Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Time for annual Halloween sex offender hype

The Houston Press' Hairballs blog recently ran a post called "The Five Best Halloween Warnings Forwarded By Frantic Moms," and I'm somewhat surprised overblown fears about sex offenders giving out candy didn't make the list. (See prior, related Grits posts.) Thankfully, media hype over that non-threat seems to have died down somewhat this year: I've only seen two Texas-based news stories on the subject this fall, whereas just a couple of years ago they were ubiquitous during the month before the event. That said, I bet we see more between now and the big day.

I've pointed out previously that "there's only one case in the history of the planet where a child was abducted by a stranger while trick or treating (in Wisconsin in 1973). In that instance, the killer had no prior record and wouldn't have been on any sex offender registry even if it had existed." Kids are at greater risk of being hit by lightning on Halloween than they are from registered sex offenders. Indeed, a recent study found Halloween may be the "safest day of the year" as it pertains to sex offenses against children because, according to one of the researchers, "it was just so incredibly rare to see anything happen on that day." But then, reporting the truth wouldn't grab readers' attention as much as hyping a de minimis threat.

The real threats to children on Halloween: Drivers (drunk or not) hitting pedestrians, fire-related accidents, choking, and food allergies. There's by far a far greater risk that an ill-fitting mask will impede your kid's vision and cause them to step into traffic without looking than there is that a registered sex-offender will abduct them. As far as I'm concerned, law enforcement agencies and media outlets hyping non-threats while ignoring the real risks to kids do the public a significant disservice, even if the practice is common as dirt.

46 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great article Grits, right on. Nothing like a little fear mongering for political reasons.
I wanted to dress up as the most scary person in Texas, a real life human rights violator, but I couldn’t find a Rissie Owens mask. I’m going to settle, using a governor Perry mask, I’ll be going as a Texas sex offender.

Anonymous said...

Kind of like the political fearmongering on this blog regarding the number of actual "innocent" who are convicted in this state!

Anonymous said...

You just don't know the heartbreak and devastation that lies behind these laws unless you are, or have lived it. My son is another one of those required to register because of consensual sex with a young lady. I am the mom and I have had my house egged, have been called names and made fun of by others. I am just now able to hold my head up. My son is in prison and I know that when he is released it will be difficult for him to survive. We will do all we can to help him.
I would like to add that my son was the second young man filed on for having sex with the same young lady.
I guess when my son gets out there will be no Halloween for this grandmother.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

4:22, there has been just one abduction by a sex offender in history on Halloween. By contrast, more than 250 people have been exonerated by DNA (no need for the scare quotes on "innocent" for those folks), and even the most conservative estimates out there say there are hundreds of innocent people in Texas prisons alone.

So no, it's actually not similar at all.

3dayjourney said...

As some one who works from the criminal justice angle in relation to these Halloween programs [in probation], I feel the biggest benefit isn't the prevention of sex crimes on Halloween night. Rather it is the prevention of any grooming techniques [for those that understand the term]. It is a small benefit. Surprisingly the "healthiest" [if I am allowed to use that term] of my caseload seems eager to not be involved in Halloween related activities.

I will leave the politics to those that have a clue as I do not...

Hook Em Horns said...

I am sure that various constables offices will grand stand on the evening news for there 5 minutes of fame as they "check on" sex offenders Halloween night. This fearmongering, of course, justifies keeping, otherwise worthless, constables around.

Anonymous said...

Mr. 4:22 pm: spoken like a true prosecutor/da who's sick and tired of innocent people being let out of prison. Could you possibly be from Central Texas and go by the nickname of Marty?

Juliet's Mom said...

Anytime you see "grooming techniques" you know there is an LSOTP on the loose - (Licensed Sex Offender Treatment Provider) Fearmongering is an effective marketing tool in their industry.

Treatment providers have a huge financial stake in the sex offender industry. Their industry is fueled by RSO's. The industry is expanding. Some LSOTP's are even going into business with polygraphers. Example: Aaron Piece, LSOTP from Temple who serves on the Council for Sex Offender Treatment and Peter Heller, polygrapher from Austin have formed The Soter Project. They are located at 503 S. Main Street in Georgetown. (Center for Cognitive Education is a major Williamson County treatment provider and also at this address)

And for those of us who understand the term "grooming techniques" we are also wise enough to understand that much of what you pervs call grooming used to be called courting.

I'm referring to the 19 year old with the 15 year old girl friend. He brought her a rose...oh no, he's grooming her. He told her she had beautiful eyes...oh no more grooming. whateva

Anonymous said...

