages and kings

~~by Shelly

A piece of legislation called International Megan’s Law—HR 4573—passed the U.S. House of Representatives, according to this article, June 20.

The bill’s sponsor, U.S. Congressman Chris Smith, has been pushing this bill, in various forms, for years. It is aimed at sex trafficking in general and will largely affect American registrants traveling out of the country, but named after Megan Kanka, a seven year old child who was murdered twenty years ago, and touted as “…the model needed for the U.S. to persuade other countries to take action to stop both child sex tourism within their borders and protect children in the United States and elsewhere,” the focus perceived by the American public is on the taking of American children for use in the forced sex market.

Sex trafficking is the new buzz-word in the sex offender industry. We have all read of its horrors—huge numbers of “sex slaves” descending on the Super Bowl; vast numbers of children scooped off the streets and forced into a life from which they cannot break free.

I cannot speak for other countries. I know there are some where life, especially a child's life, is very cheap and poverty is overwhelming. But this legislation was not passed by creating fear in our hearts for what was happening to children in third-world countries. It was passed by creating fear in our hearts that OUR children, MY child, could fall prey to the network of monsters scouring the streets of our cities and villages and taking our children.

I know about “throw-away” kids. I know teenagers run away, leave home for various and sundry reasons, and I am certain that a disproportionate number of them become entangled in prostitution, and this is terrible. But is this what people think of when they are told that legislation must be passed that will somehow keep their children safe from being forced into the sex and pornography trade?

Facebook pages declare “Every 30 seconds another person becomes a victim of human trafficking.” Another site says, “Abolish sex trafficking; 200,000 are at risk for sexual exploitation this year.” These are the type of pseudo-statistics that are not based on any study or scientific attempt at measuring or counting. They cannot be proved—or disproved. Facts are so twisted with myth that the reality is impossible to sort out.

As far as children, this FACT is worth noting: several sources, including the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, place the number of actual, real abductions of children and teens in the U.S for any nefarious purpose at an average of 115 a year, and almost all of those are recovered.

The bill’s sponsor, Congressman Smith, said, “The stories of the victims are tragic — ruined childhoods, devastated families, lifetimes of memories of assaults and sometimes worse.”

The implication is that these are families Mr. Smith has spoken with, stories he has heard personally, and tragedies with which he is intimately acquainted.


This is where I have trouble. As I said, I cannot speak and do not speak to what may be happening outside of the United States. And I cannot speak for anything outside of my own personal experience, but my own personal experience is this:

Like almost all American children, I went to school for twelve years and then college for six. I knew lots of kids and families. I had three children. They all had masses of friends and went to school with even greater masses of other children. I knew their friends and their families. They were involved with sports, which put us in contact with children and youth from schools all over the city.

I now have grandchildren. I know many of their friends and their families. I today have a huge circle of friends and acquaintances and contacts.

I taught high school for 28 years. I taught Sunday School and still do. I was on the Board of Education at my church’s parochial school. The number of young people and of families that I knew over all those years is literally incalculable.

In all of those years, with all of those youth, with all of those people, I never knew of a single child or person who just disappeared and was never heard from again. I never knew of a single child or person who was recovered from forced sex slavery or child pornography and told her—or his—story. I never knew a single family who had a child just disappear. I never knew anyone who knew of a single child or person to whom this happened. I never heard of a family to whom this happened. I never heard a rumor of someone to whom this happened.

Does that mean anything? I don’t know. I do know that what this legislation will do has little to do with children being taken in the United States. What it will do in reality is, again, target a very broad category of people, almost none of whom have ever kidnapped a child or operated a “sex ring” or produced child pornography, and apply restrictions to them which are inappropriate and which infringe on their rights to travel.

And which will do absolutely nothing to “protect children in the United States.” Again.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Sex offender alert: get those bumper stickers off that window!

~~by Shelly

This will sound like my friend Lenore Skenazy at Free-Range Kids, but honestly, this has just gone too far.

Besides being poorly written and edited--it says "several police departments" and identifies none; it uses "sick" when it means "stick"-Freudian slip?--this article and what it says are ridiculous.

The premise is that seeing bumper-sticker-type stick figures portraying a family with young children will incite someone with pedophilic tendencies to--what?-follow the car home, kill the parents, and abscond with the children? Attack the car at a stop light and drag the children from the car?

The article, and presumably the warning of these police departments, whoever they are, also cautions against anything on the car that identifies the school that one's child goes to. The only rationale I can think of here is that someone intent on abducting a random child would not know that schools contain children until he sees a bumper sticker announcing, "My child is an honor student at Roosevelt Elementary."

And don't even get me started on the ridiculous notion that children are abducted from schools by strangers on a regular--or irregular--or any kind of--basis.

Lenore's mission is to debunk the notion that our children are at risk every minute of every day from every conceivable danger. I wonder if she will re-think her position now that she has been alerted to the potential horrors that await those who put stick figures on their cars.