Mr. Grassley, like you, we grieve with families of children who are victimized and abused, and we especially grieve that virtually all of this type of crime is committed by the family members and others close to their young victims. Like you, we would like to see a strong commitment to keeping our nation’s children safe.
Unlike you, however, we have seen no evidence of this commitment for the past twenty-five years. Such a commitment must be based on solid research, on facts and evidence, and on the reality of both child sexual abuse and of those who are the abusers.
The Adam Walsh Act is ill-conceived legislation, contraindicated by empirical evidence, which fails to address the crime of child sexual abuse because it does not target those who commit child sexual abuse.
The rhetoric and the reality of the AWA are light years apart. The rhetoric says the AWA “was enacted in response to multiple, notorious cases involving children who had been targeted by adult criminals, many of them repeat sex offenders.” The reality is that the cases that drove the legislation are the rarest of rare crimes. They are crimes of murder. They are crimes that would not have been prevented by the AWA or by a thousand sex offender registries.
The reality is that the crime that set John Walsh upon his crusade, the murder of his son, was not committed by a person on the sex offender registry at all.
The reality is that the 800,000 persons on sex offender registries across the nation -- ranging in age, according to the various registries, from nine years old to well over a hundred – have not killed anyone. The reality is that the vast majority of them are not repeat offenders but one-time offenders who, after completion of their sentences, live in our communities without ever committing another offense.
The reality is that the many, many millions of dollars and many millions of law-enforcement hours expended in public notification and public registration of those who have committed sexual crimes do not advance public safety. A huge and growing body of evidence attests that they do not affect the rate of first time sexual offenses, of repeat offenses, or of child sexual offenses.
And so we grieve also, Mr. Grassley.
We grieve that our priorities have become focused on ineffective punishments rather than prevention programs. Last January, a coalition including both sexual assault prevention and victims’ groups called for the creation of a stable funding stream dedicated to preventing child sexual abuse and exploitation. The group asked for funding to equal at least one percent – ONE percent! -- of the millions currently spent on “after-the-fact” responses like sex registries and civil commitment. They are still waiting.
We, like you, grieve for Jetseta and Dru and Megan. We also grieve for other rare cases of children falling victims to repeat offenders, those in more recent years who were not “saved” by the registry or the AWA, those like Jaycee and Chelsea and Cherish.
And we grieve for the deaths of those who were murdered for no reason other than that they were on a public registry, targeted and slaughtered for an offense long ago paid for, such as were Gary and Jerry and Jeremy and his wife Christine, killed just because she was with him when vigilante murderers found him, and Hugh Edwards, who wasn’t even on the registry but was mistaken for someone who was.
We grieve for the registrants who have paid for their crimes and want nothing more than to be allowed to live law-abiding lives but cannot find a job or even a place to live. We grieve for their families, especially their children, who suffer ostracism and ridicule and abuse due to the crimes of their parents.
We grieve especially for the children of continuing and new sexual abuse who will grow up to know that their society chose to ignore their plight, invisible and easy to ignore, in favor of a very public and popular demand for policies and laws and legislation that wasted millions and accomplished nothing.
And we grieve for that society, which is OUR society, and for what it has become.