I wonder if anyone has ever done a study on the statistical probability of someone who tries to lead an exemplary lfe, works hard, has a family, pays taxes, doesn't associate with meth users or crackheads, no prior criminal history, etc.; being convicted of a crime he (or she) didn't do? I'd be willing to bet that statistical probability is at least as low as the likelihood of a child being abducted by a stranger on Halloween.

Anonymous said...

3 day journey

I am not surprised that your "healthiest" offenders don't want to be involved in Halloween activities, but I think it has more to do with the fear of being falsely accused or suspected of doing something. I think most RSO's want to stay away from Halloween events in order to protect themselves.

The RSO's that have a hard time with not participating in Halloween events are the RSO's who are still kids themselves.

Anonymous said...

I'll believe in the 'innocence' of convicted sex offenders when I see a criminal defense lawyer hire a convicted sex offender to babysit their kids.

eye on justice said...

5:57 has to be ole John "Marty" Bradley.

Victims of the criminal justice system are no more to blame for prosecutorial misconduct and their false conviction than a REAL rape victim is to blame for the actions of the rapist.

I remember reading something Bradley had written about how innocent people who were falsely accused, prosecuted, convicted and exonerated have no one but themselves to blame. Bradley's position is these people were, in all likelihood, hanging out in the wrong places with the wrong people and therefore had it coming.

Bradley also believes sleazy prosecutors who have committed prosecutorial misconduct to convict an innocent person should be exempt from the law.

Yep, I'd say Bradley reads Grits

Gritsforbreakfast said...

So 5:57 (1), it's okay to secure false convictions if a person did not lead an "exemplary life"? That's certainly a common attitude, but there's a reason people who make such arguments never sign their name to their opinions - it's a particularly disreputable stance to take, even if it's what many police and prosecutors appear to actually believe.

6:00, you're babbling. That comment has nothing to do with anything written here.

6:31, he'd never admit it.

Anonymous said...

35 years ago I met a man and I liked him. I groomed him for sex and it worked, we had sex. I liked it, he liked it. We have been married ever since then.
Does that mean I am a sex offender, or does that mean he is a sex offender, after all he is the male!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

5:40, It may not seem like a problem to you but to most parents a 19yr old dating a 15yr old is a problem. The 19yr old male is looking for an "adult relationship" and chances are has already graduated high school. A 15yr old girl is young and impressionable, hell she can't even drive a car without an adult and dating an adult is okay? When my daughter reaches that age I will take a cue from my golfing buddy. He invited the 20yr old who wanted to date his 16yr old daughter over to the house. Took him outback and layed the law down, he decided it wasn't worth the trouble to date a 16yr old.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if anyone has ever done a study on the statistical probability of someone who tries to lead an exemplary lfe, works hard, has a family, pays taxes, doesn't associate with meth users or crackheads, no prior criminal history, etc.; being convicted of a crime he (or she) didn't do? I'd be willing to bet that statistical probability is at least as low as the likelihood of a child being abducted by a stranger on Halloween.

5:57PM I would buy you dinner. Amen for posting that. I think the odds are closer to winning a multimillion jackpot or getting struck lightening. I always find it amazing how people can't understand why they are constantly getting in trouble or being bothered by the police. Stop hanging around the drug dealers, theives, prostitutes, and pimps and trouble won't find you.

Anonymous said...

10:53 that same 15 year old girl can commit a murder and all of a sudden everyone wants to treat her like an adult. That 15 year old can go into any store and buy condoms legally, but they cant buy cigarrettes. duh?
My husband is 7 years older than I am. There is a reason we as females date older males. It is a maturity thing. Males just are not very mature.

Anonymous said...

What if it was a 19 year old girl and a 15 year old boy? Would that make any differeence with anyone except a prosecutor?

Angee said...

Registrants with children resent their children being deprived of the festivities. It has become a political day. Authorities are strangers with badges so parents will not trust them either. If Megan Kanka had been supervised she would not have been a victim. S 7 year old need to be taught not to roam the neighborhood and drop in on neighbors whenever she decided.Reve Walsh should have spent 7 minutes with Adam in the toy department and then taken her child to spend 7 minutes with her in the lamp department.These two lives could have been saved. Kids accompanied by parents are not targets. The majority of parents keep a close presence to the children on Halloween and this year should be no different. We can do without the fear-mongering and the political song and dance routines. This is not about the children.
People are fed up with the Halloween shenanigans. Can't our children have one day in the care of their parents without political interference?

Anonymous said...

11:03, stop blaming the victim. You're probably the same kind of a-hole who would tell rape victims an assault was their fault for wearing provocative clothes.

3dayjourney said...

