Thursday, July 10, 2008

On Sexual Predators & Anonymous Comments

by Felicia Donovan

***WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS GRAPHIC MATERIAL****

Something's been bugging me for a while and I think it's finally time I got it off my chest. Don't read on if you're squeamish. This is not cozy, by any means, and I apologize in advance for any offensive material...

Not too long ago, I was reading a post on another blog from a group of women all in justice fields either as police officers, prosecutors, investigative reporters or attorneys. This particular post was by a veteran police officer about the lack of sufficient laws against sexual predators.

Anyone who works in law enforcement is too well acquainted with the insidious threat these sex offenders pose. Having reviewed many sexual assault cases against children; having read the interviews with victims so young your heart sinks; having sat over the shoulder of undercover investigators posing as children on the Internet to lure sexual offenders out only to see one "live cam" after another pop-up with nasty things on it; having worked closely with detectives whose job it is to track and register them; having bumped elbows with these people as they come into the station to re-register -- I have some pretty strong feelings about this topic. I posted the following comment, which I've edited down for length purposes only, but you'll get the gist:

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"...you hit the nail on the head when you said that there is no "rehabilitation" for sex offenders. The predilection towards children is horribly strong and the rate of recidivism is so high because they WILL reoffend at any cost... The bottom line is that these mutants have one goal in mind - to rape a child. That is not the same, as you pointed out, as the hormonal teenage boy who likes a girl in a lower grade. Sexual offenders seek out the youngest, most pre-pubescent child they can for the sole purpose of getting off from raping and molesting little ones - the younger, the better. Let anyone who thinks these creatures have any rights read or witness the interviews with 5-year old Betty telling how "Uncle Billy put his pee-pee in my mouth."

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I signed my name to it because I feel strongly that if you're going to express your opinion in a public venue, you should have the courage to stand by your words. Apparently, I'm in the minority on that.

No sooner had I posted my comment, than the first of several "Anonymous" posters commented back. The first one said they were "appalled at the lynch mob menatality [sic] of this blog." That brought out another "Anonymous" poster who came up with, "Sex Offenders are the other form of terrorist according to the government, because you don’t know who they are or where they are." Huh?

There were several posters who had the courage to at least use a profile, but many did not. Accusations flew, people retorted, the blog author held her ground, but few signed their names.

I'm not sure what bothered me more, the fact that someone actually tried to defend the rights of sex offenders, or the fact that so many people didn't have the courage to identify themselves. Am I the only one that thinks people who can't even sign their names to their public opinions are just plain chicken-shit?

Feel free to comment, but please, stand up, be a big person and put your name to it. I signed mine...

20 comments:

jwhit said...

We have recently had a notorious CSO released in Queensland with the follow-up protests. The guy is a nasty one in many ways. The media continue the burn. Does it change the fact that the law is designed to not imprison people indefinitely? No. Would society stand for such a premise? Probably. But that's not the way it is now. Is vigilantism the way to go? I don't think so. So the alternative is to change the laws to allow for CSOs and SOs to be locked up forever in certain circumstances [multiple rapes, rape with a weapon, child attacks as a possible list].

As to anonymity. Many times people do not sign their names because of the backlash they assume they will receive for stating their opinions. They also may do it to not have to deal with additional exposure in general on the Internet. The fear generated by the lack of adherence to the law by the current US government as to surveillance and tracking is to blame for some of this. It may have nothing to do with not wanting to stand by their message/posting/opinion. I don't mind because I lost any control years ago and have taken a general decision that I want more exposure so if the authorities come knocking, it would be quite obvious if I didn't turn up any more. [that is mostly tongue in cheek]

Terri Thayer said...

I would think that those comments are coming from sex predators. These guys are internet savvy. It wouldn't surprise me at all if they posted comments such as these to intimidate those who stand up against them.

Take them for what they're worth. Zero. Zip. Good for you for speaking out.

What's the blog, by the way? I'd love to check it out.

krissib said...

I was actually blown away when I testified in front of our state's house judicial committee and saw how some of our legislatures will put the rights of a pedophile ahead of the rights of a child. Of course, lobbyist money and pressure from families of predators who make campaign contributions unfortunately have more to do with how laws get passed as opposed to people doing what's right. I was thoroughly digusted that we had to fight so hard to prove to legislators why it is the right thing to protect these innocent little victims.

