By Sandy . . . The editorial “We all must provide protection from sex offenders” (Daily Journal, 8/26/17) contains many of the elements commonly found in much media coverage on sexual offense issues.
It opens with the expected fear-mongering: “The mere mention of a child sex offender can conjure up uncontrollable emotions. The reality of a child sex offender frequenting your neighborhood sometimes warrants a drastic response.”
It includes the obligatory – and insulting – comment that suggests the victim in such a case is forever destroyed: “The offender gets his or her life back. The victim never does.” This ploy is something that legitimate victim advocates scorn; the appropriate focus is on recovery, not being a perpetual victim.
It throws in a little name-calling and denigration: “ Why can’t this creep be moved to another neighborhood?”
It even brings up scripture, totally misapplying the words spoken by Christ. “The Good Book says we should tie a heavy stone around the child sex offender’s neck and drop him in the deepest part of the sea, but we are selective when it comes to the Good Book.” Incidentally, a look at the actions of Christ show that some of His greatest love and mercies were shown to those guilty of sexual sins. His greatest condemnations, conversely, were reserved for those who were so quick to condemn others and failed to see their own, much greater sins.
What it does not do is what its title implies must be done – help protect children.
Policies that make homeless outcasts of those on the registry are shown to decrease public safety, not improve it.
Focusing on an undesirable stranger, a man who is on the sex offender registry living in the woods 21 years after a conviction, is misdirection and obfuscation that is worse than saying nothing.
Keeping children safe is a parent’s chief concern, but hyped-up fear mongering that totally ignores the vast body of research done on the subject for the past 15 plus years does no service to anyone. It does communities no service because it does not contribute to public safety. It does former offenders no service because it invalidates and often makes impossible everything needed for stability and rehabilitation. And most of all, it does children no service because the overwhelmingly greater risk for harm to them comes not from those on the registry for a previous sexual offense but from those close to them in their lives who are not on the registry, specifically their family members, their peers, and their authority figures.
This is an emotional issue, but laws must not be driven by emotions; they must be driven by empirical evidence if they are to be effective. No empirical evidence exists that supports “child-safe zones,” public registration/notification, or fear-mongering, hate-driven editorials as valid approaches to improving public safety or reducing child sexual abuse.
Sandy, a NARSOL board member, is communications director for NARSOL, editor-in-chief of the Digest, and a writer for the Digest and the NARSOL website. Additionally, she participates in updating and managing the website and assisting with a variety of organizational tasks.