Sunday, August 7, 2016

The Politics Of Prevention

Prevention… Political?

Yes, the area of prevention is very political. Unfortunately, preventing child sexual abuse is not nearly as straightforward as researching the facts surrounding the issue, forming policies to address the facts, and getting those policies put in place. There are interest groups, such as the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers (ATSA), the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), Rape Abuse Incest National Network (RAINN), Darkness to Light (D2L), Stop It Now, Abuse Stoppers, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), Parents For Megan’s Law (PFML), and a number of other state-specific prevention organizations or abuse survivor networks. The problem? None of these organizations is united in the things that can help stop sexual abuse.

For example, the NCMEC this year pushed heavily for the passing of the Adam Walsh Renewal of 2016, a number of laws related to the sex offender registry. As I have stated many times, the facts do not support a sex offender registry being the most effective method of protecting children, given that most who are caught and sentenced do not repeat their crimes. PFML obviously pushes for Megan’s Law to be broader and works with the state of New York to monitor registered sex offenders. Yet none of these approaches is based in fact, and that should be disturbing to many people. Yet, it is not.

The One With The Most Resources Wins

A basic fact of any legislative battle over anything these days is that the party with the most resources to throw at an initiative is going to win. What this means is that, regardless of the efficacy of the initiative, if it has enough backing by enough money and people, that initiative takes the cake. That is why the Adam Walsh Renewal Act of 2016 passed this year. That is why International Megan’s Law was passed this year, even though it has zero basis in fact: People believe what politicians, media outlets, and interest groups tell them, even if what they are being told has no basis in fact.

Two Parties And A Lot Of Stupidity

I suppose that stupidity is a rather strong word that is best left out of academic circles, but the basic fact of the matter is that Republican candidates consistently vote down initiatives to provide comprehensive sexual education to children and that Democrats generally support these initiatives. Republicans often vote up measures to be “tougher on crime”, and Democrats generally vote up measures that provide “restorative justice”.

This is stupid. Why is this stupid? Because politicians are not experts in these fields. Psychologists, criminologists, researchers… all of the people dealing with the facts of these issues do not side with a particular political party. They side with what is effective, but that is not what gets popularity, votes, or public approval. One might ask what the point of having experts is if no one is willing to listen to them and do what they suggest.

The Rub

The political nature of these things amounts to a huge rub in the face of humanity. That rub is that putting in place systems and policies that are ineffective at rectifying the very problem they seek to correct means that, no matter what the issue is, the problem is not addressed in the most effective method possible. When that issue is child sexual abuse, that rub is not just a rub. It is pathetic and appalling, and should have every single person up in arms protesting the policies that do not do nearly enough to stop children from being sexually abused.

I wish I could say something light-hearted, like, “If the American public was aware of half of the facts around child sexual abuse, they would demand abolishing sex offender registries for all but the most heinous of recidivists.” The problem with that… is that most Americans do not even read up on the issue of child sexual abuse. No one cares enough, or they are uncomfortable discussing it, reading about it, and learning about it. Say what you will about effective marketing, but my blog only has a total of 6,300 page views to date. Yet I think most people would agree that the best method for solving a problem is to prevent it from becoming a problem in the first place. But when it comes to child sexual abuse, one must know why that is more effective before they can support primary prevention.

My Wish

My hope is that America, and indeed the rest of the world, wakes up to the reality that child sexual abuse is a large issue that affects a significant portion of the population, and that is just the statistics we know about. Sexual abuse and sexual assault are very underreported crimes. So my wish is that we stop bickering over what the solution is, listen to the experts that deal with this issue every day, and put systems in place that are based not in a political agenda, but on facts and research. I suppose that holds true for any issue, but child sexual abuse is too big an issue to get wrong. What will your contribution be?

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