Thursday, August 14, 2014

Do we need to be afraid of dirty old men?

I read something this morning that I need to throw out for consideration.

In brief, a senior citizen--73 years senior--has been forced from his home in Michigan. His conviction--and not the first--was for indecent exposure to school children. His home was close to the school on the route a bus took to reach the school. According to reports, he stood naked on his front porch as the bus went by.

If reports are true and accurate, most would call him him a dirty old man, including myself. My question is, is it necessary to bring to bear the weight of the state of Michigan's sex offender registry and the forceful removal of an old man from his home to deal with a dirty old man?

The courts had already required that he erect a fence around his property that could not be seen through. Unsatisfied with this, an assistant prosecutor filed an appeal asking the court to force him to move. This won the day, and the bare-butted old gentleman no longer lives where innocent children will have their delicate sensibilities shocked at the view.

Most of my readers, including myself--I do read my own posts and usually enjoy them--remember our own youthful encounters with the dirty old man in the neighborhood. Those of us over the age of forty remember how we dealt with it. We shrieked, we screamed, and we ran for home or school, depending on our destination of the moment. We babbled out to mom or dad or Mrs. Smith what we saw, and we got, quite possibly, minimal reaction.

If it was a small town, we might have heard, "Oh, Mr. Turner's daughter let him get outside again," or "Someone needs to tell Sheriff Tate to have a come-to-Jesus talk with Mr. Parker again." Then we were given a brief explanation that sometimes some people do things when they are old or when they are sick or when they have mental illnesses that people not so afflicted do not do. Then we were told to always run home or to school and tell an adult about it but not to worry about it. My friend told me her mother told her that if it happened again, to point at him and laugh before running away.

In a larger city where everyone didn't know everyone, the explanation and the advice sufficed.

And we did what our parents told us, and we went our merry ways. And we were not assaulted or kidnapped or traumatized or fearful for our lives or our safety. And that is what we in turn told our children when they came running home babbling about the man on the corner who unzipped his pants and waved his willy at them.

But somewhere along the way, that wasn't good enough. In spite of all evidence to the contrary, we decided that the precious sensibilities of our children were being assaulted and that they were in imminent danger of terrible harm. We didn't have the sense to realize that it was our reaction that scared our children senseless rather than what they had seen. We decided that we needed to protect our children in every situation rather than teach them how to protect themselves. We decided that such people were perverts, and that perverts needed to be registered and shamed, and their families shamed, and the strong arm of the law and of the courts was not only the appropriate way to deal with the situation but the only way.

And we added yet another category of offender to the registry in order to "protect the children."

And we continue to teach our children that they are not safe in the world and that they don't have enough sense to know what to do when something unexpected occurs and that they can't take care of themselves.

In my humble opinion, we are doing a great disservice, not only to the dirty old men but to our children also.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Nothing left for this one but WTF

My last post to this blog is dated May 31. On Jun 1 my husband suffered a serious injury, one that has required inpatient therapy, which still continues, and requires my being with him almost all of my waking hours. I am just now trying to carve out a few early morning and late night hours to get back into my work. This is my first effort here, and I absolutely cannot let this situation go by without exploding over it.

That last post concluded with this sentence:

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.

Keep that sentence in mind.

This is the situation that pushes me back here right now instead of on the freeway heading to the rehab hospital.

In short, according to the Washington Post article, a 15 year old girl texted naughty pics of herself to her 17 year old boyfriend. He responded by sending her a video of like images of himself. Her mother saw the video, and it went downhill from there.

The Manassas City, Virginia, police, in their attempts to make a felony case against him for possession of and for production of child pornography, seek to serve him with a warrant forcing him to submit to photographs being taken of his erect penis for "comparison purposes." The erection will be induced by means of drugs in a hospital setting.

Most people are finding that point the central horrifying element.

I do not, as vile and disgusting as it is, nor do I find the fact that he could spend the years between a conviction and his 21st birthday in prison the most egregious, although depending on what might happen to him in prison, I could change my mind on that point.

According to the Post, he would also face inclusion on Virginia's public sex offender registry, possibly for life.

Let's go back to the last sentence of my last post.

We are talking about a kid here. This young man is in high school.  He plays football. He goes to classes every day. He's a KID.

There is no suggestion that he sent pictures of his girlfriend or of himself to third persons. Why, in the name of all that is holy, are the police, and one assumes the Manassas County District Attorney's office, determined to ruin the life of this KID? Why are they using something that was sold to the public on the grounds that it would protect children as a weapon against this 17 year old kid and putting him in unfathomable danger?


Update--7/11  The Manassas Police Department has withdrawn its attempt to seek the warrant forcing this young man to submit to a medically forced erection in order to photograph it. I fully believe they have taken this action because there was a great hue and cry against what they proposed, a hue and cry from many quarters. We must learn from this. We must keep up the pressure, keep up the expressions of outrage at any and every opportunity. We must watch this case carefully. Will they continue their case against him? Will the district attorney file charges? We watch and wait.

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.