I have investigated sex crimes for a long time and have worked closely with victims and offenders. Rehabilitation is not common. Recidivism is common. And don't think that the "first" conviction is the first time. There are many pedophiles out there that just haven't been caught yet, and those that have been caught and convicted are certainly a low percentage of the many that we know are out there perping. Many of these cases that we do investigate will never make it to trial, thus the perp walks free. We cannot be tough enough with our laws or our sentencing for the ones that are convicted.

Small minds hide behind anonymity in a topic like this. My guess is that they are perps...

Paul Lamb said...

Sorry, I cannot accept the assertion that these creatures have no rights. If our criminal justice system is to have any meaning at all, it has to work for the worst among us. Yes, the crimes of these predators appall and disgust us, and yes, they must be stopped from doing the terrible damage they do, but we cannot allow ourselves to become savages in order to police the savages. Legislation to deal with these predators (both after and especially before they commit their crimes) may need to be strengthened certainly. Enforcement must be given the resources it needs. But everything we do must be done within the framework of our laws and system of justice, and that means that these people have inherent rights that must be repected until our legal system -- not our passions -- determines otherwise.

(I'm not sure what you and others mean exactly when you say that these creatures have no rights. I doubt you mean that we should be free to beat the crap out of them based on no more than an allegation. Nor do I suppose you mean that the police are sanctioned to break laws and violate rights in order to bring these people to justice. Those kinds of actions are breakdowns in the civilization we seemingly want to protect. But saying someone -- anyone -- has "no rights" is a big, big statement, and I don't know just what you mean by it.)

I have no compassion for sex offenders, but we are a society of laws and we cannot ignore that when it suits us. Every time we do something to reduce the rights of others, we make it that much easier for someone else to reduce our rights.

Felicia Donovan said...

Thank you, Paul, for your comments but if anyone's "rights" are to be protected, I believe it should be the child victims', first and foremost. Unfortunately, our judicial system doesn't always operate that way.

We've finally established Child Advocacy Centers across the country to try and minimize the impact of testifying on kids. At CAC's, young victims are interviewed once by a trained interviewer in a child-friendly setting, but in too many places, child victims are still required to face their perpetrators in court and testify to all the salient details as they face them. This is revictimization at its worst.

Legislation is still lacking in regard to consistent penalties. Understand that many child sexual predators are very well connected with others - they know what states are more lenient and will specifically go there. They know how and where to trade kiddie porn on the Internet to feed their deviance. They have underground networks that up until now, were nearly impenetrable. They are well-organized.

KrissiB is right - the first time they get caught is rarely the first offense, nor will it be their last. So how would you protect children from such compulsive deviance?

Felicia Donovan said...

Terri, the blog is "Women In Crime Ink" at http://womenincrimeink.blogspot.com/

G.M. Malliet said...

On NPR this morning there was a news item that said Britain had passed / was passing a law to block sex offenders from moving so freely about the globe with their wares...it's an attempt to block the "anything-goes" sex markets in places like Thailand, for example, from spilling over into Britain.

It was kind of a Huh? moment, because I assumed such a law was already on the books in Britain and elsewhere. Don't know about the U.S.

Felicia Donovan said...

Gin, the laws in the US are mostly aimed at manufacturing, possessing and trading child pornography on-line. States have laws but they vary widely from state-to-state.

One recent move that may quell the proliferation of child pornography comes from efforts begun by NY Attorney General Cuomo, who reached an "agreement" with Internet Service Providers to shut the usenet, newsgroups and known sites trading child porn. After a lengthy undercover operation in which investigators from the AG's office advised ISP's of the presence of CP and the ISPs did nothing about it, the AG's office threatened charges, hence the "agreement." Other states including California and other countries including France are following suit. One can only hope...

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

This is a topic that makes my blood boil. The idea that these sick bastards are moving so freely amongst us, makes me nuts. Yet, I totally agree with Paul Lamb's statements about the dangers of reducing an individual group's legal rights. It never stops with just that one group.

That said, however, if ever asked in jury selection if I could give the death penalty to anyone convicted of the rape and murder of a child, I would have to be honest. Hell, yeah, I could.

So, while our children are stalked, raped and murdered, our government sends troops and money to fight a bogus war. Why can't those troops and that money be funneled into protecting our own -- starting with abused children and women? Why? Because there is no profit in it.

Andrew Hall said...

