When you consider that statistics show that between 1/4 to 1/3 of adult women and a growing number of men were molested before age 18, most of them around the age of 7, then you wonder how in the world the legal system can deal with a problem of that magnitude.
If an offender was arrested for each of those crimes, do you think we would have enough prisons to house them all? So, what does that tell us? That most of them freely roam our streets and prey upon our children.
This is not paranoia--this is fact. As a counselor, I talk with those who are trying to pick up the pieces of shattered lives and I grieve for the little girls and boys--in every school, every church, and every neighborhood that are victims even as I write.
So what do we do? How do we take our grief and sorrow over this appalling fact of life and put it to work to make a difference?
I am concerned as I read more frequent glimpses into the evolving hate movement toward vigilante action. We force sexual offenders to reveal their addresses (which is good) but I have to ask: how would we restrain the violence vigilantes could do to convicted sex offenders and their families? Some might say, Good! Teach 'em a lesson. I cannot agree.
I lived in the home with a violent sexual offender throughout my childhood. I was victimized in numerous ways. But I lived through it. I became a survivor. I became, also, a counselor so I could help others. I became an activist against child abuse. Vigilante actions would have as likely harmed me and my six siblings as the offender. I empathize with the growing desire of parents and other angry citizens to put an end to the sex offender’s heinous crimes. But more violence is not the answer.
The answer lies the in long and arduous road of recovery. It lies in giving severe sentences for the perpetration--and extending our mantle of justice to include colluders who know what the perp is doing and go along with it. The answer will have to include providing a safe place for potential sexual offenders to recover from their own traumatic pasts and find the pathway to restoration to a society that will hold them accountable without malice. Calling sexual offenders monsters will not challenge them to redeem the numbed humanity deep within them—it will fan the fires of hatred and revenge that they have for themselves and provoke them to perpetrate that inferno on the most vulnerable among us—our children.
Balance is never easy to obtain. Those who call for it are often judged, ostracized, and condemned along with the offender regardless of the crime. Example, Martin Luther King: those who wanted extreme measures to rid society of the stain of racism condemned Dr. King for his non-aggressive stance. Others criticized him for proactively taking a stand.
We will never eradicate sexual abuse as long as depravity exists. And depravity is a condition common to mankind since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. We can manage it--we can convict the criminal, counsel, the abuser and his victims and condemn the heinous behaviors that rob children of their innocence and damage their life. But I insist that until we stop calling sexual predators monsters and begin to see them a sick, weak, twisted human beings with a soul and the potential for redemption-- we will see them reenact their own personal trauma with increasing abandon.
For the sake of the children, let’s work together to create a workable plan for bringing offender’s to justice and then providing resources to restore the human dignity that they may have forfeited long before they were old enough to realize what they have lost.
Every sexual offender who takes advantage of the opportunity to change and be restored to society is one less threat to the well-being of our children—and may be a soul redeemed from certain destruction at the hands of a Divine Parent who will certainly hold him accountable for the consequences of his sin.
© linda settles