Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Risk your child's safety, for the sake of their sanity - Part 3 Let's talk about sex (offender registry)

People who commit sexual offences against children are probably the most hated people around.  And they should be.  To take the trust of a child and abuse that trust in such a way to create emotional damage from which a child will likely never recover takes a certain kind of evil.  To look at a child's innocence and want to gain power over them in a perverse way is such a serious crime the the public needs to be informed when a person has in the past been convicted of such a crime. The sex offender's registry is a good tool for a parent to use to keep their children safe, right?

Not necessarily.  If the registry were designed to include only those who are a threat to children it would be a good tool.  However, the way it is designed now, a child of 14 can end up on the registration for life for having sex with his 13 year old girlfriend.  The 14 year will be labelled as the most dangerous of sex offenders due to the nature of their "crime".  Please read the following links.  They explain the failings of the sex offender's registry better than I can.

Classically liberal writes about children labelled as offenders and in another post clarifies and backs up her statements.
Read about Ricky who was labelled a sex offender at age 16 for having sex with a girl who told him she was 16.  He will be on the registry for life.
Read about AJ and List Dameree who were at risk of being put on the sex offender's registry for taking bath time pictures of their three daughters.
And then read about the residency restrictions these "offenders" will have  - even the "offenders" who are not convicted may end up on the list.

Add to the above the fact that the registry only includes those who have been caught and most abusers will have hurt a dozen children before they are caught, and we have to ask ourselves just how effective such a registry really is.

Proponents say it's worth it if one child is saved from abuse. I say if we are willing to let innocent people suffer for crimes they did not commit then we don't deserve to call ourselves a free society.

Negligent  mother example #3

The risk: Not knowing if someone convicted of a sex offence involing children lives near me or has contact with my kids.

I have never looked at a sex offender registration and so I have no clue if the man down the street that my kids talk to from time to time is a convicted sex offender.  I have never taught my kids to stay out of strangers houses if they are invited in for a cookie.

The precautions: Instilling a healthy respect for their bodies and talking to them about what to do if they feel uncomfortable in any situation.

I know that my children are most likely to be abused by someone they know and so have taken the route of telling them to put up a fight and run away from anyone who is doing anything to them that they feel uncomfortable with.  I have not put a fear of strangers into them, nor have I instilled a fear that everyone is out there to get them.  I have taught them to respect their bodies and that no one has a right to touch them anywhere if they don't want them to.  They identify their genitals and man's genitals using proper terms.  Cute names like "pee pee" and "tinkle box" give children a view of their body the is unrealistic cute. We have an open attitude about sexuality in this house.  If I make it taboo, then how likely are my kids going to come to me to tell me if anything does happen?

The reaction from other parents: None because I don't talk about it with them

I will admit to keeping silent on my beliefs that the sex offender's registry is more harmful right now than it is helpful.  Many parents are supportive of the sex offender's registry and it's not an argument I want to have while sitting chatting over a cup of coffee.

Why it's worth the risk:  Fearful kids will grow up to be fearful adults

I have no stats to back me up on any of this, but Helene Guldberg, Ph.D. in psychology and the author of Reclaiming Childhood: freedom and play in an age of fear, has written an article on the consequences of teaching children to fear all strangers.  Here are a few excerpts from that article:
Inculcating children with a fear of all strangers is counterproductive. The message this imparts to parents and children is to be suspicious of any adult who wants to work with children.
The sad consequence of all this regulation is that, one way or another, children will pick up signals about stranger danger, the problem of photography, the implications of vetting - and the only message it is possible to draw from this is that it should not be taken for granted that you can trust adults.

Another side effect of today's culture of fear - and in particular of the paedophile panic - is that adults no longer feel confident to step in to help children in trouble.
 Want to take a risk?:   Don't look at the sex offender's registry

There is nothing I can say or do that will convince someone to let go of their fear of paedophiles.  All I can do is to say that there is a certain freedom in trusting people.  Not only for my kids, but for me too.  I am free not to worry about the dangers lurking behind the closed doors of a neighbours house.  As Helene Guldberg says at the end of her article:
If we can harness a more positive outlook about our fellow human beings and challenge institutionalized suspicion and state-authorized scaremongering, then we really might free up our children's lives and allow them both to enjoy themselves and to learn through living.

Part 4 Turning parents into criminals - coming sometime this century


  1. Ah Sara, I so agree with you on this one! I also think that the registry is a joke.

    I also don't want to instill fear of strangers in Riley.

    Oh, and we startled the pedi when he told R that he said "I'm going to check your privates." Poor R looked confused. Then the dr reached for the snap on his shorts and R said "OH! You mean my PENIS!" Apparently, calling body parts by their names is unusual!

  2. Nice to see you here again. :) I have a whole series I am writing about this - check them all out under the Risk Your Child's Safety tag. I would love to have your input on all of it!

    One thing I did for the girls is not only teach them the proper names for their genitals, but teach them the names of different parts of their genitals. So, they know that their vagina is inside and their vulva is outside. I didn't go overboard and teach them clitoris and labia and all that, just those two. Now if, God forbid, something did happen they can tell me and the police in clear terms that "He put is finger inside my vagina" or "He asked me to touch his testicles." Not really a comfortable thought, of course, but still something I am glad I did.

    Other than that, well, go get a cookie from the man down the street. Go ahead and go in his kitchen. Just don't spoil your dinner!

  3. Thanks for posting your thoughts. Its making me understand you and your parenting more. I may not agree with you on certain things, but I do like to know your view points. If I had kids I would do just about everything you posted here, except I do go to the website every once in a great while. It is a joke, its not the be all end all tool, but I do check it out every once in awhile.

  4. You know, if I ever had a bad feeling about a neighbour or thought they were just a little bit too interested in my kids, I would probably check it too. It's not the registry itself that is the problem, it's the way it's set up. It's just the way it's set up now is a big huge joke. It's growing by 7% per year. If that rate continues, then everyone will be on it by the time my kids have kids!

    I really don't understand why we have to keep tabs on a person who is not likely to reoffend. Probation and parole checks, OK. But misinformation made public just creates fear mongering.

    According to the chart Classically Liberal posted, the most dangerous offenders are 14 years old. To which I say, yeah, right.

    If there are changes made to the registry, I think it would be a great tool for parents and caregivers.

  5. I've been reading the posts about the freedoms that you give the girls. It's funny, because I think that we parent a bit similarly. We were at the park today, my friend was sitting sort of behind me. I was sitting with most of my back turned to R while talking to her. We've been working on letting him do more and more on his own, not having to hold hands, letting him cross the street on his own (with us right there, of course), things like that.

    I'll go re-read your other posts too. And I'll comment on them.