Saturday, July 21, 2007

Crackdown on Juvenile Sex Offenders

Sexual offender registeries, once primarily for adult sexual offenders, are increasingly aimed at teenagers:

Since 1994, federal legislation has required many sex offenders to register with the police, which can aid sex-crime investigations. But Megan’s Law, which went into effect in 1996, mandates that law enforcement also notify the public about certain convicted offenders in their communities. One of the ways states do this is through publicly accessible Web sites. At least 25 states now apply Megan’s Law, also known as a community-notification law, to juveniles, according to a recent survey by Brenda V. Smith, a law professor and the director of the National Institute of Corrections Project on Addressing Prison Rape at American University’s Washington College of Law. That means on many state sex-offender Web sites, you can find juveniles’ photos, names and addresses, and in some cases their birth dates and maps to their homes, alongside those of pedophiles and adult rapists.

However, juvenile sex offenders are different from adult sex offenders:

Adult models, he notes, don’t account for adolescent development and how family and environment affect children’s behavior. Also, research over the past decade has shown that juveniles who commit sex offenses are in several ways very different from adult sex offenders. As one expert put it, “Kids are not short adults.”

while most juveniles who have committed sex offenses are boys around 13 or 14, in other ways they are not a homogeneous population. Though a small percentage — no one knows how many — will become adult rapists or pedophiles, the vast majority, 90 percent or more, will not, Chaffin says. Most have not committed violent assaults or abused multiple children repeatedly. Usually they have had sexual contact — from fondling to oral sex to intercourse — with a child who is at least two years younger than they are. Also, many of the juveniles have been sexually abused themselves, and as a consequence, they act out sexually, typically for a transitory period.

Some, whether they have been abused or not, are what therapists call “na├»ve experimenters” — overly impulsive or immature adolescents who are unable to approach girls or boys their own age; instead, they engage in inappropriate sexual acts with younger children. Others are generally delinquent juveniles for whom sexual abuse is just one of the ways they break laws, and according to studies, they are much more likely to commit a property crime than they are to commit a second sex offense. They are from working-class, middle-class and upper-middle-class homes, from intact families as well as very broken ones. There are also a number of children — how many is unclear — who are adjudicated for what some therapists would say is “playing doctor” or normative “sexual experimentation.” These are broadly considered to include sexual acts that are spontaneous, intermittent and “consensual” (legally, children under 16 usually cannot consent to sex) between youths within a couple of years age. Similarly, there are the so-called Romeo and Juliet cases, like the highly publicized one in Georgia involving Genarlow Wilson, who is serving an 11-year prison sentence for having consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old girl at a party when he was 17. There have also been court cases of 12- and 13-year-old boys who grabbed girls’ breasts or buttocks in school hallways and were adjudicated as “sex offenders.”

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a diagnosis of pedophilia requires a person to be at least 16 years old and with “recurrent, intense, sexually arousing fantasies” over a period of six months or longer, that he acts upon with a child who is at least five years younger. Many sex-abuse therapists, however, say they’d be wary of diagnosing pedophilia in even a 16- or a 17-year-old. At 16, a teenager’s history of sexual interest is relatively short, notes David Prescott, a therapist and the president-elect of the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers, and it is still subject to change, compared with the history of a 40-year-old who is sexually attracted to young children.

Some of the juvenile sex offenders are being discovered by neigbors and classmates:

Kids Google one another’s names; curious neighbors type in their ZIP codes on sex-offender Web sites. And the problems begin.

Last year, an eighth grader at a Delaware middle school arrived one morning to find kids in the hallway pointing at him and snickering. At first, the boy, Johnnie, who asked me protect his privacy by identifying him by a friend’s nickname for him, was confused. He thought it might be because of his new haircut. Then one kid called him a rapist. Another jeered, “Hey, aren’t you a sex offender?” One teenage boy threatened to beat him up.


Alijor said...

I saw a movie about this in a sociology class last year, it was called "Cry Rape" (funny title, right?).

And it's really an interesting debate- I completely agree that many sex offender laws are absolutely ludicrous (I read a story of a 16 year old girl who gave oral sex to two boys, nine and 11, year olds on a dare, 10 year prison sentence.)

Then again, you have the whole double standard of sexuality thing , and the "expected" sexuality idea- that is basically kids get pressured into sex. But I really don't think that's a problem for the legal system...

Anonymous said...

Thousands of American children are being branded SEX OFFENDERS. Read the many stories at this site below, you will not believe what a real problem we have in this country. Parents the laws are harming children, learn the facts. It can happen to you and yours, believe me, WAKE UP!

Ethical treatment for all youth

Anonymous said...

In this Country we have 13,15,17,19 year old teens registering as sex offenders for consensual sex (age of consent laws) , exposure (mooning & streaking), sex contact (for touching a boob), Child pornography, (girls taking nude picture of oneself at 15 is child pornography), Many young children are inflicted with the label of sex offender for years, even till death. Don't forget these sex offenders. Where can they live in peace? NO WHERE IN AMERICA? , , I hope you check out these sites and learn how young people are caught up in these hate crimes. The media or government isn't going to inform you about the non child molesters. You can learn how to protect your Dick and Jane's. Why do you think there are over 600,000 of our citizens listed? HOW MANY ARE OUR CHILDREN? Your child could be next, WAKE UP. I'm a Mom who knows what I am talking about, your child makes any mistake you will feel the hate, so will your entire family,forever. WAKE UP! POLITICAIN DO NOT CARE ABOUT YOUR CHILDREN.

Anonymous said...

Yup, I'm on the sex offender list because of something I did when I was 13 (I'm now 24). Now everyone thinks I'm some child molester. I think it's because everyone associates the word 'sex offender' with 'child molester' thanks to corporate news stations, mainly Fox News. It also prevents me from being a Doctor which is what I wanted ever since I can remember. Most people in this country don't deserve their right to vote.

Anonymous said...

well, hat if your 13 y.o. strpson had molested yur 3 year old daughter? tht is a sex offender in my book! what about your's?

Ira said...

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