Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Five Things Sexual Abuse Survivors Must Do Better

So, recently, Stop Abuse Campaign came out with a featured story, titled, "Top Ten Things You Learn by Listening to Survivors." As a survivor, MAP, and advocate, I have some issues with some of what they share, but I found this particular story informative. It helps me to hear the stories and perspectives of survivors I have never met, because I am an introvert and the support group I attended for many years was a rather small one. This limited my exposure to other survivors, and these days, the most interaction I have with other survivors is through my advocacy.



I Am A Survivor

In case you did not know, I myself am a sexual abuse survivor. I do not talk about it much, because it is not the abuse itself that has affected me overmuch, it was my struggle to find resources for coping with my pedophilia that affected me more. The abuse tweaked my beliefs more than it traumatized me. So, I think what I say here has validity to survivor concerns, as well as ending sexual abuse.

Thing Number One: Learn The Facts And Cite Them Properly

The first thing that abuse survivors who advocate seem to have an issue with is letting the facts speak for themselves, as well as stating something as fact and then failing to cite the source for it somewhere in their material, or in a visible enough location that anyone can find it. Sometimes, survivor advocates push policies that have no basis in fact. Other times, they cherry-pick the statistics they cite.

Sometimes, bad information is to blame, and organizations cite the source properly, but the source turns out to be a bad apple or outdated. In example, for years, Gene Abel was treated as the end-all solution to issues related to pedophilia, and much of his "research" was cited on many sites. To this day, his "research" is cited on Darkness to Light's statistics page in saying that, "Pedophilic offenders often start offending at an early age, and often have a large number of victims (frequently not family members)". We now know that Gene Abel was full of garbage, and he has an entire Wikipedia page almost entirely on how he is a quack.

Other times, popularity takes a role: Sex offender policies have been particularly popular with the public, and so they get pushed more frequently because they have public support, even though there is an utter lack of research supporting the effectiveness of sex offender policies (feel free to do your own homework: "effectiveness of sex offender registration" and "effectiveness of Megan's Law" should help get you started).

Thing Number Two: Include More Perspectives Besides Survivors

The fact that I am a MAP in addition to being a survivor colors how I look at preventing sexual abuse. Sometimes, the voices in academia are ignored because they use complicated language and propose ideas that are downright unsettling. However, these are people who have dedicated their lives to figuring out why sex crimes happen so that they can be prevented. It is also important to have voices from the academic world coloring our perspective, because they see the data and trends firsthand and can give us practical solutions we might not otherwise consider.

I know many stories of people who wrestled with pedophilia, and ended up hurting a child because they did not have resources available to them. While that is no excuse, it means that referring to abusers as pedophiles actually hurts prevention efforts by giving pedophiles the idea that they will inevitably hurt a child (an idea that can not only be severely damaging, but turn into self-fulfilling prophecy).

Survivors also push for harsher sentencing, despite overwhelming evidence that sex offenders eventually make their way back into our communities, and mostly never commit another crime. The harder we make it to get back into the community, the easier we make it for them to commit another crime because we give them more reasons to give up on a fulfilling life. While it may be difficult for survivors to imagine seeing the perspective of an ex-offender, I think it is necessary because it gives us a face-to-face look at what we can do with the policies we push for.

Thing Number Three: Realize Not All Abused Children React The Same Way

This is basic, but each survivor is different. Just because another survivor has a differing view of their abuse, and abuse as a whole, does not make that view less legitimate. Just because someone's abuse seemed less bad than your own or someone else's does not mean that their abuse did not affect them. We should give each other space to hold our own views, and give each other the space to share - or not share - how abuse has affected us.

As survivors, we must also avoid perpetuating the myth that most victims go on to abuse children, because that is not what the facts say. The research is very clear: Around 50-60% of abusers claim to have been abused, and studies that use polygraph find that only 30-40% of sexual abusers have been sexually abused. We would expect a much higher rate, and more abusers for each victim, if most victims go on to abuse children. Instead, we find that there are more victims for each abuser.

