Sunday, June 18, 2006

Why a Megan's Law is wrong

According to reports, a government minister is being dispatched to the States to find out more about the Megan's Law system. In the States, parents must be informed when sex offenders move to their area after being freed from prison. The reason this has happened is due to a newspaper found out that 60 paedophiles had been moved to hostels near schools.

Reid has also hinted that he may consider calls for parents to get more information about sex offenders in their area.

Opponents to Megan's Law in the States argue that it encourages vigilantism, does not give the offender the chance to merge back into society, only 80% comply with the registration process and that majority of cases occur within the family.

Yes, it is all fundmentally about "stranger danger" and it is easier to imagine and grapple with the stereotypical view of the child sex abuser as a seedy man who lurks around playgrounds. It is easier to think of them living on the margins of society and not part of a family.

I remember a piece in the Guardian about the murder of Sarah Payne and comparing it to a recent case of a young girl who had been sexually abused and murdered by her father. No shock outrage for this young girl and it depicted a kind of hierarchy of victims with "stranger" murders at the apex. Majority of cases of sexual abuse occurs in the family and by someone the child knows. But the potential Megan's law taps into the unknown and the fear of the unknown. The stranger lurking out there, living in a hostel down the road from you. Yet contradictory, abuse in the family still remains hidden. Child abuse, rather like domestic violence exists in the "private sphere".

It disgusts me that bully-boy and gutless Reid is pandering to a populist agenda and a highly politicised agenda it is. The criminologist Roger Graef argued that the government should "bite the bullet and face down public ignorance and vindictiveness". He was writing about prisons but it could easily be applied to this. The tabloids fan the flames with their vile "naming and shaming" tactics and watch it spiral out of control in places like Paulsgrove where lynch mob mentality ruled.

I remember reading a piece in a newsletter for survivors of child sexual abuse and the author asked a pertinent question: How many of those people out in Paulsgrove baying for the blood of paedophiles are sexually abusing their own kids?

Update: 19/6/06

Piece in today's Guardian warning Reid of lynch mob rule