Tuesday, December 24, 2013

speak up; speak out

My Christmas gift to you: a call for common sense. 

In 2006, Congressman Robert Scott of Virginia begged Congress to think carefully before the vote on the Adam Walsh Act.
[T]he crimes committed against the children named in the bill, those not named, and the suffering of their families is a tragedy for all of us, yet this does not release us from the responsibility to legislate on a sound and reasoned basis. I believe the situation is serious and grave enough to warrant a bill that is based on approaches that have been proven to reduce this scourge in our society, not on sound bites that will merely pander to our emotions.
You already know that pandering to our emotions carried the vote. Nevertheless, it is refreshing to hear his words even years later.
Now, with no more basis than we had before, just the name of the crime and the continuing political appeal of appearing tough on sex offenders, we are again greatly increasing penalties with more death penalties and increased mandatory minimums, including more mandatory minimums for teenagers having consensual sex. ...
 Rather than taking such cases [teenagers having consensual sex] out of the bill, we are told that we should simply trust the prosecutor.
He mocks the idea that mandatory minimums are a good idea because mandatory minimums require blindly trusting the prosecutor.
Don't trust the Sentencing Commission's discretion to set guidelines designed to reflect what sentence should be based on the facts and circumstances of the case or the background and role of the offender, rather than simply the name of the case, the name of the provision. And don't trust judges to look at the facts and circumstances of the case, the offender's role and background and guidelines to arrive at an appropriate sentence after hearing all of the evidence at trial. Take the discretion away from these officials and trust prosecutors to decide when to ignore law requiring a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence. And trust there are no prosecutors who can be affected by issues such as local political influences.
He points out the obvious:
The problem with mandatory minimum sentences is that they defy common sense. If you deserve the mandatory minimum, you can get it. If it violates common sense, you have to get it anyway. 
Congressman Scott made sense. Stopping to consider how the Adam Walsh Act, once enacted, would play out could have prevented a lot of heartache in the years since. Instead, Congress stuck its collective fingers in its collective ears and passed the Adam Walsh Act.

The good news is that Congressman Scott spoke out. One of these days, another Congressman or Senator will have the courage to speak out on behalf of common sense. Perhaps more than one and perhaps more than one at a time. 

Senators Rand Paul and Patrick Leahy have proposed legislation that would reduce the impact of mandatory minimum sentencing, an important step in the right direction.

In England, something even more spectacular happened. 
Helen Reece, a reader in law at the London School of Economics, called on Theresa May, the Home Secretary, to relax rules which automatically ban sex offenders from caring for children, saying that this could breach their human rights.
We must continue to speak out. You never know when something we say will prove to be the impetus for real change. 

Former offenders who speak up at city council meetings to protest residency restrictions, who speak to state legislators about sex offender laws, who explain to neighbors the effects of the sex offender registry--those former offenders set great examples of courage for the rest of us.

They are to be admired and emulated. Speak out and be heard. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

eighteen months in fed for pediatrician

A beloved D.C. pediatrician will spend 18 months in a federal prison for possession of child pornography--a compassionate sentence, compared to most. 

I blogged about this doctor when he was arrested. I pointed out that some doctors are asked by law enforcement to look at child porn images to estimate ages of the people in the images.

The difference between the prison-bound pediatrician looking at child porn and another doctor looking at child porn to estimate ages? The assumption is that one is turned on by the images and the other is not...not that we can tell for certain who is aroused and who is not...or who goes home after seeing the images to fantasize about what was seen. 

We simply cannot know what is in the mind of the viewer, no matter how entertaining it is to imagine that we can. 

At the Washington Post link, commenter DCDiva63 said,
I can't believe there are parents out there supporting this sick pervert. There is no excuse for possessing child pornography, period. I don't care how much good work he did for the community. He was in a position of trust, and this is the worst kind of exploitation and abuse of children. He was getting his jollies from it and that makes him beneath contempt.
Looking at images is the worst kind of exploitation and abuse of children? Really? I wouldn't be so sure. Thinking that looking at pictures is worse than anything else that could happen to children, is not rational.

I am glad that the doctor will serve only 18 months and I'm sorry he has to go to prison at all. It is good that his community is standing by him, recognizing that he broke the law but remembering that he was someone who did good.

Breaking the law does not--cannot!--negate the best part of a life.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

sex crime investigator commits sex crime

A detective with the San Jose Police Department will serve a minimum of six months for communicating with a minor online, requesting and receiving a nude photo from the teen.

This detective worked in the sexual investigations division. Law enforcement officers are not impervious to temptation.

If this man has a family, they, too, will suffer from the extreme humiliation and exposure that comes with arrest for a crime like this. They will be as frightened by the circumstances and the consequences as any other family would be. Perhaps more. Law enforcement often go tougher on their own.

Monday, November 4, 2013

man burned alive after being accused--and cleared!--of being a pedophile

A man wrongly accused of being a pedophile was beaten unconscious, set on fire, and killed by two neighborhood "vigilantes."  
Investigators say the brutal violence in the Bristol, England neighborhood appears to be the result of a vicious rumor mill and a misguided police investigation. 
According to the Daily Mail, 44-year-old Bijan Ebrahimi was arrested in July after being accused of taking "inappropriate" images of neighborhood children. 
But after an investigation, police determined that Ebrahimi was actually taking pictures of kids he suspected of vandalizing his prized garden. 
Despite being released by police with no charges, the Daily Mail reports that two neighborhood men decided to enact their own justice against the disabled Ebrahimi. 
Just two days after his release, Ebrahimi was viciously beaten by two 24-year-olds. The two suspects then dragged the unconscious Ebrahimi outside, where they set him on fire and killed him. (via http://sexoffenderissues.blogspot.com)
This is what comes of instilling a fear of sex offenders and pretending that all sex offenders are dangerous.

If you are one of those who thinks there is a need for a publicly available sex offender registry, you share responsibility for this man's death.

If you are one who thinks sex offenders are to be feared, you share responsibility for this man's death.

If you are one who doesn't question why we have a sex offender registry, you share responsibility for this man's death.