Thing Number Four: Pedophilia Is Not Abuse, Pedophiles Are Not Abusers

This may be a nuance distinction for some, but pedophilia is best understood as a sexual attraction to children. It is not synonymous with sexual abuse. Multiple sources attest to this: James Cantor, Elizabeth Letourneau, Michael Seto, and Ian McPhail are just a few of the many researchers that recommend against conflating a sexual attraction with sexual abuse. Likewise, a pedophile is someone with a sexual attraction to children, which has no bearing on whether someone will harm a child. One-third of sexual abusers have pedophilia, the majority do not have pedophilia.

This wades close to the uncomfortable topic of what motivates sexual abuse, but it is not sexual attraction or sexual pleasure in most cases. In most cases, sexual abuse is motivated by unmet mental health needs in someone who does not have an adequate support system. These unmet needs vary greatly, from having pedophilia and not having the adequate support to face that, to juveniles who have been abused and are acting their abuse out on a younger child.

If we ignore the motivations of abuse - and yes they are uncomfortable to pay attention to, and no they do not justify sexual abuse in any form - then we can enable abuse to occur by driving people towards the very things that motivate sexual abuse and other crimes. By inferring that someone with a sexual attraction to children is doomed to abuse them, we put them in a worse psychological state that can fuel the very thing we want to avoid: The abuse of a child. As someone who was damaged by that inference, I believe we must end the myth that abusers are pedophiles and pedophiles are abusers.

Thing Number Five: ACE Scores Are Not Just For Victims

Yes, you read that correctly. There has been much discussion in survivor and prevention circles around the impact of ACEs, or Adverse Childhood Experiences as it pertains to their frequency in the general public, and the severe harm they can inflict on people. However, what we have been ignoring is just how much ACE scores also correlate to crime. Recently, Jill Levenson and several of her colleagues have been looking at sex offenders and general offenders who have ACEs.

Their findings firmly establish that we must focus prevention differently. As you view the chart below, bear in mind that the PINK line is the original ACE study, the GRAY line is adult sex offenders, the ORANGE is juvenile sex offenders, and the BLUE is juvenile offenders of any kind.

In other words, while generally many people have no or only one ACE and that goes down as you increase the ACE score, the opposite is true for adult sex offenders, juvenile sex offenders, and juvenile offenders in general. Their research shows that 97% of sex offenders have at least one ACE in their background, and many of them have four or more ACEs.

What this means is not only that sexual abuse must end, but that the key to ending sexual abuse is by caring for youth with ACEs with trauma-informed care, mentoring programs, and community engagement. We must reach them with the resources they need to overcome the trials they faced in childhood, and help them. This is primary prevention at work. While ACEs are a fascinating subject, there is much to be learned about them and their impact on difficult issues like sexual abuse.

We Must Improve So That Sexual Abuse Can End

Humanity has done some of its greatest work when we collaborate, network, and work with other human beings of differing perspectives. The issue of child sexual abuse is not simple, and some abuse is indeed (as much as we hate to admit this) inevitable.

However, if we can put our heads together - the civil rights advocates that state that sex offenders are people too, the abuse survivors who were directly affected by sex crimes, the people who have a sexual attraction to children and want help instead of judgment, the researchers who study sex crimes and policies that might end them, and the policymakers themselves who can guide working policies...

If we can all come together, look at this issue, and see all of these perspectives and come up with ideas for ending sexual abuse, then we stand a much better chance at making real change happen. As it is, we are bickering among ourselves about who has the best method, and children are paying the price for it. I think we need to stop bickering and put our heads together.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Negativity Towards Pedophiles: A Pedophile's Response to Craig Harper and Ross Bartels

A Nice Source

A recent post on nextgenforensic, a blog full of articles from researchers and practitioners about sex offense theory, research, and practice, has me thinking hard about the issue of how we change people's beliefs about pedophiles and pedophilia.

Wait. Why Change Negativity Towards Pedophiles?

You see, the average person thinks that a "pedophile" is someone who molests children, and "pedophilia" is synonymous with child sexual abuse. However, when a researcher, pedophile, or advocate hears these words, we know that "pedophile" usually refers to someone who is sexually attracted to children, and "pedophilia" refers to that attraction. There are further distinctions, but I think that is as far as most people are willing to go.

