December 20th, 2006

Shaman - Horse

The Sources of Rage

A recent blog entry on capital punishment brought up some strong reactions on punishment of sexual offenders. Below is an edited article that I wrote earlier this year. This is strong stuff. I am not suggesting that my views are the only right ones. They are my experience. I am open to hearing about other people's thoughts.

There is a disturbing statistic out there. “In 8 out of 10 rape cases, the victim knows the perpetrator (Tjaden and Thoennes 2000).” (http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/factsheets/svfacts.htm). The statistic are saying that the perpetrator is a family member or a family associate/friend.

Juxtapositioned with this is the way that our society is now treating "recognized" sexual offenders. Those brought up on charges are now put on sexual offender watch-lists. These lists are available to the public. This can be a good thing. The shadow side of the lists is that all sexual offenders are put on these lists. This includes those involved with statutory rape, prostitution stings, public indecency between consenting adults, and so on. These are lumped in with the true(er) sexual predators that stalk our children and young adults. There are some inherent unfairness in the way these lists are constructed and used. The correction of this is a matter of public policy and community desires.

A recent discussion on a talk radio show I listen had people calling in and saying that sexual offender should be tracked 24/7, while being kept away from all children. The caller was asked what made the sexual offender different from the serial bank-robber. Bank-robbers are not tracked with electronic collars, listed on websites, and forbidden from living in proximity to stores/banks. The answer was very guttural. Children are family, and there is a higher benchmark of "justice" called upon those who offend against children. It seemed that some people would like to see sexual offenders have their parts chopped off and then the sexual offenders would be thrown in a hole for the rest of their lives.

Wow. This is a very strong emotional reaction. It is my theory that there is a tremendous shadow of unacknowledged sexual abuse in our culture. The 80% of sexual attackers are not punished by the law because they are our fathers, brothers, uncles, friends, etc. We cannot have our fathers arrested and sent to jail. Our brothers and their friends will never pay for their crimes. Shame fills this shadow. Instead, our collective sense of rage is turned towards those who are recognized by society. Meanwhile the cancer of sexual abuse is passed from generation to generation. People are broken emotionally, and our society pretends that this plague does not exist.

Can we bring this justice upon those that we know – our families and acquaintances? How can this 80% of offenders be dealt with? Is it "fair" that our rage is directed towards others, or do those 80% of experiences only better inform us of what we should do about those who can be punished?

Your feedback would be appreciated.