When we encourage an unreasoning fear--and that is what the registry does--vigilantism is a natural outcome. When we force hundreds of thousands of people to register, pretend they are dangerous, tell them where they can and cannot live, push them to the margins of society, it is a natural outcome that their lives will be in danger from vigilantes.

Shame on those who support the registry.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

villains we love to hate

A Halloween story making the rounds recently drew much online ire: a woman planned to hand letters to overweight children instead of candy. The letter said:
You [sic] child is, in my opinion, moderately obese and should not be consuming sugar and treats to the extent of some children this Halloween season.
My hope is that you will step up and parent and ration candy this Halloween and not allow your child to continue these unhealthy eating habits.
People were outraged. How cruel she is! What a witch! I bet her house gets egged! People like her are just evil!

People love a good villain and this woman is Cruella DeVille with children instead of puppies.

To be a good villain, he or she must be guilty of something totally reprehensible, completely beyond the pale. Killing puppies for their fur? Withholding candy on Halloween? Criticizing children's weights? Definitely reprehensible and beyond any pale we ever met.

Other good villains include bullies and sex offenders. Everyone knows that those people are very, very bad. 

I wonder, though. How does it feel to see the billboards and TV commercials and Facebook posts that tell us to Stop the Bullying! Do kids see those and think I must stop bullying in its tracks, or do they feel shame and think, I hope no one thinks I'm a bully. How does a kid feel to be labeled a bully? I'm thinking she must feel as if someone is bullying her.

And sex offenders. Sex offenders are very bad people. Why else would law enforcement make them register unless they were all very dangerous? Think. Everything rational says the dangerous registered sex offender is extremely rare and yet...coming down harshly on all sex offenders is accepted. You can't list people on the Internet, tell us what crime they committed, and then tell us that the list is to keep us safe from those people without encouraging the pointing fingers and the cry of Shame! How does it feel to be labeled a sex offender? I'm thinking he must feel as if someone is bullying him. 

Shame is a hard rock to live under. We should encourage those who did wrong to take their punishment and then go back to life as usual. If we label them, restrict where they can live, and hold them up as an example of bad we have made it impossible for them to come out from under that rock. We can't label someone a bully and think that won't stick for a very long time.

The lady with the letters for chubby kids? Probably a hoax. Not so scary after all....just as bullies and sex offenders aren't as scary as you are led to believe. Do you feel let down? 

The anti-bullying programs and the sex offender registry have been letdowns, too. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

bad thing doesn't define her

A six-year-old was kidnapped and molested in 1999. This is almost the worst thing parents can imagine happening to a child. Not the worst, surely. We've all known parents who have lost children to death through illness or accident. Some of us know parents who have lost children to murder or suicide. Ranking terrible events on a scale of 1 to 10 is a pointless endeavor.

A child kidnapped and molested, though. I can only imagine the parents' terror. 

The kidnapper was never caught.

What happened when she was home again?
For the most part, Chris and Mindy [the parents] tried to keep life as normal as possible.
“We thought it was best,” said Chris. 
“I wanted her to be Haley Who Went to School and Was a Dancer and a Cheerleader, not Haley the Girl Who Was Kidnapped,” said Mindy. 
They didn't treat their little girl as if she was forever damaged. They kept life as normal as possible.
Some people were critical. They thought Chris and Mindy should have kept a tighter leash on their daughter.  
Yes, there is always someone who thinks they can see more clearly while standing outside. 
But the Herzogs were so grateful, they ignored the criticism and went on with life. 
Haley went to school. She ran the neighborhood. She threw herself into a million activities at Millard South. She was a cheerleader, a thespian, sang in show choir. She played violin in a local youth symphony and she wrote for the school newspaper.
Terrible things happen but we don't have to stay stuck in terrible. Learning how to recover can help us the next time life serves up something awful. Teaching our children how to recover--without labeling them as damaged goods--is a wonderful gift.
Haley, like the others at Millard South in 2011, found a way to cope after a fellow student shot and killed a beloved assistant principal, injured the principal and then turned the gun on himself.
I'm only guessing but perhaps her earlier experience of a terrible event followed by life as normal as possible helped her to deal with the school shooting twelve years later. Perhaps she was able to help other students when that happened.
And here's what she wants you to know: A bad thing happened to her. But it doesn't define her. 
Nope. She and her parents have made sure of that. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

if porn is addictive, do we ban it?

At The Public Discourse, Morgan Bennett writes,
Internet pornography is a “monstrous injustice,” and the time for its abolition has come.
She makes some excellent points in a pair of articles though I disagree with her conclusion.

In The New Narcotic, she talks about the addictive effects of repeated viewing of pornography. Viewing pornography can be more addictive than hard drugs like cocaine or heroin. Because pornographic images, once seen, stay in memory and can be recalled consciously or unconsciously, porn addictions can have a more lasting effect than using drugs that do not remain forever in the user's system.
...internet pornography does more than just spike the level of dopamine in the brain for a pleasure sensation. It literally changes the physical matter within the brain so that new neurological pathways require pornographic material in order to trigger the desired reward sensation. ...
Pornography, by both arousing (the “high” effect via dopamine) and causing an orgasm (the “release” effect via opiates), is a type of polydrug that triggers both types of addictive brain chemicals in one punch, enhancing its addictive propensity as well as its power to instigate a pattern of increasing tolerance. Tolerance in pornography’s case requires not necessarily greater quantities of pornography but more novel pornographic content like more taboo sexual acts, child pornography, or sadomasochistic pornography.  [My emphasis.]
Powerful stuff. The idea that this is all freely available--and can be used in privacy and anonymity--is worrisome. Kids who happen onto, or search out, porn have no idea what they may have started. For that matter, neither do adults. An addiction to legal pornography can lead a regular viewer to more novel content, images of more taboo sexual acts. The easy availability of porn on the internet inevitably leads to more people looking at illegal images.

Just as not everyone who has a beer ends up an addict, not every porn consumer will end up addicted to child porn. Some will and the numbers will increase over time.

In Internet Pornography & the First Amendment, she makes a persuasive argument that internet pornography damages both society and personal relationships. The pervasiveness of pornography, freely available and available at all times, is bound to have an effect on society.