So we have a nice little hangup between what people familiar with these terms mean to them, and how everyone else understands these terms. Everyone else understands them to refer to behavior and those who have acted in a horrific and heinous way towards a child, where those familiar with the terms know them to refer only to feelings and those with said feelings. Some researchers differentiate between offending and non-offending pedophiles to subtly point to that difference.

The introduction of Harper and Bartels' article paints a very good picture of why child sexual abuse and pedophilia, as well as child rapists and pedophiles, are two very different things from one another, yet still related.

How To Change Someone's Mind

Harper and Bartels point out recent research that points to the idea that minds are not changed based on fact, they are changed when they hear stories of people. They did their own study on how that applies to the stigma against pedophles and pedophilia, and their study found much the same thing: In order to make a bigger dent in changing someone's attitudes towards pedophilia, it is better to tell a short narrative than it is to present facts.

In Short, Tell The Media Stories

They conclude that the mainstream media should use first-person narratives to help prevention ideas be more effective. They want the mainstream media to tell the stories of pedophiles who are non-offending and wish to remain so. Two outlets have done so in recent memory: Salon (who subsequently pulled their articles about Todd Nickerson) and the BBC. There was also a bit of a blurb from a guy in Oregon who started ASAP International, but his story had a very fierce reaction to it for a variety of reasons. Namely, there had been accusations years prior from an adopted daughter that the man sexually abused her. The police never filed charges, but it was enough to get people to dismiss his story, unlike Todd Nickerson, who just sparked a lot of conversation all across the internet (I covered Gary Gibson and Todd Nickerson here).

This Begs The Question...

Most, if not all local news outlets, do not cover first-person stories like this unless someone is willing to have their real name in print. Given the amount of negativity that exists towards pedophiles and the very real danger of losing housing, jobs, and relationships, this is not an option for most pedophiles. This same dilemma is the one facing sex offenders who wish to speak out against registration because of its lack of efficacy, but cannot afford to lose what they have built back from having their name dragged into the mud from their actions.

Stories Are Limited

I think that stories are a wonderful medium for attracting discussion and ideas. However, stories are very limited: Only those interested in the story will take the time to read or listen to it. Unless we are exposing large groups of people to these stories, without telling them that they will be, stories will only have an impact on those willing to hear them.

I suggest we come up with other options to test during future research into changing the negativity towards pedophilia. Most people think they already know what a pedophile is: A child molester. I suspect changing that will be similar to changing the myth of stranger danger. So why not apply the same principles?

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Victim's Rights, Offender's Rights, And Residency

Backstory

So, a few months ago, we found out that a Oklahoma sex offender was living... right next door to the woman he molested when she was a child. Now, Oklahoma is about to enact a new law prohibiting sex offenders from being or living within 1,000 feet of their victim. At face value, this seems wise. When you dig deeper into the story and into the topic as a whole, it is not that simple.

Why Is It Not Simple?

When we hear the word, "sex offender," we immediately think of a child molester or a rapist. However, the term is not that simple by itself. It also refers to those convicted of kidnapping charges and first-degree murder, as well as teenagers sexting pictures of themselves to other teenagers... and Romeo-Juliet situations where one consenting partner or the other is underage and the parents do not like the situation. The term "sex offender" encompasses many crimes, both major and minor, some that involve victims and some that do not.

My "area of expertise" is child sexual abuse- child molestation, which is an admittedly serious crime. However, the situations do not fit the stereotype: A middle-age man molesting a stranger child after kidnapping them. About half of sexual abuse cases are perpetrated by juveniles- other children who are older. I covered the topic of juvenile sex offenders during my analysis of the Moore Center Symposium this year. So keeping "sex offenders" away from their "victims" also means keeping friends away from younger friends, siblings apart, and family members living under two different roofs.

There is therapy specifically designed for three goals: Accountability for the perpetrator, healing for the victim, and reunification for both parties. This therapy is called "reunification therapy," and is only used if all parties involved consent. This therapy is very valuable for victims, for offenders, and for communities. It is unclear how often this is used, but roughly 30% of sexual abuse cases involve family-on-family perpetrators and victims.

