Thursday, April 09, 2009

I've moved on, but that doesn't change what happened

I have to admit that I found it via Fark, but this is an interesting article about people advocating on the behalf of sex offenders whose crimes exist within the range of at least icky and illegal, but in the minds of many, are not especially criminal.

My understanding is that in some states, sex offenders are registered at different levels, according to the severity of the original crime and the likelihood of reoffense. This makes perfect sense to me: rape is rape, but victims are always different, as are circumstances of the crime. The article goes out of its way to excuse statutory rape as not that bad. From where I sit, it seems like the tendency to commit such a crime is something a perpetrator would be likely to mature past, especially after being punished for it. A 23-year-old may think they have a lot in common with a 16-year-old, but they're probably not going to feel that way when they're thirty (because they don't). I was most alarmed by the work of one Jan Fewell, who looks up sex crime victims and calls them to try and recruit them to her offender's advocacy group and defend their own perpetrators by asking that they be treated leniently in light of the specific circumstances of the crimes they committed.

Fewell calls a victim and asks whether they were the victim of rape or if they'd had consensual sex. Leaving the two choices that stark seems a little manipulative to me, since a sex crime is prosecuted not for how a victim eventually comes to feel about it, but for the transgression itself.

I don't think sex offender registries do what they're supposed to do: they are said to exist to protect the communities in which sex offenders reside and work, but I think this is disingenuous. These registries exist to shame sex offenders and expose them to the vigilantism that can fit within the bounds of the law, like social stigma and employment and housing discrimination.

So a level III sex offender moves in next door. What am I supposed to do about it?

It's shameful to commit a sex offense, but I don't think forcing sex offenders into isolation and poverty really protects anyone. It might feel to most like a fitting punishment, but punishment doesn't undo or prevent crimes. Whatever a sex offender takes from a victim doesn't ever get paid back. Suffering is non-transferable.

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