Thursday, March 26, 2015

To Save One Child--Again

It has happened again. An airplane has crashed, killing everyone on board, including quite a few children. This has happened too many times in the past and must not be allowed to continue. Clearly
it is time to ban all air flights and destroy all airplanes. Appropriate legislation will need to be proposed and passed, but if it saves one child, it will be worth it.

Furthermore, with this latest incident and the innocent lives that have been lost on everyone’s mind, we should include automobiles as well. Statistics show that more children’s lives are lost in car accidents than plane accidents, so a complete outlawing of automobiles should have occurred long ago. Think of the children that would still be alive today had that been done.

And guns—that most sacred of subjects; I can hear the yelling about constitutional rights, and logically I agree. I am a strong supporter of our Constitution and the rights and protection it offers, but this has moved beyond that. We simply must be willing to sacrifice some of our rights in order to protect our children.

Knives should be included, and swimming pools, and even bathtubs. How many precious lives are lost yearly by drowning?

More children die each year by any one of these methods, many, many more, than are killed or even harmed by someone on a sex offender registry. Yet the notion of eliminating travel by air or auto had those of you who thought I might be even half serious shaking your heads in disbelief.

Yet let a legislator or any other individual suggest making something else illegal for those on the registry in order to save one child, and most of America jumps on it even though research and law enforcement show clearly that such legislation is a waste of resources because it does not address the very real issue of child sexual abuse. Studies show that approximately 96% of newly reported sexual crime is committed by those not already registered for a previous offense. Law enforcement knows that virtually all sexual crime against children is committed by those in the children’s lives in close and trusted positions, namely: 1) relatives; 2) authority figures; 3) peers.

Why are we so willing to put our children at risk by putting them in cars and planes, by housing them in proximity to guns and knives and sometimes killing them ourselves with those same instruments, yet when it comes to reforming a system that offers nothing in the way of protection against sexual harm to them, we defend that system with every breath in our bodies? We close our eyes and cheer on the laws that blind us to the truth and turn us in the wrong direction, and in so doing, we are taking the greatest risk of all.

I owe thanks to Larry for giving me the idea for this post. Thanks, Larry.

Monday, March 16, 2015

What do you do when everything you do is predicated on fallacies?

A sheriff in Graham County, North Carolina, has made national headlines by sending letters to the twenty registered sex offenders in his jurisdiction telling them they were not allowed to attend worship services at any of the counties’ houses of worship and citing a state law having to do with places where children were supervised.

Fallacy number one: “To all sex offenders…” [letter from sheriff; emphasis mine].

Fact: All designated as sex offenders, based on a requirement to register, did not offend against children. This is overkill; with only twenty registrants, could not case-by-case individualization be managed? A blanket restriction against “all” will encompass sexually active and sexting teens, those with adult victims, and those whose behavior falls in the "public nuisance" or "college-boy stupidity" categories--and of course those who are innocent and were wrongly convicted.

Fallacy number two: “I don’t like them around little children…” [a local minister]. In addition to violating fallacy number one, it assumes that anyone who has previously offended, even against children, will not be able to resist pouncing on any child who comes into his range of vision.

Fact: Almost all child sexual offense is against children with whom the offender has a close relationship and takes place in either the victim’s or the offender’s home, not with random children in public places. Additionally, very few registrants living in the community will commit an additional offense. In fact, specific to North Carolina and according to the North Carolina Sex Offender and Public Protection Registry, based on searches performed as of May 6, 2007, “Manual searches (by county) using the new criteria yield some of the lowest recidivism rates ever disseminated by any law-enforcement establishment. In the entire state of North Carolina there are only 71 recidivists shown on the registry, if incarcerated offenders are included. Per-county results for "registered"-status offenders (compared with "recidivist"-status offenders) on the North Carolina registry yield actual convicted recidivist percentages ranging from zero to a fraction of one percent.”

Fallacy number three: “ ‘You are not permitted to attend church services,’ the letter read, citing a law that prevents offenders from being within 300 feet of premises where minors are supervised” [letter from sheriff].

Fact: Proximity restrictions, along with residency restriction, are totally unsupported by any study or any empirical evidence. The idea that a 300-foot barrier creates a “child-safe zone” is ludicrous. If a child safe zone that was effective were to be created, it would have to separate the family members, the peers, and the authority figures from the child to be protected.

Fact: Until we are willing, as a society, to demand that all legislation is grounded in facts and evidence, we will continue to be bombarded with ineffective laws that eat up our resources but do nothing to work toward public safety or toward the betterment of our society.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Are We Right to Encourage Hatred, Violence, Rape Against Sex Offenders?

Close your eyes and remember the worst thing that ever happened to you. Maybe you lost a loved one in a tragedy. Maybe you suffered a horrible accident that left you paralyzed or disabled. Or maybe you are one of the more fortunate ones, and the loss of an expensive diamond ring or the break-up with a boyfriend or girlfriend is the worst you have experienced.

Or maybe you are like Diena Thompson and suffered the almost unimaginable—the violent death of a precious child at the hands of a rapist and murderer. What kind of revenge would you have wished on her killer? What type of payback would ease your pain a little?

Jarred Harrell is right where he belongs, in prison for life for the brutal murder of little Somer in late 2009. Would that be enough for you, or would you want more payback, more revenge?

The house where Jarred had lived and Somer was murdered had fallen into disrepair and long been condemned. Earlier this month, it was burned to the ground as part of a fire-training exercise by the Orange Park, Florida, fire department—and Diena Thompson. She participated with glee, her smile described as “cathartic” by a journalist, and, according to his interview, she felt delight in the act, proclaiming herself “the big, bad wolf this time.”

I am sure there is not a one of us who does not understand her feelings.

The media is making much of this, and beyond the local level. Is this wrong? If so, why?

One answer is found in the comments posted to the comment board of one article. They range from, “He [Harrell] should have been in it,” to, “Maybe he will be getting raped for life where he is. Wouldn't that make you feel better? And when he is 80 and some young 25 y/o comes in and rapes him and the guards ignore his screams, that will be part of justice.”  

No, that will be part of something that has no place in justice. That is part of vigilantism. That is as much a part of evil as that which Jarred Harrell committed. What irony it is that, in a protest against sexual violence, one wishes for more sexual violence to be committed.

The journalist who wrote that article and played up the joy that Diena experienced in her metaphoric act of vengeance knew that comments would be of that nature, as did the media outlet that published it, as did other journalists and outlets that wrote and published like stories, and they are many.

The harm is more than just giving vigilantes a platform from which to spew their hatred, ignorance, and violence. There are, according to fairly difficult-to-gather figures, somewhere over 700,000 men, women, and children registered as sex offenders in our nation. A scant handful have come near the atrocities that Harrell visited upon Somer, but the vigilante mentality is unable to process that.  To those determined to hate, stories such as this are all of the justification they require to continue the hatred, to refuse to believe the facts, to demand with every opportunity the harshest possible consequences to everyone on the registry because, you see, they all molested children; they are all rapists and destroyers of innocent young lives, and if they haven’t murdered yet, well, just give them time because they will all do it again and will probably kill their next victims.

They are undeterred by the facts that give lie to these spurious statements.

So the questions remain: Are we right to encourage hate and violence against sex offenders? Does it really help those in pain heal? And the biggest question of all, in a paraphrase of an old cliche: Does an eye-for-an-eye make the world a safer, better place to live—or just a blind one? Or, in this case, a raped one?