Why Do We Need To Pause?

We must pause to consider the ramifications of creating more onerous requirements on sexual offenders, not only because the issue is not simple, but because of the facts: Most sexual offenders never commit another sexual crime, and most sexual abusers never reoffend once caught. While the concerns of victims are certainly not trivial, there are already systems in place to keep offenders who are causing trouble for their victims away from them. Namely, restraining orders and charges of stalking and harassment.

What Happens Now?

Because the coverage that has already swept the nation, and the appalled but uninformed reactions of many people, the proposed law will almost certainly pass, to the dismay of other advocacy groups. I agree in part: We need laws that are based in fact and effective at eliminating crime, not laws that claim to do just that, but cause more burdens on all parties involved.

This law has the capacity to not only prevent offenders from living in certain areas, it has the capacity to tear families and friends apart. While this law may pass, we must pause in the aftermath to evaluate just what kind of chaos this law is causing once it is implemented, and figure out better alternatives that give weight not only to existing victims, but solutions that are effective in preventing victims from those who have never committed a crime.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Lenore Skenazy: One Family's Experience With Disabilities, Sexual Abuse... And The Sex Offender Registry

Introduction By TNF 13

You have heard me discuss many times why the sex offender registry does not protect children: It does not address the realities of how sexual crimes happen, particularly child sexual abuse. The following is an article written by Lenore Skenazy of Free Range Kids, a parenting site about giving children the freedom to learn responsibility, without being needlessly afraid of crime. Read, as she recounts a story she heard recently...

