Social Question

poisonedantidote's avatar

Would it be a good idea to not demonize child abusers so much, and maybe give them lighter sentences?

Asked by poisonedantidote (21549 points ) September 16th, 2010

Before I say anything else, No, I have not lost my mind.

Here is why I ask this, lets imagine a hypothetical situation. two little 5 to 6 year old kids are playing in a park, when a man shows up and starts talking to them. he tells them some story about some puppies he has or candy, and before you know it the kids are sat in the back of his car.

The man takes them back to a house in some rural location, and then does some things to them. the kids are traumatized but they will live, that is, until the man realizes that no one can ever find out what he has just done. if anyone ever knew his life would be ruined. he realizes the kids know his face and could give the police vital information. he realizes that the kids are the only witnesses to what has happened, and in a moment of either desperation or cold blooded calculating thought, he kills the two kids. he dumps the bodies in the middle of the forest and goes home.

A few weeks pass and the police have still not found the bodies, the man, now thinking he has got away with it gets in to his car and heads to another park.

Months later the bodies are found, and a few days later vital DNA evidence is discovered, after the man is arrested, it turns out he has been doing this for months, and there is now a long trail of corpses and tragedy.

Would the man have killed anyone if he knew that by letting the kids go, that he would have only be risking enforced psychiatric treatment behind a blanket of anonymity?

Would it be a good idea to not demonize child abusers so much, and maybe give them lighter sentences? or should we just feed them to wild bears and have done with it?

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35 Answers

jaytkay's avatar

Shall we test this with your kids?

DrasticDreamer's avatar

I don’t think it would work. In this scenario, it’s kind of lose/lose. If child abusers were given lighter sentences and were ensured anonymity, what would deter them from abusing children in the first place? I think it might even cause more child abusers to feel comfortable abusing. While the kids might not be killed, most child molesters already don’t murder their victims. It happens – but not as frequently as sexual abuse.

poisonedantidote's avatar

@jaytkay I realize this is a sensetive topic, im really not trying to offend anyone. im just asking my self what is better, some traumatizes kids or some dead kids.

would this even help? is the idea totally stupid? would the idea maybe save some lives? and so on.

poisonedantidote's avatar

@DrasticDreamer would anything deter them? even say, guaranteed execution?

wundayatta's avatar

I doubt if that would make a difference in respect to murders. My guess is that child molesters are not interested in murder at all. People interested in murder wouldn’t care about the law.

Well, unless you have some research handy, we can’t see if my theory is correct or not. But I think your theory is a good one. When people are offered amnesty, they often rat themselves out. Not sure the idea would work in the area of child molestation, especially since it’s probably a mental illness. People who do that just don’t think like most of us.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

@poisonedantidote I think that guaranteed execution would be a deterrent for a lot of them, yes. Not necessarily all, but most. I’m not advocating that necessarily, just saying it would be a deterrent. More than anything else, though, I think exposure is probably the biggest deterrent. The shame they have to face when loved ones and friends find out about their crime probably matters more to them than anything else.

MacBean's avatar

Uh… No.

muppetish's avatar

@poisonedantidote If the theoretical child abuser is of the Albert Fish variety, he would have killed the children anyway. It is because of murderers like Fish that we cannot be lax on laws against child abusers – whether their intent is to kill, maim, rape, or kidnap

Chances are, if the laws were more relaxed than they are now then he would be killing fewer kids, but traumatizing far more.

poisonedantidote's avatar

@DrasticDreamer I’m not too sure, maybe it will be a good idea if i go look up some studies on the issue. personally I think most of them cant help them selves, and probably nothing would stop them.

if anyone is curious why im asking this now, I was just reminded of a horrible case that happened in the UK a few years back while going over some videos on youtube

poisonedantidote's avatar

@muppetish Indeed, quite like that woman myra hindley who tortured those poor kids to death, in that case it would seem killing was all she was interested in.

MacBean's avatar

@muppetish Lurve for bringing up Albert Fish. Learned about him when I was about twelve. Had nightmares for ages.

jaytkay's avatar

@poisonedantidote I realize this is a sensetive topic, im really not trying to offend anyone.

I understand, I did not mean to shut down conversation.

I shall expand my answer:
Here is the problem – Shall we test this with your kids? You will not find any community willing to test this hypotheses because every failure is so horrifically awful.

