Does the Criminal Injustice System Help Protect Our Children?

March 29, 2014 at 1:24 am 4 comments

Trigger warning: discussion of sexual abuse, warning for literalists: major sarcasm ahead

I was planning on writing about sexuality leading up to Beltaine. Sex crime/abuse wasn’t what I was planning on writing about, (and I’m sure I’ll write something in addition that’s more positive) but a publicly Pagan guy just got busted for child porn possession, and there’s a big uproar. Ironically I’d never even heard of him until a while ago, when a couple of other bloggers I read commented on a post he made about how Pagans need to be careful about how they represent the community- criticizing individuals that do comparatively harmless things like dress up like fantasy characters and so forth. Yay hypocrisy! Anyway this is not about him. He should be held accountable, and so should anyone who knew what was going on. And I agree with Conor, that this is good opportunity to become more aware of sexual abuse and rape, and take measures to talk about it openly within our communities- religious and otherwise. I would like to add a “big picture” perspective.

Here in Our Glorious Fatherland* we have less than 5 of the world’s population, but almost a quarter of the world’s prison population. Wow, doesn’t that make you and your children feel safe? To make you feel even safer, most employers ask if you have a criminal record (this has now been banned in a couple of states) and require background checks. Many landlords do this as well. Fortunately, former criminals can easily find ways to get free housing and food with all of the useful productive skills they learn in prison. So, we also have a kick-ass recidivism rate (fancy word for folks going back to prison) and here in Minnesota we have one of the highest rates in the country! Persons that are registered sex offenders- who might’ve done anything from run down the street naked (indecent exposure) to possess child porn, to actually produce it or actually molest/abuse/rape children or adults. And then there’s statutory rape- in some states, there are “Romeo and Juliet” laws that allow for exceptions for couples than are within a particular range of the age of consent- which also varies by state.

The beautiful thing is, laws that control the lives of ex-sex offenders are something that brings liberals and conservatives together. It’s so rare to see, but these brave lawmakers come together to make sure these irredeemable scumbags can’t live within X miles of a school/church/library etc. And in Minnesota we care so much of the safety of our children, that the scariest sex offenders never even get out of prison- with our fine, well-funded MN Sex Offender Program, these lowlifes get only the finest psychological treatment. We can’t be sure if works though, so they never leave! That’s why those filthy socialists over in Britain didn’t allow a person convicted of rape to be extradited to Minnesota, saying his civil rights would be violated. OK, so now you’re getting the idea of the fabulous system we have in place.

So back to ol’ Kenny. He was convicted of child porn possession, remember not production. Should this be considered a crime? It isn’t in some countries. I think production of it definitely should, as it directly means violating the sexual protection of children. It’s also been mentioned that he was a photographer, so it seems pretty likely he may have been taking pictures. People who look at child porn are more likely to also be child molesters, but most of them never act on it. Also, is there much of a separation between porn involving young children vs. teenagers?  Considering how much the media sexualizes teenagers, and even pre-teens at one point do we consider it pornographic? It’s interesting to compare different ideas of sexuality around the world and what is acceptable to show, and at what age. France just banned child beauty pageants. This was surprising to some, coming from a country that is famous for being sex-positive (well kinda sorta) but they did it to protect young kids from being sexualized. Debate about that as you will- I know it’s not going to happen here. Treating kids like prize show dogs is a national past-time.

Remember even if you’re not convicted of a sex crime, merely being accused can get on a record and ruin your career and reputation and well, your life. Frankly, I hate to say it but any man who works with children that are not his own, especially young children is looked upon with at least a little bit of suspicion by American culture. It’s sad but true.

So as you can see things aren’t as morally black and white as they seem. Laws governing sexual behavior how they are enforced are just as messy as sex itself. But I challenge you to think about this- are there better ways for us to prevent sexual abuse- of both children and adults? Could we get psychological help to people who have sexual desire for children, before they act on their desires? (Much as we might get counseling for someone who has a desire to kill but hasn’t done it yet- that doesn’t happen much either) Are former sex offenders all irredeemable? We never ask these questions, because our primary concern is, as it should be for the victims/survivors. To suggest anything other than harsh punishment and status as a permanent social outcast would be ignoring the pain of the victims. This is a false dichotomy, and it’s time we challenged it.

