In the News by Karen Franklin – http://forensicpsychologist.blogspot.com/2010/04/delusional-campaign-for-world-without.html
LOS ANGELES — Recent news from Miramonte Elementary School where teacher Mark Berndt is accused of various sex crimes against the children in his classroom has rocked the country yet again. And now there is news of a second teacher in that same school, Martin Springer, is being accused of sex crime with children from his class. This on the heels of the Jerry Sandusky case has many people asking, what is the solution?
The sad fact is that the system let these children and their parents down. While billions of dollars per year are spent tracking former sex offenders, a group who comprise the lowest recidivism rate among all former offenders, no money was spent to protect these innocent victims.
The question is, did the sex offender registry and it myriad of costly laws protect these children? No it did not. Mark Berndt, Jerry Sandusky and Martin Springer are not registered sex offenders.
The parents of all those children were persuaded to look to the registry to protect their children. But the facts show again and again that the registry is a distraction, not a protection. By focusing on the small number listed on the registry they took their focus off the men in the class room, the men in authority that they were supposed to trust.
Could this tragedy have been avoided? Perhaps. If some of the money being spent on the registry was directed back to schools, and cameras were placed in every class room and locker-room so that teachers could be monitored, both for their protection and for that of the children, these tragedies could well have been avoided. The problem is that no one is trying to stop sex offences; they are more concerned with former offenders and continued punishment than they are with stopping sex crimes before they happen.
Another option would be to direct funds from the sex offender registry to schools so that there would be two teachers in every classroom. This would serve a dual purpose. Children would receive a better education and both children and teachers would be safer in the class room.
With the economy the way it is, federal, state and local governments must use their resources wisely. True, being tough on sex offenders does make for a re-electable candidate, but does it protect children? It would seem it does not. In the U.S. 93% of all new sex offenses are committed by people like Mark Berndt, Jerry Sandusky and Martin Springer, people who are not on the registry.
A better approach would be to focus on solving the problems of sexual offending rather than looking backwards and tracking people after the crime is committed and their time is served. Until the public stands up and says “enough is enough” We can expect to see more horrifying crimes being committed against children.
While there will never be a foolproof solution to sex offending, there are far better options than spending billions on a registry that is merely a distraction to parents and a reelection tool for legislators.
It’s time to bring the money home! It’s time to protect children.
by Randy E. SOSEN COO
Hopefully you have seen some of the comments that were posted beneath the letter to the editor entitled “Sex Offender Awareness Needs to Improve” by Suzanne Arena. I am one of the commenters and felt compelled to write a letter in the hopes that it will be published and receive the same consideration and attention that Ms. Arena brought to the issue.
Ms. Arena is right about one thing: awareness is important. Sexual assault of children and adults is absolutely something that not just Cranston, but the entire country needs to manage better. It’s clear by the steady yearly increase of registered sex offenders – nearing 750,000 at the end of 2011 – that despite constant, stricter sex crime legislation, sex crimes continue at the same rate. We need to re-examine our approach.
Sex crime isn’t prevented by talking about how bad it is, putting up posters of convicted offenders, or ensuring lifelong punishment for registrants. Sex crime is prevented by becoming aware of the facts. A US Department of Justice Study cites that 93-97% of children under 17 know their abuser (the younger the child, the higher the likelihood). 73% of victims 18 and over know their attacker. Another US Department of Justice Study puts recidivism rates of convicted sex offenders between 3.5 to 8.5%, and these numbers are confirmed by many additional state and independent studies.
By focusing all of our resources, efforts, and attention on registered offenders, we are ignoring the overwhelming majority of current and future victims. Community notification and posters only work if that individual is going to re-offend, and statistics from many different sources say that’s extremely unlikely. Community notification and posters, along with every single sex crime law that exists in this country, singularly target the group of people who are probably the least likely to commit a new sex crime. Those who have never been reported or caught carry on with their lives, untouched and unscathed by any of the laws created to keep predators at bay. How will printing flyers and posters help the child being abused by the beloved baseball coach, youth minister or favorite uncle who looks and acts just like everyone else, never accused of a crime in their life? Or the woman whose successful, sociable ex-husband who has learned to hide his rage issue seeks revenge by raping her? NOTHING. Sexual assault of any kind, on any human is horrifying and elicits many strong emotions. That is precisely the reason we must be careful to separate emotions from effectiveness.
Lastly, it is a flat-out insult to victims of any kind of traumatic experience to insinuate that they are left with a “life sentence”. Just like victims of a bad car accident or natural disaster – who aren’t at fault in any way for their experiences – recovery should not and is not dependent upon punishment of someone else. Recovery is something that depends solely on the victim’s desire to become a survivor and allow themselves to be empowered by what they have been through. Holding on to anger and the need for revenge forever is a “life sentence”. There is a line between being supportive and passionate about healthy recovery for victims, and keeping them in a constant state of powerlessness.
If you want to help prevent sex crimes, learn.
– Shana Rowan