The woman who looked to be about 60 walked up to the podium and spoke in a quiet voice. She was at a St. Louis synagogue that was hosting an evening of presentations about the sex offender registry. I spoke, too. But this mom’s story has haunted me in the weeks since. I asked for a copy of her speech, which is below. She prefers to remain anonymous. – L.
A mother whose son loved the Special Olympics grieves for the modestly happy future she’d hoped for her son, now on the Sex Offender Registry.
THE SEX OFFENDER REGISTRY AND THE MENTALLY DISABLED
I am a mother, advocate and caretaker of a 30 year old young man with IDD. That is an intellectual and developmental disability, formerly called Mentally Retarded. I am also the co-founder of a national group called Legal Reform for the Intellectually and Developmentally Disabled.
My son has been on the [sex offender] registry since 2012. But the story really begins on December 5, 1986. A baby boy was born. 
Everything seemed fine. A healthy, happy baby. The first few milestones were met. Crawling, walking and making cute baby sounds. At age 2 there were very few words. At age 3, no progress was made in speech and the seizures started. Testing began.
In the Spring of 1991 we sat across the desk of the doctor at Childrens’ Memorial Hospital and received the difficult results of all the testing. We were told our son had deficits, cognitively and developmentally. Most importantly, we would need to prepare for Adam’s future because he would need to be cared for for the rest of his life.
This conversation changed the course of our lives. I gave up a career so I could devote my life to my son’s education and care. The decision was made to not have any more children so we would have the time for both our children and also more resources for their future.
I spent many years learning all about my son’s rights for an education and volunteering and working in all his schools so I could keep watch. All this was to integrate our son in the community and try to establish a happy life for him.
HIS JOY
His love was competing in Special Olympics. He played softball, soccer, bocce ball, bowling and golfing.  He swam and competed in power lifting. He has many gold medals that he is so proud of. His social life was spending supervised time with his peers in special recreation activities, such as a movie or a dinner out or a game night. He learned to scuba diving through the Diveheart Organization, who teach diving to the disabled. He was so happy when he did his scuba diving. Due to registry rules and regulations, Adam is no longer able to participate in any of the above.
My son does not date. He will never marry or have children. He will never have a career. His life is with us, his parents. He cannot cook for himself or pay bills or even take a phone call. He has sensory issues. He cannot wear certain fabrics of clothe.
He wet the bed until the age of 16 when he finally gained control. He needs help with his daily living.  He had a small part-time job for 5 years hosting and cleaning tables at a restaurant. He was let go because of his conviction.
WHAT HAPPENED
When our nightmare began in 2012, we had a risk assessment done on Adam. The assessment showed that Adam had very little sexual knowledge and had no sexual perversions. He is a polite, compassionate and naive young man who functions at about the age of ten years old.  
My son cannot distinguish when someone is lying to him. He is extremely susceptible to persuasion. Teachers, aides and psychologist wrote reports fearing that he would someday be taken advantage of.
That someday came in 2012. A 22-year-old neighbor coerced my son to expose himself to an underage female. We also found out that this neighbor had been sexually molesting my son for a period of time. My child was arrested along with his OWN MOLESTER and charged with the same 19 felonies. We fought this travesty for a year in court.
Our attorneys feared if we went to trial the prosecutor would manipulate my son into saying whatever he wanted him to say. Years of documents were submitted to the court showing evidence of his disabilities. Medical reports, school reports, psychologists reports, risk assessments, letters from neighbors, friends and family.
THE PLEA
The prosecutor offered a plea deal. One misdemeanor charge of exploitation of a minor, 2 years probation with an ankle bracelet and ten years on the registry.
Our son could not survive in prison. We took the plea. On the day we accepted the plea, our attorneys whispered in his ear what he had to say to the judge, because he did not understand.
My son was fitted with an ankle bracelet that he was so scared of he slept for 2 years with his leg on a pile of blankets because he was afraid that if he moved it would go off and they would come to get him. My son had to leave our home since the victim lived next door. He is incapable of surviving on his own. 
My husband moved out with my son so he could care for him. We all had to follow the curfews for 2 years and get him where he needed to be. I cut work hours to take him to probation check in. We have to take him to register. We are responsible for all the rules and regulations because my son is incapable of understanding the requirements.
THE RESULT
The registry restrictions drag families into fear, instability and emotional distress. For me, it let to a road of anxiety meds, antidepressants, sleeping pills and therapy. My husband now has high blood pressure and depression. My son has health problems, depression and the last 2 psychologist reports done in 2015 and 2016 show his IQ falling.
This is due to isolation and no stimulation. No more Special Olympics. He was let go from his small part time job cleaning tables. This was the source of his independence. No one will hire him now. He sits at home all day isolated and lonely.
THE FINANCIAL TOLL
The financial toll on our family has been devastating. We have spent over $150,000 of our retirement money and money we saved for our son’s future care on attorneys, court costs, probation fees, registration fees and relocating my son and husband. (I have remained in our nearby home for the time being.)
We are a good, law-abiding Christian family brought to our knees by a system that makes no attempt to look at people as individuals and recognize their needs, their supports and their vulnerabilities.
We recently learned that when the ten years my son received on the registry are up in 2023, at which time my husband and I will be in our 70s, we will still all be bound by the other rules and regulations for the rest of our lives. Where will my child go when my husband and I are no longer here to care for him? No group home will take him. No nursing home will have him. His sister loves him dearly and will take care of him, BUT…. how will she be able to?
I provided a life for my son so he could receive the support, socialization and services he needs to survive and flourish for the rest of his life. Instead we all live with in isolation, fear and the stigma that we are “scum of the earth.”
“JUSTICE”
If any of you have or know someone with a special needs child, you all know that when the child is young everyone – the schools, the community — try to do what they can for the child. When that little special needs child grows up their disabilities don’t go away, but society doesn’t care any more. That person who still has a child’s mind gets thrown aside in the name of the criminal justice system.
This mom ended by asking listeners to work to reverse the laws that turn the intellectually disabled into lifetime pariahs. She also urged us to go to Change.org and sign the petition for “Abolish the Sex Offender Registry.”  And she invited us to visit the very spare LIRRD site where it says:
"Currently, the criminal justice system makes little or no attempt to understand this population or to recognize their unique needs, supports and challenges. Criminal prosecutions of these individuals often lead to disastrous consequences for children and their families without any benefit to the public.
Our goal is to make changes that will save these children from the unnecessary cruelty that the criminal justice system is putting them through. Implementing this goal will require educating legislators, prosecutors and judges about this population and their need to be understood, rather than prosecuted, by the legal system."
Free-Range Kids believes that Adam’s ordeal is not making children any safer. At the same time, people with intellectual disabilities are at grave risk of being branded as “sex offenders” when they are actually innocent in so many senses of the word. These laws must change. – L

Friday, August 18, 2017

On Hate And Sex Abuse Prevention

Emotional Topic

You probably do not need me to tell you this, but the topic of sexual abuse, particularly prevention, is controversial and emotional for many people. This is because solutions often fly in the face of our deepest beliefs, and the facts challenge established stereotypes about how sexual abuse happens- and why. When our beliefs are challenged in that manner, we cannot help but become emotional. 

