Does the Criminal Injustice System Help Protect Our Children?
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.