First of all, excuse how I might twist some sentences; I am Canadian and my first language is French. Today I’d like to start a reflection about the US, its heavily-corrupted justice system, and how it deals with sex offenders and pedophiles. I’ll begin this essay with a simple, yet curious question: How is it, that the USA, who prides itself in over-policing and refuses entry to foreigners with criminal records, manages to have some of the highest crime rates in the world?
A multi-billion dollar industry, the US justice system is tweaked to efficiently preserve and induce crime. The very thing it pretends to fight against, crime creates millions of job opportunities and the government depends on it. Crime rates and violence are much lower in countries that treat their suspects and inmates in more humane ways. Such is the case, for example, in countries like Canada, Norway, or Germany. The US should learn from these countries not force them to change what they are doing right.
The federal sex offender registry (SORNA) is a prime example. It is currently implemented in Canada due to pressure from the United States. As a Canadian, I’m very surprised and appalled that we did that because our equivalent of your constitution, The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, clearly defines such a thing as a form of slavery. So we really have to play with words to avoid confusion. When a human being is owned by another one, there’s no other French word that comes in mind.
Life of Never-Ending Servitude
What’s particular here, is that sex offenders are, in practice, owned collectively. Owned by both the government and public at large. We are all taught from a young age to react to sex offenders like we personally own and despise them. Meeting a sex offender becomes the perfect pretext to express violence and hate without any fear of repercussion. We collectively live on the superstition that hate and violence against sex offenders, particularly pedophiles, is what keeps kids safe. This could not be further from the truth.
In fact, any expression of hate against pedophiles is likely to induce future sex crimes… it’s what Peters, Wyatt and Finkelhor (1986) found in their study1. One of the best predictors of “acting out” for a pedophile was if he lived a strong and intense negative emotion within the last 48 hours. So, as empowering it can feel to hurt and humiliate a pedophile, what’s likely to happen within the next 48 hours is a child might be abused.
The authors found that (surprise!) pedophiles are people; they eat, think, and have feelings too! As Peters stated, they have an “emotional congruence.” This makes them feel more secure and on the same page when talking to children. In comparison, they tend to fear adult interactions, where they tend to feel inferior. So, adults trying to humiliate them can only accentuate this fear, pushing them even more towards children.
Peters and his colleagues also found that pedophiles need as much interactions as possible with non-pedophile adults. Those with the lowest recidivism rates were those with the most frequent and positive interactions with non-pedophile friends.
Keep in mind: this essay is about pedophiles in general, not all sex offenders. Most “sex offenders” by label are non-violent, first-time offenders that often don’t even have a victim. Their statute violation was more of a thought-crime than a physical or violent one. Regardless, the punishment-by-registry is the same.
Spiting Your Face
We isolate and humiliate pedophiles. We torture them with endless restrictions on where they can work and live. This is precisely what I mean when I say that our system preserves and induces crime. The media (and politicians) convince people that hate and violence against pedophiles is a civic duty. We learn that it’s what we must do and we are never told that this type of thinking induces sex abuse. Any thinking to the contrary will strike an immediate public backlash.
In subtle ways, every worker in the justice system will induce future crimes when interacting with sex offenders. Most of them project hate and contempt when communicating with them and they tend to give orders rather than advice.
As a last comment, I invite you to watch a movie called “Magdalene Sisters”. It’s an exceptional film based on a true story, and it shows how Ireland in the 1950’s was treating young females considered sinners (the moral equivalent of today’s sex offenders). With my reflections in mind, you will realize the parallel. Today, we see men as the source of all sexual evils. But only about 70 years ago, society only saw sins in women. It’s a very humbling movie – for both sexes.
1Peters, S. D., Wyatt, G. E., & Finkelhor, D. (1986). Prevalence. In D. Finkelhor (Ed.), A sourcebook on child sexual abuse (pp. 15-59). Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.