Juliet's Mom, I am sorry that someone you love had a sexual relationship with an under aged individual and suffered all the punishment that that entails. However, I just can’t come to the point of agreeing that a 19 year old with a 15 year old should not have some form of punishment. I do however think that the criminal justice system should differentiate between the different levels of sex offenders. They do not. By the way, I am not a RSOTP and hopefully not a perv. But my wife might differ on that last description. Good luck on the blogosphere, maybe you can change policy.
5:57: Many want to stay away to protect themselves but that isn’t dependent on being health or not. It is a common motivation. However, I am speaking of sexual offenders that have realized the pain that they caused and legitimately don’t want to cause harm again. It is just Halloween and not much of a sacrifice to them as they would rather not have children come up to their door and risk any anxieties beyond accusations. [Kind of like an alcoholic not wanting to work in a bar]. But I don’t disagree with your assessment as a primary motivation.
By the way Grits… My community does a mixture of the “go by and check on the homes of sex offenders” and what my department [not therapy or perv if Juliet’s mom is still reading] does. We have an educational program at an undisclosed location [to prevent violence on the SO] for the sex offenders that are court ordered to have no contact with children [i.e. does not include the adult on adult crimes]. We will have a refresher course with a police officer on registration requirements and a chance to ask questions of them. Then a therapist has a time to work on some general issues with the guys [nothing specific as they are from different programs]. This takes them away from their home and will allow their families to celebrate Halloween without the violation of the offender’s court ordered terms. No perfect but better.

Anonymous said...

I knew if I read this blog long enough I would find something that Grits and I agree on. Halloween is safe when parents walk with their kids and keep them safe.

Anonymous said...

3dayjourney says "I just can’t come to the point of agreeing that a 19 year old with a 15 year old should not have some form of punishment."

I would reply that A) "Some sort of punishment" doesn't equal lifetime sex offender registration and B) lots of people in our grandparents generation would have seen a 19 and 15 year old as perfectly normal. That's been true back to biblical times and making everybody criminals doesn't help or protect anybody. Hell, my daughter used to lie about her age so older boys would date her and I know she's not the only one. Just like 10:53s story, this is something for parents to deal with but it's beyond stupid to try to punish it using criminal laws.

sunray's wench said...

I'm told it is legal for 14 year old girls to be married in Texas, and for 12 year olds to be married in America as long as both parents agree.

Does 3dayjourney think that those girls should abstain from sex with their husbands? Or does being married override the laws of the land?

Anonymous said...

A 19 year old and 15 year old go on a killing spree. They are referred to as murderers.

A 19 year old and 15 year old rob a bank. They are called bank robbers.

A 19 year old and 15 year old have sex. The 19 year old becomes a criminal sex offender and the 15 year old becomes a victim.

Any questions?

Hook Em Horns said...

Yes, there are real sex offenders, on that, we can all agree but the criminalization of teen-agers having sex serves only the "sex offender industry." The Halloween hype serves the "sex offender industry" and ratings starved TV news. When you privatize prisons and industries like "sex offense" you create a whole new myriad of problems that usually include fear-mongering, false statistics and other crap to justify growth and profits in those respective industries.

Hook Em Horns said...

One more thought...has throwing money at criminal justice made us any safer?

3dayjourney said...

11:25 I have not called for the life time registration of the above example mentioned. In fact I believe that "the criminal justice system should differentiate" between those different types of people convicted of sex crimes. I would guess that where we most disagree would be that I don't support decriminalization. But I would like for some type of hope for the individuals that are not a risk for further harm to others.

If we want to quote biblical times we also get into stoning, government controlled religion, multiple wives and a general lack of equality. I kind of hope that isn’t our standard. We disagree, that is all, on decriminalization. It is solely based for me on a conversation with a 14ish aged girl 10 years later and the negative effect the sexual behavior had with her through out her further relationship and life and how the offender had manipulated her emotionally. I wont go into that further. Just understand that I don’t have an agenda, I am just unable to support your reasoning.

sunray’s, marriage does override that part of the law. So that isn’t a good argument.

It is an “affirmative defense to prosecute” when the younger person consented and is within 3 years of age of the older. There was also a bill at one time to expand that to 5 years if in school together. Not sure if it had and limitations or if it passed and became law. It probable didn’t as that isn’t the direction Texas travels in their handling of Sex Offenders, but who knows.

Anonymous said...

