Thursday, October 19, 2017

Why I Support Shane Vader

What?

Shane Vader was a figure that was completely unknown to me before October 19th. Apparently, she does a podcast and has quite a few followers on Twitter. I am not sure what all she does, but a Tweet of hers caught my attention. Before you go on, please read the entire tweet story from Shane Vader:

i will deny none of this. i knew this day would come. I "escaped to minneapolis" to kill myself because id had this shit in my life since i was 9 years old. Fortunately I failed I had just turned 22. Until this point, I had lived my life increasingly certain I was a worthless piece of shit sex offender who should kill himself. I was in LA desperate to distract myself with work. A year in, losing hair from the stress of certain relationships. But when the day come where my inevitable exit plan was death, I now for the first time in my life had people who depended on me - my girlfriend and cat. I owned up to what I did and told the police I just wanted to be there for them. But I was certain my life was over. My gf knew about this problem. She begged me not to kill myself. I stayed in LA another day. I apologized to my roommate. The next evening, I left, set on suicide. I drove 30 hours to Minneapolis, smoking as much weed as I could the whole way. I teetered on a bridge over the Mississippi a while before my dad called me and begged me to come home. I chickened out and went home. I faced that I wanted to live, and sought treatment. Soon my girlfriend and cat joined me.

After six months on a waitlist, I began treatment. The program helpful, more so than any relevant therapy I'd tried before. But it was not a perfect solution, showing me that transcending this habit ingrained since prepubescence was something I was going to have to be personally responsible for every single day of my life. I found this shit when I was 9. As I grew up, so did my interests, but I would always end up descending to that internet underworld no matter if I took months or years off. The week before I turned 18, the solution the courts handed me was ten years of sex offender registration. The court ordered therapy then was garbage. When I got into the next place a few years later, they told me I had not received "the standard of treatment" for people in my position. The differences were readily apparent - including that now I was trying to live.

There are a lot of people who think I should kill myself. I agreed for a long time. I still do, at my lowest. But one of the main reasons I've tried to live is so I can stop this from happening to new people. For a while, I had no idea what I could do. But now I do. I looked for something to hate besides myself. I knew if the internet wasn't in my life, this never would have happened. Do I hate the internet? No. There's a lot of good here. Is it the police? They suck, but no. I looked far and wide for a more constructive target than myself. Turns out it was right in front of me.

Child pornography sent me down this path. If there's anything I want erased from this planet, it's that material. I don't know how to fight this fight yet, but at least I know what I'm fighting. No one should see it. No one should make it. Entering adulthood at the same time I was handed a Legal Designation I worried and wondered if I was more dangerous than I thought, if I would ever do more than look at pictures. If I could be trusted with kids. Thank god at 25 I feel 100% confident I would never fucking do that A year after I ran away to kill myself the police/courts were happy enough w the work I did to decide not to press charges. I had made peace with time in prison, and a lifetime of registration, determined eventually be fully honest about my life in an effort to be constructive. I don't expect anyone to stand by me. I expect to be told to kill myself. I'm going to do my best not to. So no, I don't collect child pornography. But I've certainly seen some. And I fucking wish I hadn't. I don't think I'm alone.

the last thing I want to say is that the people misgendering me over this are really good people and I wish i were more like them i literally talked to my therapist yesterday about how i hoped i could open up about this on my own terms and not under duress because someone hates me. Oh well I am demanding empathy not for me, but for the people whose lives are yet to be ruined by this evil fuckin bullshit to any of my (ex)mufos upset I hadn't disclosed this prior, i'm sorry, but some of my oldest, closest friends are learning about it right here with you. so the awful shit ive seen and done in my past has made me think jokes aren't the worst thing in the world but i understand how they contribute to the culture and i'm sorry and intend to be a good girl poster for my remaining followers the people who have reached out to me today will always be in my heart





















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.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Why The Statistic Matters: Part Three, Sex Offenders

This is part of a miniseries about why the statistics on this site, and the upcoming website, should matter to you, not only in your everyday life, but in preventing child sexual abuse... before it can happen.