If I could, with a stroke of luck or genius or my pen, make all pornography vanish, I would do it. Alas, I cannot. And neither can legislators.
First, local, state, and federal governments should enforce the current obscenity-related laws already on the books. Nearly every state has anti-obscenity laws. The enforcement of those laws would send a message that the production and distribution of obscene material is unacceptable in a civilized society. Second, local and national groups should run billboard, TV, and internet advertising campaigns to expose the harms of internet pornography to the public. 
Looking beyond those “first steps,” I would argue for the eventual enactment of new laws that would censor obscene internet pornography.
Pornography is too easily created, too easily distributed, and too appealing to the curious for it ever to be successfully abolished. Did the prohibition of alcohol stop people from drinking booze? Has the prohibition on marijuana made pot unavailable? Has the ban on child pornography stopped production or downloading?

Have we truly learned nothing from those efforts?

What the ban on pot and other drugs has done is put millions of people in prison and vacuumed over $1 trillion out of taxpayer pockets...all without reducing drug use. Putting thousands and thousands of people in prison for possessing illegal pornography has done nothing to reduce the amount of child porn available.

Another effect of prohibiting child pornography has been to make it impossible for child porn addicts to ask for help to stop. Morgan Bennett, in The New Narcotic, nicely outlines how addictive pornography can be and in Internet Pornography & the First Amendment she wants to penalize those with that addiction. Compassionate, she's not.

Imagine those efforts applied to currently-legal porn as well. How many more would we incarcerate? How many more families would be torn apart by the justice system? How many breadwinners would spend years in prison when therapy or 12-step groups would have served them better?

Her suggestion that we educate the public on the dangers of porn is sensible. Something related has been suggested before.

Censorship or abolition of any kind of pornography is, quite simply, impossible. To attempt to do that will destroy more families than the porn itself does.

Friday, October 18, 2013

persecution leads to suicides

Five recent stories, eight deaths:
When the threat of crushing public humiliation looms, too many decide suicide is the only way out or the surest way to keep from embarrassing their families and disappointing their friends.

How do we reduce that threat? Stop the public humiliation. Abolish the sex offender registry so offenders have a shot at a normal life when they finish serving their sentences. Stop treating sex offenders as if they are irredeemable. Stop treating sex offenders as if they are the most dangerous of all criminals. Speak up.

Churches should put their teachings about mercy and redemption into action by welcoming sex offenders. City councils should decrease the residency restrictions for sex offenders. State legislators should stop using sex offenders as the easy way to prove they are tough on crime. We should stop using the phrase "sex offender" to label a huge variety of offenses as if they are all equally bad.

I'd like to see people fight back when comments like this are made:
adios pervert .. now america dont have to pay for your prison life ..
I'd like to see a flood of responses to those comments, defending sex offenders. Yes, defending sex offenders. 

When the law encourages hatred and vigilantism, that law is wrong.

Laws that deliberately make life difficult for sex offenders are wrong.

When a law pretending to protect children results in fatherless children and a child dead of suicide, that law is wrong.

Abolish the sex offender registry.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

when embarrassing pictures go viral

In his comment on the arousal is not the crime post, Ethan included a link to a Salon article by a young woman who tells what it was like when a photo of her went viral.

Not just any photo. An embarrassing photo.

On Facebook, she had posted a photo of herself dressed as the sexy Lara Croft for Halloween. Unfortunately, she had neglected to check her Facebook privacy settings, leaving her photo open to the public. Someone saw the photo, re-posted it and then the re-postings snowballed. Cruel comments were posted wherever the photo was posted. And it was posted everywhere, it seemed.

So I laughed it all off at first — but then, I read the comments. 
“What a waste of space,” read one. Another: “Heifers like her should be put down.” Yet another said I should just kill myself “and spare everyone’s eyes.” Hundreds of hateful messages, most of them saying that I was a worthless human being and shaming me for having the audacity to go in public dressed as a sexy video game character. How dare I dress up and have a good time! 
We all know the awful humiliation of a person laughing at you. But that feeling increases tenfold when it seems like everyone is laughing at you. Scrolling through the comments, the world imploded — and took my heart with it.
LisaMoore commented after Ethan posted his link:
The Salon article is interesting and I showed it to my kids to reinforce not to put anything online that could be embarrassing. It is not the same as child porn pictures though. She was an adult.
True, the Lara Croft photo is not the same as child porn but there are similarities worth noting. She lost control of an image of herself, an image that she did not want the world to see. 

This must be a tiny slice of what it feels like to know that strangers on the internet are seeing, sharing, downloading photos of oneself in a sexual situation. For children, who were coerced or outright forced into sexual situations, to learn that there are photos of those experiences out there...I can't imagine what that must feel like. Embarrassment and humiliation must be the least of it.

This young woman, though, took action.

I called my friend Terri Jean, a photographer. She reminded me that I was beautiful, and told me I would get through this. And then, like any kick-ass heroines, we came up with a plan. [My emphasis.]
The photo was of her and she wanted as much control over it as she could get. She used her paralegal training and experience to fight back. She began contacting people who had shared it on Facebook and asked them to take down the post. Most of them were surprised to hear from her.
And of course, they hadn’t really thought of me as a person. Why should they? These images are throwaways, little bursts of amusement to get through a long workday. You look, you chuckle, you get some ridicule off your chest and move on to the next source of distraction. No one thought about the possibility that I might read those words. Far less, that I would talk back. 
Next, I began the monumental task of sending out copyright violation notices to the websites hosting the image — I would have to issue hundreds of them. My work as a paralegal had given me some training in this regard, but it was tedious, like pulling weeds out of the planet’s largest garden. I had to seek out each instance of the image and sift around until I could find contact information. 
No wonder this woman chose Lara Croft for her Halloween costume! She and Lara are both determined, resourceful, and smart.

The story for child pornography images is different. The law does not allow people to fight back the way this young woman did. Parents who want to remove images of their children from the Internet or children, now adults, who want to track down their own images--what can they do? 

If families go looking for child porn images, even with the purpose of fighting back the way this young woman did, they are likely to end up in trouble with the law. If an adult finds the pornographic image of herself as a child, she will herself commit the crime of possessing it.

