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). When I read this, and relate it to the experiences of my classmates, the statistic is really 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.
The community reactions to a sexual offender, especially those of the child predatory type, are very visceral. 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. Very strong emotional reaction. Where is it coming from? 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.
I’ve been thinking about this the past few days and had to write it down. Some days I think the human race is great and other days I think we are beyond redemption. On those days (the beyond redemption part) I am reminded of the Depeche Mode song:
“I don't want to start/ Any blasphemous rumours/ But I think that God's/ Got a sick sense of humour/ And when I die/ I expect to find Him laughing.”
The complete irony here is that I truly believe that we are simutanously God and representations of the potential of God, so it is a joke we play upon ourselves. It is our ‘humour’ that is questioned.