Monday, January 16, 2006

Throw Away the Key

On my other blog I have a (more or less) schedule of subjects for posting. Saturday is called “Ain’t It Awful,” devoted to various outrages I happen upon during the week.

Using a schedule for Neighborhood of God is helpful for me for two reasons:

(a) since I have few readers over there and tend to neglect it, actually having the structure of a subject helps to lessen the sense of being gumption-trapped in keeping it current. Besides, if I miss a day, I can just blog on it and insert it, back-dated.

(b) I suffer from depression. Depressives are often greatly helped by the sense of containment — as a kid I loved having those underwear with the days of the week on them. Way cool. Now, instead, I can have posts with their subject matter stamped ahead of time. Beats staring at a blank page…staring at a blank page with a subject line is so much more cheerful.

Jail cellSo I came to this Saturday and looked to see what I’d set aside. Hanging out in my folder was that icky story about Judge Cashman, who’d given a child molester sixty days for the crime of molesting a child for four years — “countless times” — from the time she was seven years old until the age of eleven.

Many others had already been there, done this story. But at Neighborhood I don’t feel the need to keep up to the minute. So I read a bit on the Judge and tried to figure out what made him tick, why he could have been so seemingly cavalier in his approach to this monster.

Well, if that ain’t awful, I don’t know what is.

The post went up, and then came a response by a commenter who took issue with the generalized anger people felt at this obvious injustice. It was obvious that the commenter had made sufficient philosophical mistakes — e.g., conflating anger and vengeance (a mistake the judge also made). So after I finished my response to the comment, I also went I went to “Poet’s” blog and left a comment similar to what I’d already said, but slightly longer.

The Neighborhood of God post, “Cast Adrift by Judge Cashman,” is here.

My commenter, Poet, left this response:
     I just finished a long entry on my blog about it: Sixty days.
I don’t know if Judge Cashman is right or wrong with his sentence. Reading several articles about it I don’t see anything to suggest that the judge is saying that sexual abuse of a child is acceptable or that perpetrators don’t deserve to be punished. He is talking about the corrosive effect of harboring anger. He is attempting to focus on doing something to help the survivor. He is also shinning a light on the dearth of options that exist for dealing with such perpetrators and the ineffectiveness of them.
This is not what we tend to like to hear. Consequently everyone is angry. It reminds me of the situation when I began to deal with my memories of my abuse. No one wanted me to remember. No one liked what I had to say and there was a lot of anger.
Let’s say that there was a national resolution that anyone convicted of a child sex crime would be executed immediately. Huge penalty. It doesn’t seem like huge penalties are very effective as deterrents, however, so I don’t think we can assume the incidence of abuse will change. I suspect that the number reported would plummet because the penalty was so huge.
Let’s say instead that anyone convicted would be sentenced to 60 days in jail, court mandated treatment and perpetual monitoring for the rest of their life. Again, I don’t think the incidence of abuse is going to change but I think the number of reported cases would climb because REPORTING it become easier to do.
Now, if we set aside our desire to slake OUR feelings of anger and rage, what’s likely to result in more survivors being able to move into getting help dealing with what happened to them? I think it’s the case that the easier it is to be reported. Making it easier to report is going to make it easier for people to break the silence. And the sooner more people are going to get into therapy or other help. And the sooner that happens the fewer of them grow up to express that anger and confusion as a continuation of the cycle of violence and abuse.
Clearly perps and predators need to be identified and monitored. They can not go back to being just another citizen, in my opinion. Judge Cashman may or may not be right in this particular case but he is right about the damage of harboring anger and bitterness as well as the fact that we have no good system for dealing with abuse perps.
You know what would probably be the most effective approach to dealing with pedophiles and sexual abuse perps? If the state sentenced the perp as Judge Cashman did, they become registered sex offenders, and the difference between what the perp would have cost as an incarcerated prisoner is contributed to a fund for survivors. That would be about $20-30k a year for say ten years going into such a fund (it costs $40-50k a year to house a prisoner). Part of the perp’s wages could be garnished to apply to that. The result would turn into one of the best funded programs around with resources to help survivors and increase awareness. It may not satisfy the immediate, visceral lust for vengeance but I can tell you from personal experience that vengeance doesn’t aid healing from the wounds of abuse.
These ideas seemed so wrong-headed that I responded to his comment and then went over and left a similar one at Poet’s blog. The italicized sections below are thoughts I added to my comment on his post that I hadn’t thought to say originally in the original response on my blog.