Because the images are illegal, the websites on which they are available are driven far underground, making the job of tracking much more difficult.

If you are thinking--But the woman in the Lara Croft costume wasn't able to remove the images from the internet. She lost the fight!--I cannot argue with that. There is no way for her to remove all the images of her from the Internet. Ultimately, she did lose but not without putting up a fight, and not without making some of her tormentors aware of what they were doing. Being able to fight back felt good.

The children in child porn images never have the opportunity to fight back. Law enforcement is not trying to remove the images from the internet. No one is trying to confront those who re-posted the images to ask, "Why are you posting pictures of me?" The children are left with the possibility of receiving court-ordered restitution payments with which they can afford therapy. 

Is therapy the best we can do? What if fighting back would do more good than therapy or if it would make therapy a little less necessary? 

Reading this woman's story makes me see how powerful she felt when she found a way to fight back.

And while my self-confidence took a large blow from the experience, I’m getting over it. My photographer friend Terri did a photo shoot with me after it all went down. She’s a retro pinup photographer, and I’ve been posing for her for a while now, but that particular shoot felt great. Just to be seen a little bit more as I wanted to be.
But I refuse to disappear. I still go jogging in public. I don’t hide my flabby arms or chubby ankles for fear of offending someone else’s delicate sensibilities. I dress in a way that makes me happy with myself. And this Halloween, I’m thinking of reprising my role as Lara Croft just to give all the haters the middle finger.
Criminalizing child porn denies its victims the chance to fight back. Instead, they are in limbo, waiting for law enforcement to punish the people who downloaded the images. 

Waiting for someone else to do something. They aren't even waiting for someone to save them because that's not going to happen. They are stuck waiting for something to happen which doesn't affect them much at all. Arresting people for possession doesn't rid the Internet of the images, nor does it give the child (or family) any control over, well, anything.

They are relegated to the role of victim, a role some refuse to let them abandon. Tom Joad is not the only commenter to think once a victim, always a victim:
 I don't care if the image is two days old or twenty years old...that little child was still the victim of a terrible crime and continue to be a victim!!!
Some people seem to like the idea that children in child porn images will never be able to recover from the experience. Those children are not all alike. They each have their own way of recovering from bad experiences. Some of them would certainly prefer to be able to take action.

Do I really want child porn images popping up on my Facebook news feed? Certainly not. Society has a very strong taboo on sex with children and anyone who dared to post something like that would immediately come under fire from those who know how wrong it is. Wouldn't you protest? Wouldn't you demand that your Facebook friend remove the image? Wouldn't you do something to help any child you might recognize in the images? 

I hope it would work like that, though perhaps I am wrong and the world would come to accept the images. Would you? Freedom poses difficult problems. 

Would decriminalizing child porn create more viewers? I don't know. There seems to be no shortage of new viewers even though it is illegal now. Again, freedom poses difficult problems.

The thought of victims prevented from fighting back is painful. 

Would every family or child want to do what this woman did? Probably not. But for those who have a heart for the battle and who want to feel the power surge that comes with fighting back, why make it impossible for them to do that?

Sunday, October 13, 2013

why suicide?

This is not okay.
A city councilman in central Iowa killed himself only hours after detectives found child pornography on his home computer, a Story County sheriff’s official said Saturday.
This is what comes of the demonization of sex offenders: pointless suicides. Let's not let this one be pointless; let us learn from it.
Investigators also questioned [the councilman] that day about several images of nude boys found on the computer. Most images came from the Internet, but some may have been from local victims, Thomas said. [My emphasis.]
Of course they may have been from local victims! Were they? 

Sheriff's Captain Barry Thomas should be ashamed of himself for smearing the dead man's reputation with an accusation that has not even been made. If local victims turn up, deal with it then. In the meantime, we should remember that Sheriff's Captain Barry Thomas may have been molesting children himself just before he said that.

Why did this man think suicide was the only way out? I don't know. 

Maybe because he has heard the jokes about sex offenders. Why do we test on animals when the prisons are full of pedophiles? That's a real knee-slapper, almost as hysterical as the evergreen Don't drop the soap. 

Prison for sex offenders is more dangerous than for other criminals. Some people celebrate that fact. The irony? 

Inmates who are most threatening to sex offenders--because they think sex offenses are just that unforgivable--are themselves many times more likely to end up back in prison than the sex offenders. The jokes and threats about how sex offenders might be attacked in prison come from people who are more likely to be the victim of a robbery than to be the victim of a sex offender.

Maybe he committed suicide because he has heard people threaten to maim or kill sex offenders and he knows that he will probably be vilified as well. Maybe because he knows that sex offenders have been killed by vigilantes. 

Maybe because he knows that no matter how many years he might spend in prison, the truth is that being added to the sex offender registry is effectively a life sentence.

Perhaps this man committed suicide because he was ashamed of looking at child porn. People who want to stop looking at child porn have no safe way to ask for help; therapists and counselors are mandated to report them to law enforcement.

Put yourself in his shoes. Think of the absolute worst fantasy you've ever had about sex--the dirtiest. You're not the type to do that? Okay, think about even your cleanest fantasy. Now imagine it in a headline. Football coach fantasizes about wearing silky undergarments. Banker fantasizes about meeting the teller in a hotel room over lunch. College professor fantasizes about a steamy afternoon in her office with the student who wears sweater vests. How many of us would find life very difficult if our fantasies were in the headlines?

If this man had known that his suicide was not going to save his family and friends from knowing his humiliation and shame, perhaps he would have gutted it out. Perhaps he would have learned that a life made difficult by others is still a life worth living. 

Perhaps he would have become a better man. Evidence shows, in an article from a less sensational, more respectful article, that this was a good man. The worst thing we know about him--the worst thing we think we know about him--cannot wipe away the good he has done, the good man that he was.

(Updated to add link in final paragraph.)

Updated: Shelly Stow at With Justice for All has related thoughts about another case of suicide.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

arousal is not the crime

A filthy secret about child pornography cases: plethysmography. In this test, sensors are attached to a man's penis to detect arousal while he is shown child pornography images. Though the word is spelled with enough letters to make it sound all science-y, this is a barbaric practice similar to phrenology.