In regard to people posting anonymously - I have to say a word in their defense.
Many people have privacy concerns. They do not want the entire internet to have access to their full name or any other personal data. Many people are not techno-savy enough to adequately protect themselves, so they feel they must post anonymously. I don't think it's that big a deal.

Bill Cameron said...

I have to say that I think the point Paul makes on this matter is a crucial one. If our system of rights does not apply equally to everyone, no matter how heinous we may believe some to be, then our system is meaningless. It's easy to express our disgust and outrage at sexual predators, and easy to find fault with those who deign to defend their rights. How could we, after all, these people are monsters?

But define monster. Our social views are elastic and ever changing. As social and political power shifts, the definition of what constitutes a person whose rights are forfeit can easily change unless we hold firm. Already in the United States we've cast aside the 4th Amendment and allowed the 1st Amendment to come under serious threat, all out of a fear of "terrorists," a word that's been so overused and misapplied it no long has any meaning. Our fear has become a greater enemy to our way of life and rights as a free people than the so-called terrorists. Our other legal (and allegedly inalienable) rights as citizens are also under threat if we allow our disgust at sexual predators to erode even some rights on the argument that "those people aren't like us. It's a short trip to "not like us," for anyone.

Now, I say all this from the perspective of a parent of a child who was sexually abused in foster care. When we adopted him at age three, we started what became eight years of therapy to help him heal from the effects of the abuse. If anything, my experience as the parent of an abused child makes me more committed to ensuring our rights are universally applied. And this is because in practical terms, I've seen how our knee-jerk reactivity and disregard for the rights of alleged offenders can cause genuine and irreparable harm.

The fact is, the moment you say "sexual predator" (or "terrorist"), we immediately move into a mindset of guilty until proven innocent, and nothing, really, will prove anyone innocent, even if they are.

We live in an age when there are no secrets. The specifics of my son's situation are not available to the public, but over the years, information slips out, often incomplete and almost always inaccurate. From thence comes rumor and innuendo. In my son's case, he was a victim at an early age, but because people "knew" he had a history and because of the assumptions they made from his so-called knowledge, and finally because of the guilty until proven innocent approach to these matters, twice now we've been put in a position of having to move him due to hysterical overreactions.

In the first case, he called someone a name. It was a bad name, a word he shouldn't have used. But because he had a "history" and we all know the sexual abuse victims "often" become offenders, he was branded a sexual threat. For calling someone a name that, while inappropriate, was in common use by most children his age. There was a lot of hand wringing, but in the end, his own rights were irrelevant. He was a "threat" because we all know how these things work, and we just can't take any chances. Based on his supposed threat level, I'd have been in jail many times over by his then age. But, of course, I was just a kid who misbehaved, not a kid branded with a label born out of fear. He had no rights in the matter. He was one of "them."

Another event happened last year. He got into a fight at school. He even started it, and certainly consequences were appropriate. But the other kid's parents had "heard about his problems," and they demanded that, because he was a threat, he be removed from any classes and activities that he might share with my son. What threat he was, they didn't even know. They just "heard" things about "sexual" matters and so, once again, my son's rights vanished. The fact that the fight was of the type that's completely ordinary among boys that age was beside the point. People had made their assumptions based on what they thought they knew.

I'm not saying that sexual predation is not a threat, but in our reaction to it we can cause as much harm as we think we are protecting against. My son is healthy, well-adjusted, and if anything, less of a sexual threat than most kids his age. But he won't get a chance, because our attitude toward "those people" includes him through a weird osmosis of fear and misunderstanding.

If we were the society we claim to be, a society of inalienable rights, of innocent until proven guilty, of people guided by an understanding of the necessity of ensuring the universality of our rights as a people, people like my son could simply live their lives as healthy, safe members of society. As it is, he might as well be a terrorist, because as soon as anyone gets even a whiff of what they think they know, that's how they treat him.

Felicia Donovan said...

Bill, I just want to hug you for your honesty and candor and please hug your son for me, too. He was a victim and deserves so much better. I truly mean that, but that's sort of my point - victims are often "tainted" for their lives and it's not, not, not their fault.

Nina Wright said...

Felicia, I applaud you for creating this forum. As a six-year-old, I was repeatedly sexually molested by a neighbor who was also my best friend's grandfather. I was afraid to tell my parents what was happening--even though I was quite sure it was very wrong--because I felt that I was in some vague way "guilty," too.

