This will be filed under Halloween, but it extends far beyond that.
A little town in Indiana named Bedford did something this Halloween that I found particularly despicable. The past week or so I have been commenting fast and furiously, as often as possible, against the need to expend extra-ordinary efforts protecting trick-or-treaters against registrants and for the more-needed addition of traffic patrols Halloween evening and night. I was getting rather blase about it because the articles were much the same: for the town's or county's registered citizens, no decorations; no lights; no costumes; no handing out treats; no being on the streets; mandatory meetings.
Then this morning, this headline really caught my eye: "Police use creative video to warn community about sex offenders before Halloween." The opening paragraphs give the full picture--pun intended--better than I could paraphrase it:
Halloween is just days away, and one central Indiana police department is getting the word out about local sex offenders.
The Bedford Police Department made a Facebook video that shows the faces of the nearly 50 sex offenders living in the city.My first thought was, "Well, crap. What if some kid sees his or her daddy or uncle or grandpa on there? Will there be any end to the grief for that child, to the harassment and bullying that will result from peers?"
My second thought was, "This is SO wrong." I started hunting for a way to post an objection. The article did not have a comment board attached. I found a Facebook page for the news outlet that posted the original article and dropped in this comment:
This is horrible...and total nonsense. A little research would reveal that children are at zero increased risk for sexual harm from registrants or from anyone else on Halloween; it would reveal that exhaustive research has failed to turn up any cases of children being harmed by a registrant on Halloween. It will also reveal that every year several children are killed and more injured in auto-pedestrian accidents. What children are at increased risk for on Halloween is death by car. So, if the authorities of Bedford actually care about child safety and want to protect children on Halloween, they should direct their efforts to increased traffic patrol and traffic safety.
These two blog entries just came out and are very informative:
At With Justice for All: "This is getting boring, but it's Halloween again"
At Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment: "Halloween & Sex Crime: Myth vs. Reality"the link to the page about the video, I put the comment there along-side a dozen or so others about the video display. Mine was the longest and therefore prominent. When I went back a few minutes later, my comment was gone--and so was the window for me to write another comment. They not only removed my comment; they also blocked my posting on that page. I then went to their main Facebook page; I was blocked from there also.
Maybe I shouldn't have said it was horrible or called it nonsense. I seriously doubt that would have made a difference, but I still wonder. The rest of my comment was fact and truth. If the Bedford Police Department Facebook moderator cared at all for the truth, he could have just removed the horrible and nonsense part and left the rest.
This is the greatest challenge that those of our advocacy face: getting the truth before the public. Our venues are limited; our blogs are read by each other and very few others. Mainstream publications and venues must be hit in the face with significant articles by prominent writers or results of research before they will publish anything giving the actual facts.
So what does this mean? First, we have a hard job ahead of us, but we already know that. More importantly, we will not be silenced. If one of us is blocked, ten more will find a way and a place to make our voices heard. There is no option. Facebook can block us; letters to the editor may be deemed not worthy of publication; law-enforcement sites may ignore or remove our comments. We will find a way. We will not be silenced.