Statistic 1: Most Who Commit Sex Crimes Are Not Sex Offender Registrants

You have heard me cite this time and again: 95% of new sex crimes are committed by those new to the criminal justice system, stemming from a study on 21 years of arrest data in New York. Another 2015 study out of California is also significant, finding that just .6% of the 56.1% three-year return-to-prison rate were new sex crime convictions. Unless other criminals are committing sex crimes (which is not supported by the rest of the report, or general trends among sex crimes in general), it is safe to conclude that, nationwide, upwards of 95% of sex crime is committed by those with no criminal background.

Why does that matter?

Well, if the bulk of our policies on "preventing" sexual crimes are aimed at sex offenders, who are not responsible for a very high percentage of sex crimes... and we spend lots of money on these policies... then our policies are simply ineffective, and costing lots of money we could spend on more effective methods. This does not just refer to sex offender registration: Notifications of sex offenders, residency restrictions, civil commitment, and of course, juvenile registration and notification. If it targets sex offenders, the policy does very little to protect communities because it is not registered sex offenders who commit sex crimes.

Statistic 2: Juveniles Commit Sex Crimes Too... 

Specifically, juveniles commit 35.6% of sexual offenses against minors. Researchers such as Elizabeth Letourneau and Jill Levenson have said that half of sex offenders were juveniles during the commission of their sex crime. Regardless of the specific figure, it is safe to say that a statistically significant portion of sexual crimes are committed by juveniles, not adults.

This matters almost as much as the first statistic, because it means that the bulk of our policies are aimed at people who committed their crimes as juveniles. While these crimes absolutely were harmful to the victims, one must wonder if punishing juvenile perpetrators for life is aiding prevention, particularly if most of them never commit another sexual crime (97%, to be precise).

Statistic 3: General Recidivism Is High, But Lower Than Other Criminals On Average

Recidivism is a much-discussed statistic, and before I touch on why a somewhat high recidivism rate for general crime (both sexual and non-sexual crimes) is high, we must first understand recidivism rates. Some studies look at rearrests, which are considered the most liberal picture of recidivism. Some studies look at returning to prison, which are considered the most conservative picture of recidivism. Still others look at reconvictions, which are a middle ground between the two. As with any crime, any recidivism statistic paints an incomplete picture of new crimes committed by offenders.

If you recall the 56.1% return-to-prison statistic from the study mentioned in the first section, it should be noted that most studies find, on average, a general recidivism rate around 30-40% for sex offenders. This means that California has a rate that is much higher than what would be considered "the norm" for sex offenders. While the very term "sex offender" encompasses a wide variety of crimes and offenders, this also means that specific types of offenders that commit specific crimes have varying rates of recidivism specific to that type or crime.

This matters, because it means there is room for much improvement in rehabilitating and successfully reintegrating sex offenders back into our communities. It means there are barriers for successful reintegration, and a need to change how we treat criminals in general. While recidivism statistics can be interpreted in a wide variety of ways depending on the study, offender, and offense, it is safe to say that in most cases, sex offenders do not reoffend, whether that is with a sexual crime or any other crime.

Statistic 4: Population Of Sex Offenders, Victims

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (whose figures are somewhat disputed among some advocates and state leaders), there are 861,837 registered sex offenders living in the United States. That is 264 sex offenders per 100,000 people. If you have followed the rest of the statistics to this point, then you can probably guess what I am about to say: Focusing our policies on nearly 1 million Americans to protect children, when most of those .862 million people are not responsible for further sex crimes means that we are creating much more damage than we are solving. How do I figure that? The math is simple.

Restated from part two, child sexual abuse, according to this source, there are 73.8 million children in the United States, and the known victim-reported prevalence is pegged at 8% for boys and 19% for girls, which translates to roughly 3,011,040 boys and 6,870,780 girls, or 9,881,820 children. The estimates that attempt to account for underreporting translate to 6,273,000 boys and 9,040,500 girls, or 15,313,500 children. In other words, our best data and estimates indicate that 13.39-20.75% of children are sexually abused (which is a big deal).

Running the estimates, 494,091-765,675 children are sexually abused by registered sex offenders, or repeat sex offenders, in other words. If somewhere between .6% and 5% of these 861,837 sex offenders are repeat offenders, that means that there are between 5,171 and 43,092 sex offenders that are repeat offenders.

