As advertised earlier, Abyss2hope hope is again hosting "Blog Against Sexual Violence Day" here. There are a lot of interesting perspectives from persons around the web, including a lot of persons who have been victims/survivors of sexual violence.
I write today from the perspective of a detached scholar who looks at sexual violence issues from a legal and cultural perspective. One of the oddities for me contributing to such an event as this is that many might feel some of my views are more in line with defendants who perpetrate sex crimes. However, I've done my fair share of advocating on behalf of rape victim rights as well. Ultimately, for me, as I've recently noted, I'm focused on finding this best possible sex crime policy. In some cases this means adopting changes that favor victims and the prosecutors. Sometimes, it will mean supporting policies that favor defendants and past offenders. The end goal is still a marked reduction in sexual violence by designing policies that do more than satisfy short-term political interests.
To this end, I offer a few suggestions that every jurisdiction should consider in fighting sexual violence:
First, any policy that is borne entirely in the wake of a front-page news story about a sex crime is unlikely to be well-designed. Because of that, there will often be substantial collateral effects that make such policies problematic for a variety of reasons. So, take some time and if the law is a good idea, it will still be a good idea one year later when the media attention has died down. Adopting a law in the midst of public outcry may be politically expedient, but it is usually a long-term disaster.
Second, create sex crime policies that make sense in relation to other statutes on the books. It is all too common for a state to drastically increase penalties for sex crimes in one state for a particular sex crime in a way that creates bizarre effects. In Arizona, persons who possess child pornography will be sentenced much more harshly than those who actually produced the child pornography because of the 10-year per image consecutive sentence policy. This has also been a problem with the six states adopting capital child rape statutes. Such policies make the punishment for murder and child rape the same so that child rapists have an incentive to kill their victims to eliminate the only witness while not risking a higher level of punishment.
Third, "sex offenders" are a very diverse population. Everything from flashers, child molesters, adult rapists, beastiality practitioners, prostitutes, statutory rapists, public masturbaters, child pornographers, to peddlers of obscene pornography. Each of these groups presents different problems and challenges. Policies which treat "sex offenders" as a monolithic group are bound to be fundamentally flawed because such policies treat very different populations in a similar manner.