A person prosecuted for owning child porn images is shown child porn images by someone paid to maintain a collection of child porn images. That's twisted.

The good news is that not all jurisdictions use this test and now we have even more good news:
Yesterday, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which oversees New York, Vermont, and Connecticut, determined that using an erection-measuring device as part of probation for one sex offender was an “extraordinarily invasive” and a violation of due process. ...
The Second Circuit Court of Appeals saw some problems with the claims of plethysmography's effectiveness. The judges wrote, “We find it odd that, to deter a person from committing sexual crimes, the Government would use a procedure designed to arouse and excite a person with depictions of sexual conduct closely related to the sexual crime of conviction.”
Commenter tarran at the Reason link sums it up well:
The idea was you show people stuff, and if they start to get hard, you know they really like it. 
So, if you show a guy a picture of an eight year old girl and the blood starts flowing to his nethers you know that eight year olds arouse him. 
It doesn't tell you how likely he is going to *act* on the arousal. But if he is aroused by eight year olds, then he is a devil incarnate and can be locked up safely forever. 
I work with some very pretty 25 year-old women... if you ran me through the machine while showing pictures of them cavorting in swimwear, you *would* get a response. Somehow I've managed to avoid raping any of them... as has every other male in my company. That tells you everything you need to know about the usefulness of the machine. 
This case is another tug in the effort to drag accepted thinking about sex crimes into the twenty-first century. Or the twentieth. 

Monday, September 30, 2013

bus driver accused of doing what??

A Des Moines Register news item shows what happens when fear takes hold:
A male school bus driver was pulled from his route in the Waukee [IA] district last week after he took a group picture of students, and asked two girls to pass along his contact information to their teachers, a district official said. 
Parents of the girls notified the district because they were concerned the driver wrote down his phone number and email on a piece of paper and handed it to the students last Thursday, said Waukee Superintendent David Wilkerson.
Scary business, asking kids to hand a piece of paper to their teachers. And the photo! He took a photo of the kids!
The photo taken by the driver was of all students on the bus holding up their index fingers to indicate they were “number one,” he said.
That is suspicious...if you have a wild imagination.

It certainly wasn't criminal; I don't see how it was even frightening. Perhaps the bus company or the school have guidelines that the man violated. Do not hand paper to students. The article doesn't say.

One of two things is true: the children or the parents saw something ordinary as creepy or the bus driver was creepy. Neither one seems reason to call authorities. Some children have wild imaginations. Some people give off a creepy vibe. The article mentions no illegal acts and yet the video from the two cameras on the bus has been handed over to law enforcement for investigation.

Being creepy is not illegal. The fact that some people behave in unusual ways is reason for parents to educate their kids on how to be kind and courteous to strange people. Any parent who has a child who exhibits unusual social behaviors must worry that those children will be seen as "creepy", now that "creepy" seems to be reason for investigation.

This man is being investigated for very ordinary behavior. The bus company and school, by going to law enforcement, are encouraging us to see danger in ordinary behavior.

Fear permeates this story--fear that someone who acts in inappropriate ways is going to be a danger to children, and fear that children who encounter that person will be unable to handle the situation.

Why did the parents and school district have so little faith in the ability of their kids to handle the situation? The kids did tell their parents, after all. Isn't that what we want them to do if they encounter something that frightens them?

The very fact that a story like this is in the newspaper tells us something: the newspaper thinks a man acting inappropriately--though not criminally--is newsworthy. Why is that? Because fear-mongering sells newspapers.

The assumption seems to be that the man could have been dangerous, though the article doesn't tell us why we should think that. He didn't ask the kids to contact him; he asked them to pass a message to their teacher.
Wilkerson said it appears the driver intended to set up a “pen pal correspondence” with students in Tennessee, where the driver has a regular route. 
Pen pals! That practice used to be seen as a good thing. Not so long ago, the beloved Weekly Reader encouraged schoolchildren to write to servicemen overseas. You read that right: children were encouraged to write to adult servicemen and women. Stranger danger, anyone?

Until the news media rely on fact and common sense instead of strumming the chord of unreasoning fear, stories that generate fear and suspicion will continue to get attention. 

If only bus companies would do a background check on their drivers; surely that would eliminate problems like this. Wait. What's this?
Officials in Waukee and Ames said all bus drivers have passed background checks.
Even the ubiquitous background check cannot prevent bus drivers behaving in ordinary ways from drawing the attention of law enforcement.

Anyone who is on the sex offender registry or has a family member on the registry understands what lies under the surface of this story: 

Innocuous behavior can be interpreted in the worst possible way.
The innocent can be accused. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

a former offender meets the public

In Belmont MA, a registered sex offender spoke at a town meeting, saying,
"My name is Carl Peterson. I'm the level 3 sex offender all of you have been talking about," said the 48-year-old Bernard Road resident as the audience sat in rapt silence, several holding a hand to their mouth, others sitting forward in their chairs, all waiting on each sentence.  
It is extremely rare that a convicted sex offender will speak freely about their crime and the life they are attempting to live in a new community.
Many former offenders will speak to state legislators or to Senators and Congressmen. Standing up at a town meeting and explaining--not excusing--his crime? Rare, indeed.

I admire this man's courage in confronting people he knows have been saying terrible things about him, people he knows will never trust him. 

This man, his wife and daughter moved to Belmont in July, where he is currently the only level 3 registered sex offender. Level 3 indicates that someone guesses he is at risk of re-offending. 

I hope he and his family are able to live in Belmont free of fear.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

secure delete

When some Handbasket visitors noticed that sd, a commenter, has a blog explaining how to overwrite data on a hard drive so that the data cannot be recovered, they thought they understood something about sd.

Lori Dixon said:
...sd...I am sure you'd be in prison too if someone turned your computer in- despite your clever tech tips at hiding evidence. 
LizaMoore also thinks he has nefarious intentions:
sd - If I can find a place to report your website - http://coveryourtrackstech.blogspot.com/ I'm going to do it.
With the tiniest bit of imagination, I'm sure Lori and Liza could think of legitimate uses of secure deletion software. 