This means that there are between 818,745 and 856,666 sex offenders who are being needlessly registered, and if we assume that each of them have 5 family members and 10 friends, that is 12,281,175-12,849,990 people that are affected by the sex offender registry without sufficient basis. Compared to the 494,091-765,675 children that are victimized by repeat sex offenders, that is a very disproportionate number, and while sexual abuse is not trivial, this means that we punish and indirectly affect about 12-14 times the number of people we need to. When you remember that somewhere between 35-50% of these people are juveniles at the time of the offense, you get an appalling number of children that are being harmed by the very laws that were formed to protect them.

Closing Thoughts

I have re-written the overview of sex offenders for the website three times now, and each time, I wonder if I am covering all of the bases or giving an overly simplistic view of sex offenders. Even writing this one post has taken me two weeks for similar reasons.

"Sex offender" is a term that encompasses a wide variety of crimes beyond rape and crimes against children, though together, these crimes make up the majority. However, the mere commission of these crimes, as discussed in the first and third statistics, does not mean the person committing them is an ongoing danger to children. Even the commission of a "child sex crime" would not appear to indicate such a danger because most such crimes are committed by first-time offenders. Covering each segment of restrictions against sex offenders is likewise complex.

Thus, any attempt to tackle the issue of sex offenders from any angle, research-based or journalist-based, will lead any reader to misleading conclusions about sex offenders.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

A Simplified Review Of Finkelhor's "The Prevention of Childhood Sexual Abuse"

Who?

David Finkelhor is a child sexual abuse preventionist and sociologist. Since 1977, he has contributed research into the psychology of how child sexual abuse happens and how it can be prevented. If you wish to read more about this pillar of abuse prevention, please do so. As this is a method of simplifying his study, The Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse (2012), I will not focus as much on the details. It is a fairly short read at 19 pages, but the average person will find it dry and boring even with a dictionary handy.

Reductions In Incidents Of Child Sexual Abuse (p. 16-17)

One surprising fact is that sexual violence against children has been on a downward trend since the 1990's, though the reason for this decline is unclear. The evidence for this decline comes both from self-report surveys and crime data trends. This downward trend was also associated with several other areas, such as reductions in general crime, teen pregnancy, teen suicide, and drug abuse. While one review mentions some possible reasons for these declines, there is no causal evidence that connects a solid reason for the downward trend in incidents of child sexual abuse.

His Review Of Current Strategies, By Topic

I said this was simplified, right? Well, here is a list for you, then, with the topics he covers and what he concludes about each. If you wish to know more about a particular topic, you can find the page number at the beginning of each topic. I am breaking down his reviews by broad category.

