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What ABOUT the Children?

Nowhere is the ugly, neurotic sexphobia of America more clear than when this society deals with sexual abuse. Before I say anything else, let me be clear: sexual abuse of children is a grave offense and those who do it should be held accountable. A significant, decisive and effective social intervention is necessary when a child is abused.

But our response is neither significant, nor decisive, nor effective. Most offenses are still not reported and sexual abuse is still fairly widespread (if the statistics are to be believed)

Our response is, quite frankly, hysterical and it has to stop. Sex offender registries that brand all sex offenders, across the board, with a scarlet "M" (for molester) for the rest of their lives and set them up for harassment by neighbors is one example of the extent of the hype.

And let's not forget the popular NBC program "To Catch a Predator." I've seen a few of these programs and I have to admit they are entertaining. But that's the problem--sexual abuse is something that requires a rational, well thought out response, and it is beyond despicable when TV networks and politicians see it as an opportunity for profit. My favorite part of "To Catch a Predator" is when Stone Phillips comes on and tries, oh so sanctimoniously, to convince us that the reason for the program is to warn parents about the dangers of online predators, instead of the real reason--it's a ratings bonanza. The blatant disingenuousness is pure comedy!

While sexual abuse is something that needs to be taken seriously, US society's lynch-mob response to sexual abuse shows that our response has more to do with our culture's obsession with sex (and suppressing it) than with protecting children. Also disturbingly, it is an area in which the prison-industrial complex and criminal justice system continue to extend their reach.

I, for one, am amused by a hypocritical society that shrieks and howls in the name of "protecting our children" when it comes to sexual abuse, but nonetheless allows millions of its children to live in poverty, to go to substandard schools, or to not have health insurance. So when someone blubbers, "What about the children?" I say, "What about the children?"

For an excellent article on dealing with sexual abuse from a progressive perspective see Betty Schneider's "How to Deal with Sex Offenders."

1 comment:

Mark D. Snyder said...


My favorite is when people ask "what about the children" when we are discussing the arrests of men for cruising for other men. It's like well, what ABOUT them?