Symbeline's avatar

Your scenario is akin to a horror or suspense movie. While it can happen, this is nowhere near as likely as abuse happening in the home by parents or other closely related individuals.
Therefore your premise is rather flawed.

Yet I agree, not because I know anything about how the law works and what they go with, but if we spent less time hucking stones at those kinda people and trying to understand what makes em tick, then perhaps we could do something to prevent it in the future, at least more than what is happening now. Too much cleaning up rather than keeping shit clean.

poisonedantidote's avatar

@jaytkay no worries, its not like I was expecting people to love me for this idea.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

Well, if you believe that nothing would stop them, then shortening their sentences definitely wouldn’t work, either. I have had the misfortune of meeting quite a few pedophiles in my life. All I can say is that not all of them are active – be it from a fear of going to jail, or some undercurrent of a stronger moral fiber, or fear of being shamed. So, obviously, something is deterring these people. And because I’ve known some of them well, I think it was fear of jail. This is, of course, my own personal experience – so it’s not always going to be the same. Just thought I would share.

poisonedantidote's avatar

@Symbeline & @DrasticDreamer so, the ones who do kill where most likely going to kill anyway? hmmm, so maybe the best solution would be more protection, maybe something like putting a police officer or two in every park and installing more cameras and what not.

WestRiverrat's avatar

Every study I have seen of convicted child molesters, the molester will not stop until he is caught. And if let back into society, will reoffend often within 2 years.

The current laws seem to be working to prevent the would be casual molesters from acting on their desires. I don’t think anything will stop the chronic active offenders short of removing them from society.

poisonedantidote's avatar

@WestRiverrat will reoffend often within 2 years. I have long suspected there is nothing that can be done for thse kinds of people.

muppetish's avatar

@poisonedantidote I know I have read about the Moors murders before, but it’s been a long time. I’ll look into it when I have time a bit later. This is kind of a hobby of mine. In the majority of the cases I have read in which children have been murdered by serial killers in particular, they aren’t afraid of getting caught. Most of them are certain they will not be caught and go to great lengths to ensure this. It’s pretty damn frightening.

@MacBean I discovered a website similar to Crime Library (it might have been that one, actually) when I was around 13–14 and stayed up until two or three in the morning reading case files. I don’t think I slept after that.

@Symbeline “Your scenario is akin to a horror or suspense movie.” The factual accounts I have read are as scary, and in some cases worse, than the one @poisonedantidote mentioned in the original post. Far creepier than anything I have, and probably ever will, see in horror movies if only because they actually happened. I do agree that it is incredibly important to study the psychology of criminals to understand how they function (and whether there are patterns that connect cases, which there are.) In the mean time, we just have to be wary of Stranger Danger in general.

Symbeline's avatar

@muppetish Of course. Horror movies are bullshit compared to real life. Even the real life that happens behind closed doors and doesn’t make the news. What I mean is that type of scenario doesn’t happen nearly as often as what I described does, even though those first kinds make the news much more often.

I’m certainly not saying don’t do anything about it on that account though. Guess I’m off the mark a bit, but I don’t think his solution would help at all in that respect. Especially not since, in those psycho scenarios, a lot of those people are probbaly beyond help anyway. Most child abusers are cool and calculating though, many are quite intelligent and manipulative, and not the uber mindless psychos that the media wants us to believe they are. Maybe because we believe that is why nothing ever gets done.
Did I just contradict myself? I think so. But the point is, even those random children grabbing people need to be studied somehow, so we can learn to recognize it before it happens, know what I mean?

And yeah, don’t talk to strangers. I’m not disagreeing with that, here.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

I doubt your suggestion would reduce child murders. The compulsion to sexually abuse children is not linked to child murder. I would guess the profiles of such offenders differ considerably. Reducing the penalties for adult sexual assault will only increase the frequency of recidivism.
The motivation behind your proposal is to protect abused children from becoming murdered children. That is noble but I doubt it would have beneficial effects.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

I understand what you’re saying, but I just don’t think it would be effective.

poisonedantidote's avatar

@Dr_Lawrence & @TheOnlyNeffie I agree, the more I think about this thing the more obvious it becomes to me that all I have really done is come up with a big false dichotomy, full of assumptions and missing vital data, such as there being different kinds of child molestors and what not.