Criminal Justice Strategies
  1. Sex Offender Registration (p. 5-6)
    1. Mixed, but not promising: There has been inadequate research into sex offender registration policies, and many studies also include community notification, which is a separate topic. Crime has been in decline since 1990 or so, and it is unclear if the studies that have been done are finding drops in crimes because of registration, or because of the downward crime trend. Possibility for collateral consequences like stigma on offenders, negative effects, and limited effectiveness, but also a possibility for public confidence in authorities and a sense of safety (even if false).
  2. Sex Offender Notifications (p. 6)
    1. Limited studies and negative effects: You can always tell that more research is badly needed when a high-level researcher opens his remarks with saying, "No high-quality studies exist, and the correlational studies have mixed results." He observes that community notifications of sex offenders seems based on the myth of stranger danger, and that notifications are not favored by law enforcement and can significantly interfere with an offender's ability to rehabilitate and reintegrate into society.
  3. Background Checks (p. 6-7)
    1. False sense of risk: Surprisingly, Dr. Finkelhor observes that not only have there been limited research into the benefits and costs of background checks, but that doing so would be pointless because of how mainstream they are. He states that research is "badly needed" regardless because the true risk that individuals with backgrounds pose is unclear, and may be weeding out perfectly competent workers or employees who pose little to no risk.
  4. Sex Offender Residency Restrictions (p. 7)
    1. Note: These are restrictions that prevent sex offenders from living near day cares, schools, and other places frequented by children. Several studies done into their effectiveness (very limited since 2012) show little to no effect. One study done in 2007 in Minnesota found that not one of the 224 re-offenses studied would have been deterred by such policies. There appears to be studies that Finkelhor was not aware of when writing this summary.
    2. Supremely stupid: Not only have residency restrictions been enacted with no research into their effectiveness, the research that has been done on how offenses happen and the effect these policies have in theory shows that they are not worth adopting if the goal is to protect children. He points out that, "law enforcement and sex offender management authorities do not have the credibility or evidence base to temper or thwart misguided populist legislation on sex offender policy."
  5. Civil Commitment and Lengthening Sentences (p. 7-8)
    1. No evidence, does not reduce risk: While many different policies have lengthened the sentences of sex offenders and many states have formed procedures to essentially incarcerate sex offenders past their criminal sentence. The basis for these policies is a deterrent effect, and reducing those capable of committing new offenses, both of which have not been studied. It is noted that sentence length appears to have no relationship with the risk of reoffending, and that the evidence supporting these policies is extremely limited and unclear.
  6. Increasing Detection and Arrest (p. 8-9)
    1. Note: This is defined as when detection and arrests are increased on the law enforcement side of things, not to be confused with attempts to get victims to report abuse. The focus here is on more staff to detect and investigate abuse for criminal arrests and prosecutions, in the hope of deterring potential offenders and controlling existing offenders through the effects of being arrested.
    2. Mixed: He notes that no studies have tested for the presence of a deterrent effect on sexual offending against children, but that other studies do support deterrents for domestic violence, drunken driving, and robberies. Instead of deterring potential abusers, increased detection and arrests seem instead to deter caught abusers from acting again. It is noted that general research not specific to sexual abuse, "tends to confirm that offenders are deterred more by an increase of getting caught than and increase in the severity of the likely punishment." 
  7. Mental Health Treatment (p. 9-10)
    1. Mostly positive: While many abusers lack access to adequate treatment, the research shows that treatment (particularly cognitive-behavioral therapy) reduces sexual re-offenses by up to 37%, which is significant because the likelihood of sexual re-offenses are already low. Because this research appears non-experimental in terms of its methodology, some experts are reserved in endorsing mental health treatment for adults and more research into this area is needed. While the strength of the research for adults is convincing, the research around juvenile offenders is even more so because it does use experimental designs.
  8. Community Reintegration and Supervision (p. 10)
    1. Promising, but needs research: Of note is Circles of Support and Accountability, an innovative program originating in Canada which provides a support system for offenders. The idea here is to focus on successfully reintegrating the offender through social support and employment opportunities. While Circles is noted to reduce reoffending by 70%, more research is needed. 
Wrapping Up Criminal Justice

Dr. Finkelhor notes that tremendous energy has gone into criminal justice policies, and that the biggest weakness of this approach is that most molestations are not perpetrated by those with a record of sex crimes. In other words, "Even strategies that are 100 percent effective in eliminating recidivism among known offenders would reduce new victimizations only a little." 

He does recommend four areas to improve upon: Detecting offenders not yet known to law enforcement, focus only on the high-risk offenders, develop better risk-assessment tools, and determine low-intensity strategies for youth, family, and other low-risk offenders. 

Educational Programs (p. 11-14)

Here, Dr. Finkelhor overviews programs that teach children boundaries, dangerous situations and when to get help, safe/unsafe touch, along with the underlying message that victims are not to blame. These programs have drawn criticism: They may be too difficult for children to grasp, they may impede a child's trust in adults, and (as I have said before in other terms), "children cannot be reasonably expected to foil... adults bent on molesting them and... it is morally misguided and perhaps psychologically harmful to place the responsibility of preventing abuse on the shoulders of children."

Research shows that these programs can improve child-parent communication and that children do indeed learn the concepts being taught, particularly at younger ages. Research also shows very limited unintended consequences, and report positive outcomes like more positive self-esteem. Such educational programs have also been shown to reduce risk factors for victimization (in some studies but not others) and can increase bystander intervention. Much to my own surprise, there appears to be no basis for concerns that educational programs have negative consequences on children who experience these programs and are then abused: Instead, research supports the idea that such programs increase victim disclosure and reduce self-blame. Rather than causing more trauma to a victim, prevention programs seem to ease their burden.