*I invite my readers from outside the Land of the semi-Free to share reflection on how your country deals with sex criminals and laws regulating sexual conduct- for better or for worse.

**Upon reading Conor’s post a second time, I noticed that there have been allegations of abuse by K.K- in fact allegations that have been suppressed by other Pagans, I’m afraid. I hope these are brought into formal legal investigation.

 

Entry filed under: Disability/Health, Ethics, Pagan Communities. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Rhyd Wildermuth  |  March 30, 2014 at 1:02 am

    Very well-argued. When I was a social worker, we talked often about policy issues regarding homeless sex-offenders and the policies of exclusion–basically, we create exclusion zones for them where they literally have no legal place to exist in certain cities, and then villify them for being homeless, despite that being the ONLY condition they are legally allowed to be in.

    The emotional revulsion we naturally feel regarding their crimes doesn’t allow us to see the conditions we create for them, meanwhile sexualizing children in every media form (including pageants and films) and wondering why there’s a problem.

    Reply
  • 2. caelesti  |  March 31, 2014 at 11:18 pm

    Right. People should be held responsible for their behavior, but we should hold ourselves partly responsible if we don’t allow them to participate in society, then when they re-offend we just say “oh, gee they must not have learn their lesson”. I’m not saying let’s all invite high-level sex offenders into our living rooms but there’s a huge range of options between knee-jerk “hang ‘em high” and extremist moral relativism. Unfortunately those are the loudest voices.

    Reply
  • 3. Elizabeth R. McClellan (@popelizbet)  |  April 12, 2014 at 7:17 am

    If the incarceration rates in the prison industrial complex were due to too-vigorous enforcement of sex crimes, I might be willing to go along with you. But they are not.
    Over ninety percent of rapists never spend a single day in jail. Not one.
    You cannot consume child pornography without harming a child because it takes abusing a child to produce that pornography. A noted anti-abuse activist points out that even calling it child porn is a misnomer – that each and every photograph is a crime scene photo.
    There are due process problems with how we treat post-conviction sex offenders. But perhaps right in the middle of a situation where a predator preyed on people for decades is not the time to make a post where you refer to the predator as “ol’ Kenny” and suggest that perhaps his crime isn’t that bad because he may not have produced photographs of child sexual abuse but just consumed them.
    You asked else net whether your post was victim blaming. In my opinion? Sure is. Because you have far more to say about false accusations, whether it’s that bad to consume crime scene photos of child rape, heavy inferences that statutory rape is no big deal, even heavier inferences that porn involving minors is also no big deal…than any of your side references giving a brief nod to victims. You totally ignore that the specific area of sex crimes against children shows a ridiculously high recidivism rate of the same offenses in comparison to crimes generally. You’re not wrong that harsh post-conviction can result in recidivism when people cannot support themselves without committing crimes…but you don’t need to rape kids to put food on the table. There’s a way to argue for rehabilitation for sex offenders without sounding like a rape apologist. That is not what you have achieved.

    Reply
    • 4. caelesti  |  April 12, 2014 at 8:53 am

      Those are fair criticisms, and the issue of child porn consumption itself being abuse I’ve seen discussed, so I did remove the “it’s just possession” comment from the post- I will leave the post as is from here on out for the sake of honesty and clarity. I admit that I am not all that knowledgeable about these issues, and if I write on them in the future I will be careful to do more research. I was perhaps irresponsible in lumping several issues together- like statutory rape. My point was that not all sex crimes are exactly the same. You’re right on about the prosecution of rape is far below it should be. I wrote the post with the expectation that there was going to be more condemnation and “hang ‘em high” like comments re: Klein and ignorance about the system and while there were some posts like that, there have been far more defending him and being way too sympathetic. That is not the response I’d anticipated and I am extremely disappointed in it, and there has indeed not been a suitably proportionate response in support of victims. I apologize for not being more careful and responsible in my writing and framing of these issues, and I thank you for your civil critique.

      Reply

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