Leaving your computer home while you are on vacation? Might want to erase any documents you emailed yourself from the office so you could work on them over the weekend. If your computer is stolen, you don't want to expose your employer to any risk.

Selling your computer or giving it away? You definitely want to make sure that the new owner won't discover your social security, bank account, or credit card numbers left on the hard drive.

You let your visiting 15-year-old nephew use your WiFi to read his emails and he opens attached pictures of his very naked 15-year-old girlfriend? This is on your IP address. If I were you, I would make sure the images were deleted. Securely. All it would take is for a Geek Squad guy to notice it and turn you in. 

Still unconvinced? You are still sure that none of that applies to you and that anyone interested in secure deletion software must be up to no good?

What does that say about your friends--or you?--who have Apple computers? 

Apple hard drives come with Secure Erase, a utility that does exactly what sd teaches PC users to do.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

high incarceration rate leads to poor hiring decisions

During a routine divorce hearing in a Las Vegas courtroom, a woman was sexually assaulted in a back room by a federal marshal.
[The] woman ...complains that a marshal sexually assaulted her in a back room. The woman becomes increasingly agitated as the marshal, who is in the courtroom, then arrests her for “making false allegations about a police officer,” all while the magistrate plays with the woman’s child, at least until the child begs the arresting officer to not take her momma away.
The woman filed a complaint and the marshal was fired, though not because the judge took any interest in what was happening right in front of her.

How could this happen? How could such a man hold the position of federal marshall?

The United States has the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world, with 2.2 million people in jails or prisons. So many people are incarcerated that Sesame Street has produced an education kit designed to help children who have family members in prison. 

Necessarily, the number of corrections officers has increased. Over 434,000 corrections officers are employed in the U.S. I imagine, though I couldn't find a source, the number of federal marshals has also increased. When more and more guards and marshals are needed, the chance of hiring the wrong person increases.

Not only is the incarceration rate playing a large role in bankrupting our country financially, putting more and more people in positions of power over others will play a large role in bankrupting our country morally.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

9/11 and The Falling Man

Today is the anniversary of 9/11. I didn't have a post ready for today and then I read Esquire's article on the famous Falling Man photograph from that terrible day and decided to post a link to that.

Tom Junod explores the treatment of The Falling Man photo in particular and photos of terrible events in general. Richard Drew took photos of people jumping from the towers and the Falling Man was published in newspapers all over the world on September 12. A horrified country demanded an end to publishing or airing those images out of respect for those who jumped and their families.

I have no comment except read it. The article is quite long but well worth the time.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

myths and misconceptions

The Oregon Sexual Assault Task Force deconstructs myths and misconceptions about sex offenders. Let me pull out a few interesting bits.
A “one size fits all” approach does not contribute to community safety, since the most dangerous offenders will often be supervised the same as low risk offenders.
With over 750,000 sex offenders on registries in the United States, it should be obvious that some are dangerous and some are not.
A small percentage of those who offend children would be considered “pedophiles” and would be described as having a sexual preference for undeveloped bodies without secondary sexual characteristics. [Emphasis mine.]
Calling all sex offenders whose offenses involved children "pedophiles" makes as much sense as calling all sex offenders, well, "sex offenders". All sex offenders are not the same. Their crimes are different, their motivations are different.
It is estimated that in the United States, juveniles account for up to one fifth of all rapes and up to one half of all cases of child molestation committed each year.
That adds up to a lot of children on the sex offender registry. You know...the registry intended to protect children.
For child abuse victims, 60% of boys and 80% of girls were assaulted by a family member or acquaintance. 
So, those strangers on the registry that worry you? They aren't the ones you should worry about.
When all sex offenders are managed the same, resources are shared and the most dangerous offenders may be supervised the same as less dangerous offenders. 
Pretending that all sex offenders are dangerous means we make it possible for the dangerous ones to disappear into the crowd.
Studies show that comparing sex offenders sentenced to prison versus community sentences, the recidivism rate was 7% higher for prisoners compared to those offenders kept in the community. Additionally, longer prison terms also increased risk upon release. 
Offenders released from prison have a more difficult time returning to the community than those who never were forced out of the community. Makes sense to me. Returning to the community as a sex offender makes it very difficult to find a job and, in some locations, very difficult to find a place to live. Homeless and unemployed sex offenders...is that really what we want?
Even though harsh penalties for sex offenders are more common responses than treatment, studies show that community (cognitive/behavioral) treatment decreased risk more than prison treatment and more than only supervision/management of sex offenders.
Are legislators are more interested in looking tough than being effective?

Read the whole thing. The word "humane" came to mind.

Monday, September 9, 2013

sex offender assaulted

Twin Falls ID, two men beat up a 69-year-old sex offender last week because of his conviction five years ago. 
Twin Falls Police Officer Samir Smriko wrote in a police report that officers were called to a Twin Falls motel last week to investigate a battery. They found [a] 69-year-old [man], who had a two-inch gash on his forehead and other injuries. 
According to the report, [the victim] said two men came to his door and began beating him because of a past child sex abuse case. 
You know what I find interesting? The likelihood of the those two men assaulting someone else is much, much higher than the likelihood of the sex offender committing another sex offense. The recidivism rate for assault is around 65%; for sex offense, around 5%.

Which of the three men was on a registry? The one least likely to be a danger.