Dr. Finkelhor recommends expanding these programs to include dating violence, statutory crimes, and new sexual crimes that are made possible by the internet.

Community Prevention of Offending (p. 14-15)

Here. Dr. Finkelhor overviews small-scale efforts to educate a small community to identify potential abusers with mental health help and an awareness that sexual behavior with children is wrong. Confidential phone numbers are provided in this approach. While there is limited evidence that these practices realistically prevent abuse, there is evidence that potential abusers come forward for help. At the very least, those with concerns about their behavior or thoughts are coming forward for help. It is mentioned that the current environment can reduce the ability of these programs to truly offer confidential help, and that alone can be a significant hindrance to these approaches as policies.

Separately, another approach is bystander intervention to detect and intervene when abusive situations are actually or potentially happening. There is more evidence supporting bystander intervention, and the research in that area is more developed. This research shows that bystander intervention can change community attitudes, reduce bullying among children, and has the potential to reduce peer abuse or dating violence.

Harm Mitigation (p. 15-16)

Harm mitigation is the use of counseling and family intervention to reduce the effects of abuse on victims, and the use of child advocacy centers to reduce the impacts of disclosure on victims through a variety of means. He specifically mentions that not all victims suffer the same level of harm or symptoms from sexual abuse, and he also mentions that there must be sensitivity in discovering the needs of a child victim and forming the most appropriate intervention. He points out that trauma-focused therapy is excellent for victim, and that child advocacy centers can point to or offer this particular therapy.

While there are other options mentioned, they are essentially miscellaneous tactics that do not have much attention in research. These options can be found on page 16.

Conclusion And Five Promising Areas For Study (p. 17-19)

Dr. Finkelhor concludes by indicating that there is no strong evidence pointing to a single strategy in preventing child sexual abuse, but proposes looking into several areas for further study and research:

  1. School-based child-focused educational programs
  2. Evidence-based policy and therapeutic practices around criminal justice
  3. Making cognitive-behavioral therapies standard and widely available
He closes his remarks by expressing optimism that with further research, we can make greater and more numerous accomplishments in reducing child sexual abuse. 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

News Outlets That Conflate Sexual Abuse And Sexual Attraction

Why Is This An Issue?

As you have heard me illustrate many times, terminology matters to preventing child sexual abuse. Using "sex offender" instead of "sexual abuser" gives the impression that those who abuse have been caught before, that the biggest risk is from recidivists. However, the reality indicates the opposite: First-time offenders are the biggest risks. In other words, improper terminology spreads myths about child sexual abuse, and myths enable sexual abuse to happen.

Likewise, confusing the sexual attraction to children (similar to heterosexual attraction, but directed towards children in some form) and the horrific sexual abuse of a child gives the wrong impression that child sexual abuse is perpetrated out of sexual pleasure.

It also gives the wrong impression that those with a sexual attraction are a risk, where the facts and logic say otherwise. It places an unfair stigma on a group of people, through no fault of their own, have a sexual attraction to children. This can, in turn, increase child sexual abuse by driving people into corners where poor decisions and mental illness thrive. The results of confusing pedophilia and child sexual abuse, or pedophiles and child rapists, make child sexual abuse harder to prevent.

Minimizing Child Sexual Abuse

As you have heard me say many times, confusing these terms minimizes child sexual abuse. Why is that? Well, it is like referring to stealing as kleptomania, or a brutal murder on a highway as road rage: It is referring to a horrific act as if it is the result of a feeling, rather than as a conscious choice to harm a child, and that sends an unacceptable message.

Stigmatizing Sexuality

Confusing sexual abuse with a sexual attraction to children also places an unfair and frankly slanderous label on those who have never hurt a child in their life. When people use the word "pedophile", it should only be to mean someone with an attraction to children. Otherwise, it places the label of child rapist on those who, according to estimates and statistics, do not rape children. It is just as serious as posting on Facebook that someone is a child rapist: If they are not, it can land the accuser in hot legal water very quickly.