Much of this emotion, of course, is directed at abusers. I recently put it out there that I was sexually abused as a child. I also recently put it out there that I have a sexual attraction to children, and I wrote about why that does not immediately make me a risk to children. Those two statements bring up emotion, and they are controversial. 

As For Me...

...I do not hate my abusers. Maybe because my first step towards accepting my childhood and how it shaped me was a step of understanding. I wanted to know why people sexually abuse children. What drives that kind of behavior? How could someone possibly justify it? I believe, as a Christian and as a critical thinker, that I am more than justified in hating what was done to me and the effects it had. However, I do not believe I am justified in hating the people who abused me. Why? 

Because frankly, their evil actions were a handful of acts in an otherwise ordinary set of interactions. While they may be indicative of the thinking of those people at the time, the abusive actions did not represent the entire person. I do not believe that at least two of my abusers meant their actions as abuse, even if that is the effect their actions had on me. 

Cycle Of Hatred

Here in America, and indeed throughout world history, there is an ongoing cycle of hatred that still exists today. In the last two centuries, it was black people and women. Three and four centuries ago, it was black people and indigenous people, in North America and South America. Before that, it was religious warring. 

Hate has been an ongoing part of what it means to be human, and it is noble humans who seek to overcome that hatred and move on from it to love, accept, and include other humans who might be different from them. 

Hate Is Not Just About Race

The kind of hate we have seen in the last week is not about race. It is about our beliefs, and our entitlement to those beliefs. We resent anyone who challenges how we think about a subject, and we believe that we should have the right to hold the opinions and views that we do, and express them. However, this gets messy when other humans with those same rights but differing beliefs tell us we are wrong. Harsh words are exchanged, and violence all too easily ensues. 

Racism is just one expression of how this operates. Another expression is the making of laws: Laws that deal harshly with criminals are almost always the result of empathizing more with the victim than the perpetrator. This is as it should be, and the perpetrator of a crime should be held accountable and make some form of restitution. However, sometimes the laws we have created do not aid in preventing future crimes, and make it harder for criminals to have the means to provide restitution for what they did. 

Sex Offender Laws Do Not Follow Standard Justice

Yes, I am talking about sex offender laws. I do not believe that they are fair. Yes, I used the word fair. Every other criminal, even murderers, have a fixed sentence that they have to complete. In some cases, that is a life sentence, but once that sentence is complete, we consider justice to be served. While we may feel the sentence does not fit what we think happened, we have a system where a judge looking at as much information as possible determines that sentence. Even in this system, there are miscarriages of justice and the facts do not fit what is being sentenced. 

Sex offender laws ignore that. They visit and re-visit the offender's crime against them, often for their entire life. They must register. They must not live X distance from a school or park. They must notify their neighbors of something they did years ago. Their sentence does not have an ending. Some argue that the effects of child sexual abuse are lifelong. I disagree. I am just as worthy of healing and moving on as the people who abused me. 

Hate Against Sex Offenders Is No Different Than Racism

Yes, I just went there. If you hate someone because of the color of their skin, it is the same as hating someone for committing a particular kind of crime: You are judging the person (not their personality, their behavior, or a part of the person) for one single observable fact that you can see, and basing your opinion of that entire person on that one single fact. 

You are assuming to know based on one individual fact about the person that they are worthy of hatred. Regardless of what that one fact is, this hatred defies logic, defies the fact that the other person is human, and is no different than the systematic dehumanization that was practiced by the Nazis during WWII. When you take a human being of any kind and revoke their "humanity" card for one reason, without getting to know the person, you are doing exactly what Hitler did: Judging for yourself that the person is no longer human. 