I responded to Poet with this:
     Judge Cashman may be “shining a light on the dearth of options that exist for perpetrators.” And he can make it a thousand watt bulb without finding anything you think this is something people can be educated out of? This is like the old saw about searching for the house key under the streetlight because that’s where the light is —not because the key is there.
I’m angry because the consequences for young victims are shattering and the consequences for perps are ludicrous. I just saw a woman sentenced to two years for stealing some groceries from Food Lion. But a child molester gets 60 days — that's jail time, not prison time. Big difference in environment.
Anger is not corrosive if it results in a movement toward very strict laws re this kind of crime. Child molesters do not deserve a second chance because they can’t change their behavior. No second chance, and my “corrosive” anger just disappears.
Medication, intensive therapy and years of support help the survivor — just like skin graft surgery helps burn victims lead more normal lives. But they NEVER get back what they had.
This was four years of constant sexual abuse beginning at the age of seven. Seven times seven years and she’ll still be dealing with the aftermath, as will her children’s children, dealing with the family history of someone not quite there anymore. Read the clinical and biochemical research that’s been done on child victims of sexual abuse. It’s in a category all its own.
This isn’t about “what I tend to like to hear.” This is about what I know both as a victim and as someone who has spent a long time talking to the clinicians and the researchers and reading their findings.
Let’s say that there is a national resolution, based on the current research on these children and the lasting damage the abuse causes. Let’s say there is a national resolution to construct a maximum security facility just to house child molesters. Put them all together, so they can use one another. Let them have chaplains, psychiatrists, visits from home, and all the necessities of life. Just DON’T LET THEM OUT. EVER.
As for deterrents, there aren’t any. So I’m only interested in prevention via life incarceration. One more incarcerated molester is a hundred or a thousand fewer scarred children. Pedophiles are busy, energetic monsters.
“Court-mandated treatment” is a farce, a joke. These men are not treatable by anyone. A forensic psychiatrist would dismiss the idea — as did the one I spoke to about this case. He said the best-case scenario is that the molester would show up for a few sessions and then skip town. That would be reported to the court and a habeas corpus would be put out on him... and served on him WHEN? Maybe the next time he was picked up on another molestation. Probably not the first one since he skipped town, either.
I don’t care what happens to Judge Cashman because of his ignorant ruling. I care about that little girl and what message she got from the penalty Cashman doled out to her abuser. Surely justice, if not mercy, demands that Hulett have to serve at least one year for every year he abused his toy?
Sixty days... what an insult to that child and to all vulnerable children.
Reminds me of my daughter’s rape trial. She was 17 and her rapist attacked her in her sleep. Even though he had scratch marks on him, and even though he confessed to the crime — dismissing my child by saying, and signing to what he said — that he didn’t know why he bothered since he could “get better stuff at home” (only he didn’t use the word “stuff”). The jury let him off — even after hearing this — because the DA couldn’t prove that my child had fought him off “sufficiently.” The state used that atrocious case to change the law. Do you think those well-meaning state delegates helped my daughter deal with the aftermath?
Anger doesn’t corrode nearly as much as helplessness and injustice do. My child wasn’t angry, she was numb. And she never recovered. Anger would’ve been an improvement over progressive dissociation.
Spare me your lectures on behalf of the judge. His decision was ignorant and harmful to many people. It will have an evil ripple effect.
Doubly spare me your lectures about anger. Anger is not a harmful emotion; it is a self-regulatory response to attack.
The most corrosive emotion is indifference. Surely as a victim you know that.


Jude the Obscure said...

Sex offenders are recividists. They get a taste for what they do. I am sure it is genetic as I am old enough to have seen it concentrated in the male line of families. The daughter of a sex offender married and everyone was saying how wonderful the wedding was, how beautiful she looked. I asked "Does the man she married (and his parents) know her father is a convicted paedophile?" (As was his father and an uncle.)Hope she doesn't have sons.

Uncle Pavian said...

Actually, only two kinds of people believe that pedophiles can be rehabilitated. On the one hand, you have judges, and on the other hand, you have the people paid to do the rehabilitating.