News Outlet List

I think it is high time for a list, given the amount of articles from specific major news sources that confuse terminology around child sexual abuse. This list is current as of June 17, 2017, and was formed through many weeks of viewing news reports with specific keywords flagged: Pedophile and pedophilia. Many more minimize the issue by referring to child sexual exploitation material or sexual abuse images as "child pornography," as if the images are legitimate pornography where the child can consent, is paid, and is actually acting.

Note To Media:
If you would like your organization removed from this list, then please use the contact widget on the right-hand side of this page to request it. Please be aware that you will need to demonstrate at least three months of organization-wide content that refrains from minimizing child sexual abuse by conflating it with a sexual attraction to children and calls sexual abuse and sexual abusers by proper terms. Absent this content, your request will be denied.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Supreme Court Decides Sex Offender Social Media Use Is Free Speech: Why This Matters

Say What?

A sex offender posted a win in defeating a parking ticket, on Facebook where North Carolina forbids sex offenders from being on social media. He was arrested, and his case went all the way to SCOTUS. The best analysis I have seen for this so far is here.

In short, the Supreme Court decided unanimously in favor of the sex offender, ruling that his access to social media constitutes free speech and cannot be restricted. While I am still working through the decision in its entirety, you can read the complete decision and an outline of the case.

What Does This Mean?

This ruling means, to quote the decision, "...the State may not enact this complete bar to the exercise of First Amendment rights on websites integral to the fabric of modern society and culture." The decision was not limited to social media, and the decision essentially holds for the entire internet, insofar as it is used for free speech. While I am no legal expert, this ruling may well set the stage for a number of internet and technology-related issues that come before judges.

Why Is This Related To Primary Prevention?

The argument of North Carolina was, in part, that restricting sex offenders from social media sites was a virtual extension of banning them from schools, parks, daycares, and other places children gather. They claimed that banning sex offenders from such places, and from certain internet sites, was in the interest of protecting the community.

Logically, their argument falls short, because sexual offenders do not pose the most significant risk to children: Those new to the criminal justice system who are trusted in the community are. The SCOTUS did not buy the legal argument of North Carolina because, in part,

"By prohibiting sex offenders from using those websites, North Carolina with one broad stroke bars access to what for many are the principal sources for knowing current events, checking ads for employment, speaking and listening in the modern public square, and otherwise exploring the vast realms of human thought and knowledge. These websites can provide perhaps the most powerful mechanisms available to a private citizen to make his or her voice heard."

Social Media Helps Reintegration

Another essential part of why they ruled against North Carolina, that was quoted in many articles on the subject, was,

"It is unsettling to suggest that only a limited set of websites can be used even by persons who have completed their sentences. Even convicted criminals—and in some instances especially convicted criminals—might receive legitimate benefits from these means for access to the world of ideas, in particular if they seek to reform and to pursue lawful and rewarding lives."

This issue is closely related to primary prevention, because it allows sex offenders the right to use social media and have a bigger voice in politics, as well as use the internet to reform themselves (which, by the way, includes yours truly).

Concerns About Restrictions On Those Having Served Their Sentence

One concern outlined in the court's decision, and was also shared in one of the news articles discussing the decision, was that the law is imposing restrictions on convicts and ex-convicts after the completion of their sentence. This concern was briefly mentioned in the court's decision:

"Of importance, the troubling fact that the law imposes severe restrictions on persons who already have served their sentence and are no longer subject to the supervision of the criminal justice system is also not an issue before the Court."

This suggests that the court may take up the issue again in the future, and a growing number of civil rights advocates are have been concerned about similar issues. I posit that scaling back these restrictions may well reduce recidivism, and can have collateral consequences well beyond what their intent was.

One Item Of Concern...

I do have one item of concern regarding the court's decision: Their claim that sex offenders pose a serious risk for recidivism, and that the internet can all too easily be used by a sex offender to commit a new sexual crime against a child. The court cites a wide range of examples in airing this concern that, frankly, would give many would-be offenders ideas on how to commit such a crime and get away with it.