Hate Impedes Prevention

The hatred of sex offenders and our endless desire for revenge must be separated from our hatred of sexual offenses and our endless desire for sexual assault and exploitation to cease in all its forms. If we want to prevent crime, we must understand the facts, and form policy accordingly. We must be level-headed about the policies we form, otherwise we fall prey to the same hate that we condemn in White Nationalist groups.

You cannot change the genetic makeup of another human being by believing they are not, any more than you can change the color of your hair by thinking about it. 

If we are to condemn racism because it treats others differently based on their different appearance, then we must condemn hatred in all its forms: Including the hatred of sex offenders.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Major Wins On Three Fronts

Not Often...

It is not often that I get to report good news in the fight to prevent child sexual abuse... before it can happen. However, there is great news out of Alabama, Pennsylvania, and California that are well-worth celebrating, in addition to the recent win in North Carolina at the Supreme Court of the United States.

Alabama

A case in Alabama is currently before the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals, and the argument is that Alabama has violated the ex posto facto clause of the United States Constitution. In other words, Alabama has violated the United States Constitution by enacting retroactive punishment for a crime committed over 30 years ago. This case is significant and related to a win in Pennsylvania, which is why this case is already being considered a win.

Pennsylvania

A case recently decided by the PA Supreme Court involved a man forced to register for a crime committed in 2007 before the registration requirement applicable to his situation was enacted in 2012. The PA Supreme Court decided that the case violated the same ex posto facto clause and retroactively applied punishment - yes, punishment - for a crime. This is essential, because until now, the sex offender registry has been considered preventative, not punitive according to most state and federal legislation. The ruling in PA makes it likely that the case being considered by the 11th Circuit will be ruled similarly, and gives opportunity for the PA ruling to be cited in the decision. While this has yet to play out, it is also important because of a win in California.

California

In California, lawmakers are being spurred to adopt major reforms to the sex offender registry, essentially treating offenders with lower risk differently than those that are high risk: The lower-risk offenders could eventually be let off the sex offender registry, and the focus for law enforcement and monitoring would be on high-risk offenders instead. These are reforms that are already in place in most other states, but California still has a one-size-fits-all system where every sex offender is required to register for life.

Interestingly, it is criminal justice leaders, such as district attorneys, the ACLU of California, the California Police Chiefs Association, and several others. The bill is currently moving swiftly through the legislature.

Why Is The Registry Bad?

In case you have not heard me say this before, sex offender registration is bad because it focuses on the wrong threat: Sex offenders. Sex offenders are known to commit less than 10% of new sexual crimes in most states, and even less in major states. In New York, that rate is 5%, and in California, that rate is .6%. This focus on sex offenders means that people are focused on those who do not often commit new sexual crimes as if they do, which means the real culprits of sexual crimes, those trusted in the community with no criminal record, fly under the radar.

Research shows that perpetrators of sexual crimes have trauma in childhood, have no criminal record, are predominantly male (though recent research is calling this into question), and are largely trusted by their victim(s). This shows that programs that reach at-risk youth with trauma in their backgrounds can make a substantial difference in reducing sexual crimes before they happen, and shows that our focus must be on preventing the initial perpetration of sexual crimes rather than reacting where they happen.

Is This Foreshadowing?

With these major wins, in addition to the recent social media win at the United States Supreme Court, the it may be that the tide is turning against emotionally-driven policies that feel good but are ineffective in preventing sex crimes. It may be, as the editorial board of the Los Angeles Times puts it, that we are seeing clearer thinking about sex offenders. If so, then maybe we are seeing the beginning of the end of after-the-fact punishment schemes that distract from preventing sexual crimes... before they can happen.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Stand Up For Net Neutrality

You cannot go far today without hearing about it: Several large US companies would like to end the neutrality we currently enjoy, which allows most internet sites you visit to load just as fast as any other, among other things. If you enjoy being able to use the internet, please consider adding your voice to the chorus telling US leaders to keep net neutrality rules.

To learn more about net neutrality and why it matters, see here. Also, consider signing a change.org petition, in addition to contacting the FCC.