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In the name of the child
Written by Editor   
Tuesday, 06 June 2006 16:03

With each newly reported horrific crime there will always be those who are poised to exploit the victims for this cause or that as they play the inflation game while engaging in argumentum absurdem. These same individuals unabashedly (and unashamedly, I might add) seem to have not a problem providing gruesome details of a child victim while displaying same said visage thus evincing a very public and very powerful emotional sense of righteous outrage.

Sadly, in the guise of purveyors of truth and justice, they construct legally flimsy initiatives while promising pie-in-the-sky results that are no more realistic than the "name of the child" laws which preceded them, their notwithstanding. A recent such example can be seen in the three-times-failed Washington state One Strike Law ( Initiative 833) since renamed to Dylans Law ( Initiative 921), after the little boy who was murdered by SVP, Joseph Edward Duncan, III. While it is naturally understandable that the public is outraged by Duncans crimes--and they well should be--how many children could Initiative 921 potentially save? Lets take a look.

From the NCCAN report (2002), 1400 children die each year from childhood abuse and/or neglect. A subset of these or approximately 45% are classifiable as infanticide. From the USDOJ Bureau of Justice Statistics reports (2002), infanticide appears to be a predominately white crime (averaging 350 murders per year), with blacks coming in at a strong second (averaging 264 murders per year), and the remaining at 16 murders per year. Of these murders 31% were committed by fathers, 30% by mothers, 23% by a male acquaintance, 6% by other relatives, and 3% by strangers. 4.29% of the 3% stranger murders are sex-related crimes.

Of the aforementioned 1400 murders each year, 0.13% child murders are sex-related crimes. In light of the USDOJ Bureau of Justice Statistics report on (2002) which indicates that the state of Washington constitutes 0.04% of registered sex offenders, nationwide, and in consideration of our nations population distribution, at most, Dylans Law could potentially prevent 1 child murder every 15 years. That is, assuming the to-be sex-killer does not waltz through one of the many loopholes contained in the 921 initiative.

Some may argue that any initiative is well-worth enacting into law if it can save even one child. A perhaps, more compelling argument might be that the initiative would additionally prevent children from being sexually abused. Again however, from the above statistic, such an initiative will, at best, reduce Washington state sex crimes by 0.23% or 35 out of the 11,304 sex crimes that are committed each year--which constitute 4 out of the 1,683 sex crimes committed against children, per year.

Is such an insignificant figure a reason to throw Dylans Law to the wind? Of course not. In concept, it is an excellent law. For it acknowledges what the public has known all along--that sex offender registries, as they are presently implemented, do not work. And that sexual psychopaths cannot be rehabilitated. Arguably, anything that can possibly make a dent in the problem of crimes against children--even if it is miniscule--is worthy of further consideration. However to characterize this initiative (or any initiative, for that matter) as being the end-all is not only exceedingly foolish but inherently dangerous as well.

Furthermore, to completely ignore the rather glaring problems contained in Initiative 921 is to ensure that not only will more sex offenders be released but their release will not require them to register as sex offenders--which completely obviates the purpose of its "child naming" predecessor, Megans Law. And finally, as with anything that broad-brushes as much as this initiative does, if it is passed into law, you can be sure there will be a backlash once it starts catching into its ill-defined net, divorcing fathers whose vindictive wives lay false allegations of child sexual abuse.

In any event, while naming an initiative after a murdered child may evoke an emotional reaction, if not well thought out, it does little to address the real problem--that of protecting children from predators, homegrown or otherwise. After all, child abuse--sexual or otherwise--is clearly a problem. If 1400 child murders per year is not enough to convince you, then I do not know what will. And though Dylan and Shasta Groene suffered horribly, I would proffer that our country has a far greater problems than the Joseph Edward Duncans of this world. Problems that while long-standing, only came to light a little more than 30 years ago with the enacting of CAPTA.

In the end and to my mind, if we truly want to put a stop to child abuse--in the name of the children--perhaps it is time to grow up and realize that the bogeyman isnt under our beds or in our closets. Nor is s/he necessarily the funny-looking hermit who lives in that run-down house on the corner. After all, evil does not reside on the faces of wo/men. It resides in their hearts. And just perhaps. It is time to begin looking a little closer to home.

 

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