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The Plague of Sex Offender Panic

November 24, 2009

thecypresstimes.com : Of Myths and Monsters: The Plague of Sex Offender Panic.

If we want to address sex crimes in America, we need an honest approach. We need to seriously consider what truly works, not what simply feeds our anger and fear and makes us “feel good.” We forget sex offenders are also human beings, capable of remorse and redemption. We forget how easily we can fall into our own sins, all of which is the same in the eyes of God.

There are ways to address this issue from a realistic standpoint. We may not be able to stop every tragedy from happening, but we prevent much more sexual abuse by looking at the issue honestly. We must put aside our preconceived notions and our emotions and stick with what works. The right knowledge is power. Prevention and education programs do indeed exist, which addresses sexual abuse from a realistic and rational standpoint (such as the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center and Stop It Now!). We need to educate our youth on sexual responsibility and accountability, and not just from a fear mongering perspective. Sex education must include discussions on sex crime laws. We also need to have a balanced and healthy view of sex, meaning we can teach sexual responsibility in a tasteful manner without simply saying, “Don’t have sex or you’ll go to hell or jail.” Remember, we are a culture that needs disclaimers on coffee cups lest we burn our laps. We also need to actually talk about sex; these days when a person is struggling with sexual idolatry, they have almost nowhere to turn. Our society shuns sexual deviancy so much, even mental health professionals who work with sex offenders or deviants are shunned.

Prevention is only part of the solution; proper rehabilitation of the sex offender is a must. Of those who do re-offend, two-thirds of them will do so within the first two years of release. Thus, transitional homes and support networks (such as http://www.sosen.org) are keys to reducing already low recidivism rates. Social ostracism and denial of services, housing, employment, and support has already proven disastrous for our society; all those approaches achieve is reinforcing faulty belief systems of those struggling with sexual idolatry and giving ample incentive to disobey the law. A Rand Corporation study has shown every dollar spent on prevention and rehabilitation programs save up seven dollars that would otherwise be spent on running offenders through the justice system [16].

Most importantly, we need to honor victims by helping victims of sex crimes overcome the crimes committed against them. These days, if a victim forgives his or her attacker, many people look at them like they are crazy. What good does keeping victims thinking about what happened to them and the guilt and anger they feel rather than dealing with those feelings? The result is many more lives remain broken rather than healed, making them lifelong victims rather than “Thrivers.”

In our narrow focus on the “Registered Sex Offender,” we tend to forget the big picture. Appeals to emotion rather than reason helped create a legal system of perpetual brokenness for victims, offenders, and the community alike. So has the illusion of “innocence.” Your child is innocent until he is thrust into the criminal justice system for crossing a line he or she never addressed or even knew about. Ignorance is not bliss, nor is it an excuse for breaking the law. McDonald’s will give you a disclaimer for hot coffee in a cup. Yet no one is giving your child disclaimers on our legal system. If you don’t learn to be honest with your children about sexual issues, who will?

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