Until today I thought it was about HALLOWEEN, not the 30 days leading up to Halloween. But the P.O. that my son saw this morning told him that if there are Halloween decorations INSIDE our home we need to take them down! The decorations I have up are for the most part on my fireplace mantel and NOT visible from outside. How the devil does a few INDOOR decorations threaten a child that does not live here or visit here? My husband & I have an annual ADULT ONLY Halloween party in our back yard. We thought we were safe having it on Oct 30th this year. But I guess the PTB want to ruin everyone's fun for the entire month. They might as well cancel the entire holiday. I think Christmas & Easter will be next. After all Jonbent Ramsey was sexually assaulted & murdered on Christmas night. Gee, I wonder if it was because her parents had a Christmas tree in the house? The world has gone ***** nuts!

Anonymous said...

3day:
The bill you ask about was hb3148 proposed by Todd Smith. It allowed a 4 year age difference instead of 3 as a defense. The bill passed the house and the senate and tricky ricky vetoed it.
Marriage doesn't override the law in Tx. I know 2 men who married the young lady they fell into trouble over. They have been married for many years, they have children. These men(dad,husbands) are registered for life. The registry does not mention that fact. Their children are ridiculed, bullied and harrassed at school. Their children's friends are not allowed to visit them, they don't have birthday parties, because noone comes when they get invited. So, tell me what is fair about ANY OF THAT. Yes, I am angry. I am frustrated that there is no distinction on the registry of who is dangerous and who is not. I am furious that there is no light at the end of the tunnel for these folks. Treatment, probation, parole, plethysmograph tests, polygraph tests are expensive and these families are required subjection to all of these. Even our lawmakers know what they are doing is wrong, but they don't have the balls to do anything about it. Prosecutors love it, there is virtually no defence for these types of offenses.
I have said mine. Sorry about the rant.

Hook Em Horns said...

Anonymous said...

The world has gone ***** nuts!

10/21/2010 01:35:00 PM
------------------------------------
Texas certainly has.

Juliet's Mom said...

Have we forgotten the Halloween Parenting Rule, the one followed by most of our parents: The #1 best way to keep your children safe on Halloween is to GO with them and do not let them out of your sight. BE A Parent.

The # 1 way (not always a guarantee) to try to prevent your 15 year old daughter from sneaking around and having sex with an older teen or young adult, be involved in her life and know where she's going, what she's doing, who she hangs with, who she's talking to on the phone and on the internet. Set boundaries, enforce them.

3dayjourney, I don't know if the 14year old girl you mentioned is the exception or the rule but I tend to think it is the exception. I've spoken with several young women labeled "victim" because as a teen they had consensual sex with an older teen. Some are now married to the offender, some have children with the offender, and some say they pursued the boy.
Some didn't know the boy ended up an RSO and have volunteered to do what they can to help the now grown man get off the registry. Not one of these young women felt the boy did anything to force sex on them or to trick them into sex.

We need to come to terms with teen girls having sex without coersion, manipulation or trickery, but as a choice they are making. Teenage girls have "urges" same as boys. It is also a fact that females have orgasms in case some of you good ole boys didn't know that.

You know the old saying "boys just want one thing?" Well, they're not the only ones wanting it.

Disclaimer: I am a parent. I do not condone teen sex now or ever. I have instructed my daughters they can have sex when they are 30.

Anonymous said...

This is 11:25 - 3day, you don't need to go back to biblical times, just a couple of generations to see that the world doesn't end if young women date older men. Ask your grandmother at what age her peers married and how old were their spouses if you don't believe me. And those are the folks whose morals we supposedly got away from and need to return to, according to all the fundie-Christine O'Donnell types out there.

Anonymous said...

1:35 PM, sever that umbilical cord.

Anonymous said...

7:22 PM says "sever the umbilical cord"
Please explain yourself. What is it in 1:35 PM's statement that makes you think that she is over protective? She is referring to how Halloween restrictions effect her family and the total ridiculousness of the restrictions.

R. Shackleford said...

Sex offender laws are completely over the top. Peeing in public gets you registered right alongside the folks who go around raping 3 year olds. These laws need a drastic change, but surely, after watching the likes of JB parade around convicting everyone for everything, guilty or not, and getting away with it ever since he slimed his way into office on Tricky Ricky's nickel nobody is surprised anymore. The doddering gummer faction loves ol' JB for 'keeping us safe in our mechanical beds at night', just as most of the idiot public thinks sex offender laws are the only things standing between them and being mouth raped in our sleep by evil slope-browed half men. Until enough folks have run afoul of the justice (snicker) system to have a majority realize how chicken fried screwed up it is, we'll be stuck with these ahole zealots and their retarded laws. Until then, I plan to be elsewhere.

3dayjourney said...

