Critical Thinking Exercise # 1: Violent sexual offenses against children

Written by Dr. Gary Potter

Violent sexual offenses against children are certainly among the crime most sensationalized by the media. Everyone agrees that sexual assaults on children constitute one of the most heinous crimes in American society. 75% of parents say their biggest fear is that their child will be abducted and sexually abused by a stranger.  The media, of course, reinforces this fear, heavily covering heinous crimes committed against children by stranger-predators. The unbearable thought of a child abducted by a stranger who will commit some unspeakable crime creates such fear that drastic measures seem reasonable and mandatory. The media and the state have instilled in us a picture of violent predators hanging around schools and other places where children hang out, ready to entice children with puppies and candy.

In response all manner of programs and new laws have been enacted. Most communities have “safe place” programs in which yellow signs direct children to the safety of their friends and neighbor's home. Children are warned about contact with strangers. Children’s pictures and DNA records are stored and identification codes are carved into their teeth. Laws names after victims, such as Megan’s Law and the Amber alert are put into effect.  Sex offenders are required to tell their neighbors that they live in the neighborhood; even though over 90% of the “sex offenses” identified in the laws involve consensual acts without victims.

Children are kept close to home, surrounded by family and friends so that trench-coat wearing predators with their puppies, candy and smiles cannot reach them.

Once again, we know a great deal about violent sexual offenses against children. In fact, the National Institute of Justice funded a massive research project that involved almost all incarcerated offenders who had committed a violent sexual offense against a child to find out the facts of the situation.

Total number of violent sexual offenses (annually)

Offense

Number of offenses

Forcible rape of a child

22,797

Forcible sodomy involving a child

2,036

Lewd acts with children

10, 799

 

Victim-Offender Relationships in Violent Sexual Crimes against Children

Crime

Stranger

Own Child

Other Family Member

Family Friend

Forcible Rape

12.7%

38.5%

9.5%

39.3%

Forcible Sodomy

4.8%

39.7%

30.9%

24.6%

Lewd Acts with Children

7.0%

32.8%

18.4%

41.8%

Location of Violent Sexual Crimes against Children

Crime

Home

Commercial Business

Public Place

Other

Forcible Rape

82.3%

3.1%

10.0%

4.6%

Forcible Sodomy

77.1%

9.5%

10.3%

3.1%

Lewd Acts with Children

86.5%

2.2%

8.2%

3.1%

Those are the facts, not the media hype or the images produced by paranoid gossip.

Question: Tell me who commits violent sexual crime against children and where those acts occur. Then tell me whether the policies we have in place to deal with crimes actually does anything about the reality of sexual attacks on children.  Finally, tell me how you would change those policies to fit the reality of these terrible crimes.

Published on January 28, 2014