In response to David Trower’s Nov. 12 column “Sex offenders need stronger punishments,” I feel disappointed that Trower would write something that relies on thoroughly debunked stereotypes, faulty statistics and emotional appeals, yet fails to even acknowledge or address the root causes of the issue of sexual abuse.
Trower’s viewpoint is typical of those who adhere to the “uncontrollable monster” myth of the American Sex Offender. It is a persistent myth dating back to the late 1800s and the serial killings of Jack the Ripper and HH Holmes. (In fact, sex offenders were referred to as “Rippers” during that era). Today, the “stereotypical sex offender” is still the shady and dirty old man in the wrinkly trench coat, who drives a rusty van and lures children with candy and puppies.
However, there are a number of ways someone can land on today’s sex offender registry. In Texas, children as young as age 10 are listed on the public registry. A survey from the Dallas Morning News in 2009 found over 4,000 juveniles on the Texas Registry.
People can land on the list a variety of ways. A teenage girl taking a nude picture of herself can be convicted of “production of child pornography.” The boyfriend she sends the picture to can be charged with possession of child pornography. If you are drunk while tailgating, and you can’t make it to the Porta-Potty, you better urinate on yourself, lest you land on the list for indecent exposure.
The point is that not everyone on that list is there for the kind of things we tend to think of when we here that term “sex offender.”
Trower’s argument is an appeal to emotion. Using the dubious claim that so few “rapists” are brought to justice and the viewpoint that anyone subjected to sexual abuse is forever scarred, he claims this should justify taking a human life. Trower’s viewpoint insults and degrades many sex crime victims who have risen above the abuse and have overcome whatever pain or difficulties they have faced to live productive lives.
Samantha Geimer (who we call a “rape victim”) proclaimed in her memoir that America’s “Victim Industry” seeks to prevent those who have endured sexual abuse from healing because we need lifelong victims to justify increasingly harsh penalties for even the pettiest of offenses.
Those on the sex offender registry are human beings. Some have done really bad things, some have made stupid decisions and some are on there because of an overzealous system that feels it is better to lock up a hundred innocent men than to let one guilty man go free.
We have executed innocent men in this country. We have incarcerated people for decades before DNA testing exonerated them from any wrongdoing.
Perhaps Trower would love to speak with Leslie Blanton of Port Angeles, Wash. Mrs. Blanton has to raise her children without their father Gary, a man who, at age 17, had consensual sexual relations with another teen, and was added to the public registry. The man who killed Gary did so because Gary’s name was on that registry.
The killer was a career criminal with 47 separate convictions dating back to 1994 for drug crimes, assaults and burglaries. This career criminal was considered a “hero” in the eyes of the public. Many wanted the killer freed.
The only execution needed in this day and age is the sex offender registry. The registry manufactures crime and peddles fear to the people while neglecting the root causes of sexual abuse. A generation of increasingly tough approaches have failed, so it is time to select evidence-based methods rather than relying on reactionary emotion-based laws.
By Derek Logue – Derek Logue is an advocate for registered citizens and is a registered sex offender. http://oncefallen.com/