Hey 06:15:00 PM I think you missed my point. But if you want to go back to my grandmother's time when African Americas and women did not have legal protection than go ahead use that period as an example. My point is I don't care what they did in biblical time or xxx amount of years ago. I have been influenced by victims in this generation [older adolescents with younger adults] and I do not now feel comfortable with decriminalizing that behavior. You do. OK. But you argument isn't effective on me. However, I am basically agreeing that your example exists [of course] and should be considered for mitigating the criminal behavior [we can't] but I wont go as far as calling for decriminalization like you do. Lets see what the future laws will bring us.

Angee said...

There must be laws to protect children but I must ask how many times a victim can be a victim? Rather than telling the teen girls that they have done nothing wrong this is the opportunity to for them to learn about putting themselves in risky situations. Until we address the responsibilities of both parties this will continue out of control. Learning to take some responsibility for their own actions could save the lives of our daughters. In consensual situations our teens know what is going on. They know the laws and how to use them to their benefit. I raised a daughter. At age 13 she climbed into the bedroom window of a 26 year- old. She had not been invited. Had she been behaving properly she would have rang the doorbell. I didn't report it because he would have been punished and she would have been told she had done nothing wrong. I had a different message for her.

Anonymous said...

Angee, don't you understand? You're blaming the "victim"!! How dare you teach your daughter to take responsibility for her own actions? Somebody neeeds to get with the program.

3day, I guess all those women your grandmother's age who married older men were "victims" too by your logic, right? From what you said you talked to one person who regretted having consensual sex when she was young and based on that you're willing to criminalize thousands of men just because she didn't have the morals to say "no." Is that about right? This doesn't have anything to do with slavery or the rights of African Americans. Maybe earning your paycheck from these laws makes you more supportive of them but IMHO you're kidding yourself if you think criminal laws will stop teenage girls like Angee's daughter from having consensual sex or seeking to date older men.

Angee said...

Some teen girls are victims. In our case the victim was the man be stalked by our daughter. But suppose he had led her on and encouraged her actions? The laws say " You didn't do anything wrong. Go bring us another one". I say this is a bunch of bull and out girls deserve better than becoming prostitutes for the state. How the hell are parents supposed to control them when we get no back-up?

Anonymous said...

3 day crawl back in your hole and pretend that teen girls are not capable of making decisions to have sex.
Does it matter to you if the girl is 19 and the boy is 15? Is he then the victim or do you still believe that the boy is the culprit and groomed the older girl just for sex. I say GET REAL AND LOOK AROUND YOU. It is obvious that you are way out of touch with reality.
Abstinence is still the best way, but it is not reality.

Anonymous said...

One more thing. 3 day is it that you think girls don't like sex? I can tell you that even at 15 we as females like sex just as much as the males. duh?

sunray's wench said...

When is a child not a child? When they are someone else's.

3dayjourney said: "sunray’s, marriage does override that part of the law. So that isn’t a good argument."


Why is it not a good argument? It shows clearly that in Texas under certain circumstances, it is perfectly OK for an older man (older by any age gap) to have sex with an otherwise underage girl. Is it any wonder that many people then think that underage sex is no big deal?

It is exactly the same message that is sent (because politicians love to send a message to anyone who will listen) when those under the age of 18 are tried and sentenced as if they were over 18. It tells them that adults can move the goal posts any time it suits them to, so why should you trust the word of any adult?

You're a child... no wait... you're an adult....but for that you're still a child... unless you do this and then you're an adult again.

If a parent kept an under-18 year old in a 6x9 ft room with only 1 set of clothes and only 1 hour outside that room each day, then they would be prosecuted for child abuse. Why is it OK for the state to behave in the same way?

Anonymous said...

Until we can dissociate advocacy for the repeal/modification of current Sex Offender Registration laws afrom the fear of being labeled ourselves as un-American, liberal, apologists for evis sex offenders, this problem with the law will continue. We are afraid to stand up for this in public because by association with the very topic of sex offender registration, we too will become labeled as perverse. Fear will continue to prevail. Those who advocated that the Witch hunts in previous times be stopped, often paid a personal heavy price themselves by being charged as Witches.

Anonymous said...

Yes, there are real sex offenders, on that, we can all agree but the criminalization of teen-agers having sex serves only the "sex offender industry."

Some people just don't like to think of 12 - 13 year old girls having sex. They think they should be protected. Young girls laugh at that idea. Times have changed.

Carolanne said...

I completely agree with your post. My brother is a registered sex offender in the state of Georgia, living with my family (Romeo and Juliet case. No sex, just heavy petting. Guess that means he's a child molester). Every halloween, his P.O. has to come around to make sure there are no Halloween decorations that would lure the kiddies over. The whole thing is overblown and the government is exploiting these people.