When I finally did tell my parents--actually, I asked them if it was all right to let the neighbor do what he did to me since everybody knew he was a "nice old man"--they went crazy with rage and terror. Their reaction confirmed my deepest fear: that I was not a good person; good people didn't get involved in dirty things like that.

Looking back, I feel sad for everyone involved: my little girl self, my parents, my best friend, and even the neighbor.

Felicia Donovan said...

Nina, I'm so very sorry for what you went through.

I'm glad I started this, too. I'll continue the fight for victims for as long as I can to put them in the forefront, to safeguard their rights, and get others to understand that no one deserves that. Ever.

I applaud all of you for your courage in speaking your minds, for sharing your stories, for your strength. Big hugs all around...

Bill Cameron said...

Thank you, Felicia. It's hard to get people to understand that, so I really appreciate it when they do.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

This was, without a doubt, one of the best and most important posts ever on this site! Thank you, Felicia. And thank you, Bill and Nina, for having the courage to post such personal, painful things.

Nina, I, too, was molested by a neighbor. I was around 10 years old. It only happened once. He had the only pool in the neighborhood and all the kids went to his house to swim in the summer, but I never went back after that. I was also too afraid to tell anyone until I finally told a therapist in my late 30's. My parents would have been outraged ... at me ... for letting it happen, and I might have gotten a beating for it. And the other kids at school would have made unbearable fun of me if it got out. I was already the "fat girl" in class with all the trauma that came with that.

But I've always regretted not saying anything, and have often wondered how many little girls that creep molested after me, that I might have prevented.

Now fast forward to age 38. I was sexually harrassed by a priest many times, and spoke up about the inappropriate advances (which included physical). I was vilified by many. Called a liar. Made out to be a desperate, fat (yes, they used the F word), single woman looking for attention. A troublemaker. Funny thing, a few years later, that priest and I crossed paths once again at another church in another city. He shamelessly put the moves on me again. I just kept my distance.

Doesn't matter the age, victims are victimized over and over, not just during the incident. But when it happens to a child, it's even more heinous. They can't fight back, and are easily confused about shame and fault - and often by acceptance and affection by their attacker.

Bill, if I had a young son or daughter, I wouldn't hesitate to let him or her play with your son. After all, I know his dad. :)

BTW, eventually that priest was quietly shipped out of the country after being caught in Vegas with a parishioner’s wife. Notice, I said "quietly." Whatever happen to placing people in pillary in town squares? Maybe we should bring it back.

Felicia Donovan said...

Sue Ann, I'm so sorry for what you went through both as a child and an adult. I would like to think that at some point, we would stop blaming the victim and start believing them, especially when they are children. I can't think of anything that qualifies more as "revictimization" than for a child to finally deal with the shame of coming forward and to either not be believed or even worse, to be punished for telling the truth.

I am somewhat speechless at this group - your courage, your honesty, your resilience...

Nina Wright said...

I want to send a special thanks to everyone who took the time to read or reply here. Extra hugs to Sue Ann, Bill (and son), and you, F.D.!

Nina

Crescendo said...

Though I wouldn't quite say that offenders have "no rights"-- they deserve habeaus corpus and the other legal rights afforded to criminals-- I definitely think the rights of victims are being impeded on and I definitely think we need stronger laws against sexual predators-- not just of children.

When I was in elementary school, there was a boy one grade older than me who started giving me some rather unusual attention, and to my friends. At first I was flattered but it became more and more degrading and then he started getting touchy... eventually I had to report him to the principal. Police came in, and all of these other girls came out of the woodwork-- even kindergardeners! Dozens of them-- and I was the first one who ever got him in trouble!

He just bounced around from school to school after that, but it was obvious who had turned him in the first time, so he stalked me through middle school and high school. Even now I hear about him harassing people back home. Sometimes I dream that he'll hunt me down in revenge... Actually it's one of the reasons I want a concealed carry when I turn 21.

There are many sexual predators out there who target women, too, and we need to work to stop them. I went to a lecture by Stephen Thompson and came away with so much more knowledge than I had before...

There are still so many myths in our society about victims, the blame-the-victim mentality, and turning women into just sexual objects... This subject is very important to me. So I'm glad you posted your comment, on that other blog, and here. Maybe it's controversial but people need to hear it.

Felicia Donovan said...

Thank you, Crescendo, for sharing your story. Many times it takes one brave soul to step forward and tell the truth that others will follow. Please stay safe...