Monday, September 2, 2013

protecting the integrity of psychiatry

Even eight months after it was published, the New Yorker surprises me with The Science of Sex Abuse. Rachel Aviv looks at how convicted sex offenders can be committed indefinitely for treatment. Her piece is long; do read the whole thing. Tidbits I found interesting:
Child-pornography sentencing laws have been passed rapidly, with little debate; it’s nearly impossible, politically, to object to harsh punishments for perverts. Melissa Hamilton, a law professor at the University of Houston Law Center, told me that lawmakers have treated pornography possession as if it were an “inchoate crime.” She said, “It has become a kind of proxy—a way to incapacitate men who we fear have already molested someone, or will in the future.”
Ah, yes. Putting people in prison because we fear they will commit a crime. On my everything is a gateway post, commenter Allison G says it is "illogical" to wait for someone to commit a crime before putting the person in prison. Illogical?  
...in 2006, Congress passed the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, which its sponsor described as the “most comprehensive child crimes and protection bill in our Nation’s history.” It allows the federal Bureau of Prisons to keep inmates in prison past their release date if it appears that they’ll have “serious difficulty in refraining from sexually violent conduct or child molestation if released.” Their extended confinement is achieved through civil commitment, a legal procedure more often used to hospitalize patients who have severe mental illness, usually bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.... 
Since the nineties, twenty states have passed similar statutes, known as sexually-violent-predator laws, for offenders who suffer from “volitional impairment”—a legal term that does not correspond to any medical diagnosis.
Outrageous. We keep people in prison because of a crime they have not yet committed--and even the best guesses that they will commit the crime are still only guesses--and we use a made-up diagnosis to do it. 
When relying only on clinical interviews, mental-health professionals predict dangerous behavior at a rate not much better than chance. ... The demand for ways of predicting future criminal behavior has spawned a cottage industry of actuarial instruments, which predict sexual violence about as well as the S.A.T. forecasts freshman grades. Neither correlation is particularly strong. But the instruments confer a stamp of scientific precision on a judgment that psychologists have proved ill-equipped to make.
Only guesses...spawning a cottage industry. Always interesting to see who makes money from the misfortune of others.
During the past fifteen years, the American Psychiatric Association has repeatedly objected to the civil commitment of sex offenders. In 1999, a task force created by the organization wrote that “confinement without a reasonable prospect of beneficial treatment of the underlying disorder is nothing more than preventative detention.” Six years later, another task-force report asserted that the laws represent a “serious assault on the integrity of psychiatry.” 
I'm all for protecting the integrity of psychiatry and I'll get to it right after we stop assaulting the civil rights of people who have not yet committed the crime they are doing time for. I'd get to it sooner if I knew psychiatry weren't besmirching its own reputation by jumping on the bandwagon to develop those tools to predict the unpredictable.
The science of perversion is decades behind the rest of the field. The diagnostic criteria for sexual disorders were tested on only three patients before being added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, in 1980. No field trials have since been conducted....
Michael First, the editor of the two most recent editions of the D.S.M., told me that there is no scientific research establishing that abnormal desires are any harder to control than normal ones. “People choose to do bad things all the time,” he said. “Psychiatry is being coƶpted by the criminal-justice system to solve a problem that is moral, not medical.”
No wonder the integrity of psychiatry needs protection. 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

incarcerate or educate?

 Two different approaches to child pornography on the Internet:
...Microsoft announced that it planned to implement a new mechanism to fight child pornography by creating a pop-up warning when someone searches for illegal images of child porn on Bing, The Guardian reports. However, Google, which owns the largest share of online search traffic, has decided not to include the new program in its search engine. 
“Child abuse imagery is illegal and we have a zero tolerance policy to it," a Google spokesperson said in an email in The Huffington Post on Tuesday. "We use purpose-built technology and work with child safety organizations like the Internet Watch Foundation to find, remove and report it, because we never want this material to appear in our search results. We are working with experts on effective ways to deter anyone tempted to look for this sickening material.”
The Most Boring Radical has related thoughts:
Certainly if we were interested in actually deterring these crimes–if we believed that these were serious criminal problems and we needed people to stop engaging in them–that’s what we’d do. We’d have commercials running during sporting events warning men of the penalties they can face for engaging in these kinds of online behaviors; we’d have health classes in school cover the legal dangers of online sexual activity; we’d put warnings up before people entered certain websites, reminding them of the penalties in their state of engaging in certain activities. 
But, we aren’t doing that. Why? Because these are crimes the police are interested in creating, not deterring. If we actually believed that scores of guys in their 20s and 30s and 40s were meeting horny teen girls in adult chat rooms and meeting up with them for sex, you can be sure that we’d have campaigns designed to deter such behavior. But, it’s not happening (probably mainly because actual 15yo girls who really want sex with older guys don’t need to resort to skeezy chat rooms to find it, and aren’t doing so). There is nothing to deter. There is, however, money to be gained from creating the crime and arresting people for it.
Money to be made. That's about right. More money is made from the investigation, prosecution, and incarceration of child porn users than child pornography producers ever dreamed of making.

It costs taxpayers about $27,000 per year to incarcerate someone. At a time when government needs to spend less, it makes sense to educate people about the penalties for downloading child porn if that will keep them from committing a crime. Those penalties are not well known. 

People do not expect the penalties for looking at pictures to be greater than the penalties for molesting a child. 

People do not know that simply looking at an image online leaves a copy on the hard drive. 

People do not know that the law makes no distinction between intentional and accidental downloading or between images that have been viewed or not viewed. 

People do not know that curiosity can result in years and years in prison.

If a warning about the penalties would keep someone from clicking that link--from looking at child porn--wouldn't we all want that? 

Monday, July 29, 2013

what are YOU fine with?

Some visitors to my blog come here ready to be outraged. Vera seems to be one of those visitors. Her comment leaves me shaking my head.
Wait. So you think a naked photograph of YOU, that was taken without your permission, that was out there on the internet where any pervert who likes jacking off to pictures of naked women he doesn't know can access it, save it to his computer, show it to his friends, share it online - would be okay? Like that wouldn't bother you, to have your naked picture floating around without your permission? You wouldn't want to know about it? You would have no problem with ANYTHING that anyone did with that picture?
If I knew a naked photo of me was available on the internet and creeps and perverts were thinking who-knows-what....I would not be okay with that. Of course I would be bothered. If I knew about it, what in the world do you expect me to be able to do about it? I can't retrieve the photos, I can't find out who has a copy, I can't know what they were thinking when they saw it, I can't know if they shared it with others. 

I would rather not know. I have enough worries keeping me awake at night. 
What if that picture was of you as a child, naked, in the midst of the thing that brought you the most pain and shame in your whole life? THAT picture floating around the internet forever, for your children to some day possible stumble across, that picture being used by perverts to jack off to - that would be fine with you too? You wouldn't worry about where that picture is or what was being done with it?
No, that would definitely not be fine with me. If memories of the earlier abuse recorded in the images are already giving me nightmares, why in God's name would you want me to worry about the photos, too? What kind of sadist are you?