Still, feel free to continue ripping the idea to pieces, at least like that we can have something to link to if the idea shows up again in future.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@poisonedantidote well even if that’s true, it’s okay. Ideas should be explored… even if they never leave the ground. Still better to throw them out there.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

I applaud your creativity and concern for social issues @poisonedantidote. Well presented and I certainly hope others will pursue deeps thoughts such as this.

But no. I cannot allow what you present as allowable in society.

I prefer the other extreme. Community involvement and openness with neighbors building longtime relationships in a tribal environment, thereby carefully checking out all strangers intensely before trusting them completely to be among us. They must earn their trust over time, otherwise be prohibited from accessing certain areas. Likewise, instead of law enforcement suffering through the legal system, perhaps the offended family should be allowed to let the good old boys take the perp for a short walk the woods. Though four may enter, only three return. The coyotes can clean up the mess.

poisonedantidote's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies The age old dilema, how much privacy and/or freedom to give up for safety. Its a complex issue for sure.

cockswain's avatar

I’m solidly of the opinion most child abusers should be executed. I don’t even really care if their execution is very humane.

woodcutter's avatar

there are some among us that are just evil and that is all there is to that. Counseling or even a god won’t help these people. I see what you are getting at though. It’s sort of like this county’s 3 strikes rule. Some one who has 2 strikes against them will be more apt to do anything, even kill ,to keep from going back into the “box” for that 3rd strike forever. They will have nothing to lose even if that 3rd felony conviction is some minor stuff, it counts as forever.

Jabe73's avatar

I think a “person” like this would kill children anyway regardless of the laws. Making the laws lighter for these types of offenses would only add, not subract from the problem.

Hey I was thinking on second thought maybe you are right, since the needle is easier than prison for these types of people I do support a “lighter” sentence. Give them the needle instead.

Nially_Bob's avatar

It’s a reputable notion but I think there are a significant amount of variables that have not been considered. What if these murders are more commonly committed in panic and not due to prior meditation? To a man who hasn’t experienced it is prison alone, regardless of the number of years, not enough to frighten? There’s far too much remaining that requires further evaluation.
With regards to the statement that child abusers should be treated with great severity. It’s a typical human trait to convince oneself that it’ll be simple to perform an act without alerting others the longers one contemplates said act. I believe this trait, added with the seemingly intense desire child abusers have to commit their acts and the forbidden fruit dilemma of those acts being criminal will make it unlikely that severe punishment such as execution would deter child abusers.
Morally the topic is no doubt fiercely debated, but the two most prominent perspectives on the matter are presumptively that committing homicide on a child abuser would make those encouraging and performing the execution in the “moral wrong” more so than those being executed. And that it’s an exception to conventional morality in so much as their acts are so reprehensible in the view of the general public that the prescribed “evil” of killing can be overlooked.

@Jabe73
I disagree, a person being a criminal in one regard does not inevitably mean that they are a criminal in all regards. Saying a child abuser is the “type of person” who would also commit murder is unfounded and equivalent to claiming that someone who burgles houses will also probably sell heroine.

downtide's avatar

The majority of child abuse happens in the home, is perpetrated by family members or people who child lives with, and in the majority of cases the children are not murdered afterwards to protect the perp’s identity.

I honestly don’t think your scenario fits any but the rarest and most extreme cases, and I don’t think your solution would help.

iamthemob's avatar

I understand the perspectives of @DrasticDreamer and @cockswain, but unfortunately, there are so many issues that this would cause, specifically those the OP brings up. Legally, the death penalty cannot be instituted for child rape. This is due to the Supreme Court decision in Kennedy v. Louisiana, and the issue discussed here was discussed there thoroughly. I’ll bring up two of the main issues, one discussed here, one deductible from those brought up here:

(1) Allowing the DP for child rape and murder does indeed create a perverse incentive for child molesters to kill their victims.

(2) Allowing the DP for child rape may actually reduce reporting since, as mentioned here, child abuse very often occurs in the home. The guild associated with reporting is increased – as a child, imagine trying to report a parent for such a thing, and then having them put to death because of it. As a spouse, imagine that happening with your spouse, and also having your child know that because of what happened to them, their parent was killed.

There’s going to be a point where an increase in penalty has no effect. Unfortunately, serial offenders can’t really be deterred much of the time. For them, in theory, I’m in favor of civil commitment rather than prison. Civil commitment can, in theory, be a life sentence.

zen_'s avatar

How about a 20 year sentence, getting their dick dipped in acid twice a day.

cockswain's avatar

dick and balls

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