I am concerned by this, because not only does the concern of sex offenders committing new sex crimes have no basis in research, the ruling is such that their statement that runs contrary to said research may be cited in future decisions regarding the issue. I worry about broadly announcing the fact that social media can be used to stalk, sexually exploit, and sexually abuse children in specific ways, and this ruling appears to do just that. We need to avoid giving people ideas.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Why The Statistic Matters: Part Two, Child Sexual Abuse

This is a miniseries about why the statistics on this site, and the upcoming website, should matter to you, not only in your everyday life, but in preventing child sexual abuse... before it can happen.

Statistic 1: Most Abusers Are Those Known And Trusted

To be specific, 90-93% of child sexual abuse is committed by those known and trusted by the victim. This one is probably the single most important statistic to the prevention of child sexual abuse: The common myth is that it is strangers you need to worry about, and teaching stranger danger is rampant. Well, I grew up in that era of stranger danger. It did not protect me from the three times I was sexually abused by those I knew and trusted.

This single statistic means also that mandatory reporting laws will always impede the prevention of abuse, because it means that those who may be in need of mental health help do not get that help. Why? Because most abusers are those known and trusted, you will not report your son to the police for fondling a younger sibling. You will not want to ruin the rest of his life. The same holds true for the husband, the uncle, the teacher, the babysitter, etc.

Statistic 2: Prevalence Of Sexual Abuse

The prevalence of child sexual abuse has been reported in a number of ways. Studies indicate that the victim-reported abuse on surveys is around 8% for boys, and 19% for girls. Estimates that attempt to account for underreporting put abuse at one in six boys, and one in four girls. This statistic is important for obvious reasons. It teaches us that underreporting is real, and that the true prevalence of child sexual abuse in any society will likely never be known. It teaches us that boys are victims of sexual abuse, and that they report less due to a myriad of complex sociological factors.

But let us practically apply that statistic, just to the United States:

According to this source, there are 73.8 million children in the United States, and the known victim-reported prevalence (8%, 19%) translates to roughly 3,011,040 boys and 6,870,780 girls, or 9,881,820 children. The estimate that attempts to account for underreporting (38-50% ARE reported, so we will assume for the moment that only 38% are reported) translates to 16,008,548 children.

In other words, our best data and estimates indicate that 13.39-21.69% of children are sexually abused (which is a big deal).
In other words, our best data and estimates indicate that 13.39-21.69% of children are sexually abused (which is a big deal).In other words, our best data and estimates indicate that 13.39-21.69% of children are sexually abused (which is a big deal).
In other words, our best data and estimates indicate that 13.39-21.69% of children are sexually abused (which is a big deal).

In other words, our best data and estimates indicate that 13.39-21.69% of children are sexually abused (which is a big deal).

Most of all, the prevalence of child sexual abuse shows us that too many children are affected by this epidemic already for us to be reacting to abuse after it happens. After abuse happens is clearly not good enough.

Statistic 3: Most Abuse Happens In A Residence, One-On-One

The circumstances of abuse can be shocking to some: 77% of child sexual abuse is done in a residence, and 81% of child sexual abuse occurs in a one-on-one situation. This is vitally important for prevention and for policymakers, because it means that the majority of abuse does not happen in parks, schools, playgrounds, libraries, movie theaters, or businesses. Restricting people from any of these places does nothing to stop sexual abuse, because not only does abuse not happen in these places, abuse is more often perpetrated not by strangers, but by someone the child knows.

Statistic 4: False Allegations Are Extremely Rare

How rare, you ask? Think 4-8%, and typically those false reports are allegations originating with an adult in the child's live, not the child themselves. What this clearly demonstrates is that children can be trusted to tell the truth about being sexually abused. If a child has told you they were abused, you must treat it as a fact and respond accordingly by going to a therapist with expertise in sexual abuse victims, a child advocacy center, Child Protective Services, or the police. While no doubt, given statistic number one, you know and trust the abuser, the fact of the matter is that they need treatment and help, and they will not get that without the police being at least notified. This statistic is obvious: Believe a child's allegation of sexual abuse.

Wrapping Up

While there are many more statistics in child sexual abuse that matter a great deal, these four statistics and why they matter form the core of what the average person absolutely must know about child sexual abuse. By being aware of not just the fact and figure, but why that figure is important, you can become involved in preventing child sexual abuse... before it can happen.