So far, Vera's point seems to be that I think child porn is no big deal. She's wrong, as she would know if she had read with something approaching comprehension. Then she goes off the rails:
You wouldn't feel some need to try to control what happens with those naked pictures that someone else took and posted without your permission?  
Okay, Vera. What kind of "control" do you think I could possibly have over images loosed on the Internet when all the law enforcement agencies in the world can't control access to the images? How do I make sure I gather all the CDs that may have been burned or thumb drives that may contain my images? How do I figure out who downloaded the images, who downloaded them by accident, who doesn't even realize they have images of me? Are you picturing me circling the globe from pervert to pervert, snatching photos of me from their sweaty hands? 
You don't believe people have any right to control photographic images of themselves? Especially images that were not taken or distributed without their permission?  
As marvelous as it would be if the children in the images had the right to control those images, that idea is incredibly naive. 

If the victims are told that images of them are floating around the Internet, they have the same amount of control they would have if they are not told: NONE. Absolutely none.

In her hurry to express her outrage with me and with my husband, Vera has lost sight of what matters most: children who are dealing with the trauma of sexual abuse. She would rather hammer at me than give any real thought to what it would be like to know.
That is SO interesting to me, because I have not seen ANY pictures of you on this blog... why is that? Are you shy? Are you worried about your picture getting out? Are you worried about someone in your life recognizing you? How ironic.
Oh, Vera. A registered sex offender and his wife were murdered last week (was that fine with you, Vera?) in South Carolina because he was on the registry...and you wonder why I don't post my photo on my blog? 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

murderers use sex offender registry to find their victims

In South Carolina:
A South Carolina white supremacist and his wife, self-styled vigilantes, say they murdered a couple because the man was a registered sex offender.  
"You think I'm here to rob you. I'm not here to rob you. I'm here to kill you because you are a child molester," Jeremy Moody, 30, said he told his victim before pulling the trigger. 
Moody and his wife, Christine, 36, say they planned to kill another before getting arrested Wednesday. 

This is not the first time someone has used the registry to target former sex offenders.

The sex offender registry is supposed to protect people. Instead, two people are dead.

Monday, July 22, 2013

the sex offender registry fails...again

Hint to reporters: It is not enough to tell us that the suspect in the most recent Cleveland serial killings was a registered sex offender. Do the tiniest bit of research and tell us what the man's offense was. Was it public urination or violent rape? There is a difference. 

If this man did murder the three women found, why did the registry not protect those women? He was one of the nearly 30,000 offenders on the Ohio registry. He was tracked. Law enforcement knew who he was; they knew where he lived. 

News reporters glom onto that one tidbit--he was a sex offender!--about the suspect as if it is significant. It isn't. When reporters take the shortcut of using the label instead of the facts behind the label, they are trying to sensationalize their reporting. They are not providing useful information to their readers.

Over 750,000 sex offenders in the U.S., and this case makes national headlines. Why? It is news when a registered sex offender commits a horrific crime like this because it is so rare

The registry protects no one.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

why I publish the hostile comments

Notes from the Handbasket generally runs along quietly, not drawing much attention. Once in awhile, someone notices it and holds it up to their online friends as an example of all that's wrong with the world. What follows then is a sort of competition to see who can make the comment that will leave the mark on me that stings the most. After all, I should be ashamed of myself, staying with my husband.

I will have a few days of high traffic and negative comments from people who disapprove of me having anything nice to say about my husband. Every time it happens, I wonder if maybe I ought to think about running Google ads; after all, I could use the money for the anti-registry causes I support.

Happily, every time it happens, I end up with a few more regular readers. Some of the regulars still don't like what I have to say but they make intelligent comments. The fly-by-night commenters are here not to understand but to condemn. Some, in their condemnation, are unintentionally amusing. I doubt this earnest commenter intended the irony in her comment:
I also want to suggest (gently) that you refrain from visiting this blog in the future. I don't think there are any minds here that are open to changing. 
Open minds, indeed. That commenter can't open her mind even the tiniest crack to the possibility that people can change for the better.

So far, I publish all comments except for the one I deleted by accident yesterday (apologies to the commenter...repost and I will publish it) and one some time ago that was the f-word repeated for several lines. Too bad that commenter didn't include more because just one more f-word would have made me see the error of my ways.

The first time I got hit with nasty comments, I considered not publishing them. After all, I started this blog to welcome others like me who have family members in trouble for possessing child pornography. How does it feel to a visitor who is planning to stay with her husband to read cruel comments like these:
You disgust me perhaps more than your husband does. 
I am extremely disgusted there are people like you and your husband in the world. 
...you are no better than the perverts who exploit children.
...or to encounter truly ignorant things like:
Police officers don't watch child porn or look at images to get their jollies off... 
YOU should not be allowed to say whether people looking at child pornography is abuse.  
Of course there's a difference! In one instance, he's viewing pictures of victimized children -- in the other he's not!  
The ignorant comments speak for themselves. Information is easily available but some horses won't drink the water.

The cruel comments say more about the commenters than about those of us who have watched someone deal with crippling guilt, shame, and remorse. When I read them, I wonder what it feels like to write those comments, to think that way. 

Maybe it is wrong of me to publish such mean-spirited thoughts. I honestly hadn't thought that until just this moment. Is it wrong to let someone bare the worst of themselves in public?

Fallible human beings are worthy of redemption. We should all be happy to know that. Instead, some take pleasure in beating down people who try to live with hope. 

I oppose pornography and sexual abuse because it is immoral. Wrong. That isn't a secret to anyone who has read my blog. However, child pornography laws are not based on reason, sex offender sentences are draconian, and the sex offender registry is unconstitutional.

That is my focus.

It is wrong to stand by and watch a whole segment of the population--750,000 Americans on sex offender registries--be vilified and labeled as monsters. Publishing those vile comments brings the ugliness to blame for injustice out into the open where it can be examined and challenged. 

I hope that others who have family members in trouble read those comments and can see clearly that that kind of thinking is evil. Don't give in to it.