With 2006 being an election year, the Ohio legislature was busy trying to pass some laws that would show voters how important they were – even though a closer look would show that the legislature was pandering. Election year pandering takes the form of passing laws addressing some issue that 99% of the population would agree with and that wouldn’t bite them in the ass while campaigning. This year the issue is sex abuse against children.
Over the recent years, laws have become progressively more severe against people convicted of sex abuse against children. It started by forcing convicted offenders to register for life with their local police, then laws were passed restricting where the former felons could live, and this year, the Ohio legislature considered tougher sentencing laws as well as extending the statute of limitations for lawsuits from 2 years past the victims 18th birthday to 12 years.
Don’t get me wrong. Sex abuse against children is wrong – simply wrong – and the criminal code and civil code should be very severe against convicted felons in those types of crimes. If such efforts were indeed to protect children or were in fact addressing a pressing issue – like an epidemic of children being abused – I would be first in line to pat my state representative on the back for “standing up for children”. However, it seems these efforts are simple pandering to parents, voters with children, who are literally in fear for their children. The hysteria – think “Salem Witch Trials” – even has led one state, South Carolina, to consider the death penalty for convicted child molesters. This is one reason the actions of the Ohio legislature is simple pandering:
Of course among these sex offenders are indeed some criminals who have caused extreme harm: violent rapists of adult women as well as children. A few of them have kidnapped, tortured or murdered their victims. Dr. Fred Berlin of the Johns Hopkins University Sex Disorders Clinic in Baltimore estimates that such crimes account for less than 1/10th of 1% of all sex offenses in America. His studies also show that fewer than 10% of child sex offenders re-offend–though recidivism is usually given as a reason for draconian measures against them. As child abuse experts point out, about 50 children are reported kidnapped and raped or murdered by strangers annually, compared to more than 3,000 children murdered by parents and other family members in non-sexual cases.
Sexual Fascism in Progressive America : Scapegoats and Shunning
So it is a no-brainer for the state legislator, looking to get re-elected, to pass these laws against a minuscule number of felons for crimes that are more rare than the media would lead us to believe and then he/she can splash, all over their campaign materials, how they “stood up for children”.
Another example that the state legislature is pandering is that while the tougher laws against child abuse were being considered, another law directed at Catholic Priests who have abused children was changed after heavy lobbying by US Bishops. While the law includes a requirement of the Church to report suspected abuse and creates a registry of non-convicted abusive Priests (those who are held liable in civil court after a trial but who’s criminal statute of limitations have run out), a provision to allow previous victims a chance to file civil suits for old cases was removed.
The state’s bishops and the Ohio Catholic Conference lobbied against the look-back period, arguing it would be costly and unreasonable to open decades-old cases. They said it would have been almost impossible to fairly judge abuse claims after so much time.
Child protection bill passes without ‘look-back’ provision
Well of course the Church sees such “look-back” provisions as costly because the Church would be liable for any monetary judgments made against the Priest. The simple fact that the Church rarely reported abuse, actively covered up abuse, and in most cases simply moved an abusive Priest to another church, shows how costly it could be for them.
If you are just a regular person and are convicted of sex abuse you can expect to lose your job, family, and friends. Be forced to tell authorities where you are for the rest of your life and have limits on where you can live.
If you are a Priest who abused children back in the 60’s and 70’s and earlier, you pretty much are in the clear.
So much for protecting children.