Friday, January 29, 2016

How The Media Is Making Abuse Worse

We see the headlines every single day. Sometimes, we gloss over the ones that we do not feel apply to us. The media and the news have a product they must sell if they wish to stay in business. How they do their business is largely to run sensational, impactful, or tragic events to glean sympathy and shock value. However, how they do this in the case of sex offender and child sex abuse is not helpful to the situation, and, I would argue, enables it to happen.

Here is my Google News feed for "sex offenders":

Dozens of Grainger County sex offenders get surprise visits from law enforcement

WATE 6 On Your Side - ‎13 hours ago‎
RUTLEDGE (WATE) - Five registered sex offenders in Grainger County were arrested in a two-day operation led by the United States Marshals Service and the Smoky Mountains Fugitive Task Force.

JSO: Sex offender escapes out bathroom window

WJXT Jacksonville - ‎12 hours ago‎
Police are on the hunt for a registered sex offender who escaped custody by jumping out a bathroom window from a Jacksonville Sheriff's Office substation.

Why Some Young Sex Offenders Are Held Indefinitely

The Marshall Project - ‎Jan 27, 2016‎
The civil commitment of “sexually violent predators” is intended to protect the public: In theory, offenders are offered extensive therapy to help them learn to control sexual impulses. But an analysis by The Marshall Project shows most people who ...

Kieran Bunce, convicted sex offender, found in Fort Salonga with teen boy, cops say

Newsday - ‎12 hours ago‎
A convicted sex offender was found naked with a teenage boy Thursday after the pair arranged to meet via a cellphone app, Suffolk police said.

Appeals court orders sex offender freed

Houston Chronicle - ‎14 hours ago‎
AUSTIN - A state appeals court in Beaumont ordered the state to immediately free an 83-year-old man from Texas' civil commitment program for sex offenders Thursday, the first person given complete freedom in the controversial program's 16-year history.

Families stunned that towns repealed sex offender laws

WFAA - ‎Jan 27, 2016‎
JUSTIN, Texas - Parents in this community southwest of Denton expressed outrage and disappointment Wednesday after learning that Justin is one of a growing number of small towns that have decided to repeal their sex offender ordinances to avoid a ...

Court orders 83-year-old sex offender freed - ‎Jan 28, 2016‎
AUSTIN -- In a decision that could presage other releases, a state appeals court in Beaumont on Thursday ordered an 83-year-old man be immediately freed from a controversial supervision program for sex offenders because he no longer qualifies to be in it.

Only one of them is even remotely thoughtful or positive in that it discusses what policies are in place and how effective they are. The rest send the message "sex offenders are dangerous". See the links on the side of this page? They will inform you of the truth, that sex offender recidivism is around 13%, and that 95% of new sex crime is committed by first-time offenders (those new to the criminal justice system). Those two statistics are hardly new. They have been the case for decades.

But even more disturbing are the stories about the atrocity itself: Child sex abuse. Here is my Google News feed for that:

UN: More Child Sex Abuse Cases by European Troops in Africa

ABC News - ‎1 hour ago‎
The U.N. human rights office says it has turned up six more cases of alleged sexual abuse against children by European troops in Central African Republic, including a 7-year-old girl who said she had to perform sexual acts on soldiers in exchange for ...

How the FBI became the world's largest distributor of child sex abuse imagery

The Next Web - ‎21 hours ago‎
For 12 days between February and March, 2014, the FBI was the world's largest peddler of images and video depicting child sexual abuse on the internet. In an attempt to catch criminals uploading, viewing, sharing and downloading these files, the US ...

Sex offender pleads guilty to additional child sex abuse charge

Glens Falls Post-Star - ‎17 hours ago‎
QUEENSBURY A former Queensbury man who has been accused of sexual abuse by at least five children over the past two decades hesitantly pleaded guilty to a felony sexual abuse charge Wednesday in Warren County Court. Glennan H. Hughes, 60, ...

NY Man Arrested On Child Sex Abuse Charges - ‎2 hours ago‎
Nachison inappropriately fondled the child while she was visiting his residence in October of 2015. He was charged with Sexual Abuse in the first degree (class D Felony), Forcible Touching (class A misdemeanor) and Endangering the Welfare of a Child ...

Jury convicts former Rail owner of child sex abuse

Salt Lake City Weekly - ‎17 hours ago‎
The 56 year-old developer and felon—he was convicted of child sex abuse in 1994 and served almost eight years, including for time relating to parole violations—built the Rail Event Center and at one time claimed high-ranking friends and business ...

Child sex abuse counts name Muskogee man

Muskogee Daily Phoenix - ‎10 hours ago‎
A Muskogee man was charged Thursday with child sexual abuse and child sexual exploitation in Muskogee County District Court.

Child sex abuse: Australian government to work on national redress scheme

The Guardian - ‎13 hours ago‎
A former Brisbane Grammar student, who cannot be identified, outside the Magistrates Court in Brisbane for a child sexual abuse hearing. The Australian government says it recognises the importance of implementing a national approach to redress as soon ...

I have not clicked any of these articles. I do not feel I need to in order to make my point. My point here is that these articles give far too much information. I can guarantee that none of them name the victims. However, common sense indicates that if the face and name of the perpetrator is being plastered all over local news, it will affect the victim. People close to the child will be able to put the two together, and treat the child differently. Look at the middle one- it even states what he did to his victim. Why would anyone need to know that information? Rather than describing in disturbing detail that someone sexually assaulted a child, they could name the charge and the county. Acknowledge that this happens, absolutely. But naming and shaming the perpetrator also inevitably affects the community and the victim.

Not only does this abundance of information have an affect on the victim, it has an affect on society and the public. They read about these cases and think that the person perpetrating these crimes makes a habit of them, when in fact sex abusers have been shown to have more infrequent crime patterns than drug offenders (and look at the push right now to modify sentencing...). Obviously, child sexual abuse happens. It impacts victims, and it is a big deal. However, when the public believes that those rapists do nothing but rape, and will rape again and again, contrary to the reality that they do not generally do so, it means the public's attention is on a false threat. Imagine having a comprehensive health screening, testing for many, many things and your doctor says that you test positive for hepatitis. Now imagine he tells you this, knowing full well that the test was wrong.

I think you can come up with your own choice words for a doctor who would do something like that, yet that is exactly what the media is doing with child sex abuse and sex offenders. Sex offenders hurt children, says the message. Sex offenders are a constant danger, watch out for them, says the message. Yet the fact is that 95% of children 12 and under who are abused, are abused by a relative, authority figure, or family friend. Not some stranger. Not some sex offender- not at that point, anyway. Someone else's child. Someone's brother, someone's father, someone's teacher, coach, or principal. A known and trusted community member. Someone clean-shaven, someone pretty or handsome, someone with charisma.

Not the sex offender. That is who abuses children. And by focusing our attention on people that are not really threats to the public- or even children in particular- the media is allowing more children to be abused. This is similar to the old childish trick of telling someone that something outrageous is happening right outside that window- and swiping their sandwich. Yet in this case, it is not a sandwich, it is a child's innocence.

Enough is enough.