Three recent items in the news represent a disturbing trend. On August 30, 2013, the Washington Post carried an opinion piece (http://bit.ly/185W5I3) by Betsy Karasik. She addressed the recent outrageous sentence handed down by a judge in Montana to a 49 year-old teacher who admitted raping his then-fourteen year-old student on several occasions. While I believe the slap on the wrist masquerading as punishment was appallingly insufficient, Ms. Karasik’s piece takes a far different view. She asserts that sex between teachers and students should not be criminal at all. Presumably then, she thinks that the teacher should be walking around free, even though his victim killed herself while the case made its ponderous way through the justice system. Her basis for decriminalizing sex between teachers and students boils down to two things: one, her belief that children are sexual beings; and, two, that since church and political leaders have been caught in sexual scandals, we should expect no better behavior from educators.
There is simply no logic whatsoever in the entire argument. Experts agree that children have no capacity to consent to sex; in fact, that premise is codified in all states in the form of age of consent laws. These excuses and attempts to normalize the idea of children as sex objects is dangerous, and leads to defense arguments at trials of child molesters. In one such case of mine, a step-father molested the victim for years beginning was she was just eight. She only reported the abuse as a young teenager, and even then only because the offender was turning his eyes toward the girl’s younger sister. At the trial, the victim’s mother testified that the whole thing was the child’s fault because she had begun “flaunting herself” around the house in her towel when she was eight, and it was not the offender’s fault he was sexually attracted to her. Sadly, I have seen far more mothers side with the offender than their own children in my career as a prosecutor. Opinions like Karasik’s should never make it into the mainstream press. She is free to have and express her opinions. That does not mean the Washington Post should provide her a huge vehicle to spout her perverse views.
Karasik takes things a step further in her article when she notes that there is a “kernel of truth” in the claim by an actor on a television show that, absent such severe penalties, perhaps child molesters would not kill their victims. I guess banks should stop stocking all that tempting money. This argument is very simply blaming the victim. It is utterly indefensible to claim that penalties for child molestation should be lower, as if somehow that will lead to more healing and protection of victims. How, exactly, would that work? More offenders in the community certainly will never protect victims. Many victims have told me they felt empowered by taking the witness stand and facing the offender. Of course, the court process is incredibly hard for children. But shortening sentences, or excusing child molesters with a smile and an apology, as Karasik’s attitude suggests we should do to avoid the entire court process, takes blaming the victim to a degree I have never seen before.
The case that Karasik wrote about shows that she is unfortunately not alone in her attitude of “blame the victim and excuse the offender.” In the case, (http://bit.ly/14zyOgZ) Stacey Rambold, a 49 year-old teacher at the time of the crime, confessed to raping a child beginning when she was just fourteen. The judge in that case initially agreed to drop all charges (presumably because the victim, who committed suicide, could never testify), if Rambold successfully completed sex offender treatment and abided by a few other conditions. That’s right, all he had to do was complete some therapy and he would be a free man.
It should surprise no one that someone who would prey upon a child in his care couldn’t manage to collect his get out of jail free card and comply with sex offender treatment. Why? Because he is, in fact, a sex offender. Society needs to be protected from predators like him. The judge saw things differently. Maybe he and Betsy Karasik belong to the same sex offender admirers club. As does the defense attorney, apparently, who argued Rambold had already “suffered enough” with the loss of his career and marriage. When asked by the prosecutors to impose a 20 year sentence after his failure to abide by the agreement, the judge noted that the child was “older than her chronological age” and was a “troubled young girl.” Yes, exactly what a predator like Rambold honed in on and exploited. This judge should be removed from office immediately. He has since tried to apologize (http://huff.to/1d04uvY) , claiming he didn’t mean his words. He is a judge, and therefore also a lawyer, meaning he has had plenty of education and experience with words. His attitude is simply another example of societal creep toward blaming the victim and excusing the offender.
The final recent example is perfectly illustrative of how dangerous this excuse the offender mantra has become. The Atlantic (http://bit.ly/19BvpfI) recently published a column by a self confessed pedophile. He relates how he had a twenty-year obsession with child pornography. He never reveals however, why he collected child pornography and viewed it as a “scrumptious feast.” The reason is glaringly obvious: the self confessed pedophile was gratified, sexually, by viewing the terrible sexual assaults of children. Unfortunately, I have prosecuted many of these kinds of cases. The images of the sexual assault of children are simply horrifying. The videos, which this author admits he also viewed, are exponentially more so. He makes a passing reference to the market for child pornography, but it is obvious he completely fails to understand that he, himself, is likely responsible for a child being sexually assaulted. In a case I prosecuted, a defendant admitted that he produced horrific and violent images of himself sexually assaulting a very young girl just so that he could trade his “fresh” images with others. He said he couldn’t get any new images of child pornography without new images of his own. Excusing sex offenders leads directly to children suffering. Why would we ever give these apologists a forum to spew this vile nonsense?