Saturday, June 6, 2015

Did Duggars Do the Right Thing When Son Confessed to Sex Abuse?

 update - added article by Prof Emily Horowitz

NBC News    [Contrary to what many child abuse advocates claim - calling the police does not automatically protect potential victims - and in addition in many cases not only do the police handle the matter in an insensitive manner - the perpetrator is labeled for life as a deviant when he often is not a danger. In short I agree with the views expressed by Dr. Horowitz cited in the article that there needs to be a middle path between handling the matter by the famiy and having the police label perpetrators as lifetime sex abusers. and focusing on punishment.]

Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar have defended their decision to delay contacting police when they learned their teenage son Josh had molested young girls — but victims' advocates say they made the wrong move. 

"We must involve the authorities to protect our children," said Stacy Thompson, executive director of the Children's Advocacy Centers of Arkansas. 

Teresa Huizar, executive director of National Children's Alliance, noted that in 18 states, parents and any other citizens are legally required to report abuse to authorities, even if the perpetrator is their child. Arkansas, where the "19 Kids and Counting" family lived, is not one of those states. 

In a Fox News interview on Wednesday night, the couple gave a timeline of how they handled the admission by Josh, now a 27-year-old father of three, that he inappropriately touched four of his sisters and a girl who was not a family member in a series of incidents that began in 2002.[...]

Josh Duggar has never been arrested or charged, and he has publicly apologized. 

Emily Horowitz, a sociology professor at St. Francis College in Brooklyn, said the Duggars' decision to keep law enforcement out of it at first is understandable — even defensible. 

"I don't condone this behavior, but I spoke to so many families that did the 'right thing' and the reaction was so excessive and Draconian that it destroyed the lives of their children," said Horowitz, author of the new book "Protecting Our Kids: How Sex Offender Laws Are Failing."

Horowitz said that juvenile offenders are the most treatable group of sex abusers, but law enforcement is more focused on punishment, including criminal prosecution with possible jail terms and lifetime listing on a sex-offender registry. 

She said Justice Department data shows that one-third of sex offenses involving children also involve underage perpetrators. The most common age, she said, is 14 — the age Josh Duggar was. 

"I'm pro-punishment," Horowitz said. "I'm just not pro-Draconian, permanent punishment."[...]

NY Daily News
In defense of Josh Duggar’s parents: It's no secret why a mother and father would hesitate before reporting a child to police on sex abuse allegations by Prof Emily Horowitz

The case reminded me of Josh Gravens — who, like Josh Duggar, was from a conservative Christian homeschooling family, with parents who turned to their church after learning their 13-year-old inappropriately touched his younger sisters.

In Gravens’ case, the church reported him to police, and he was sent to prison for over three years. Released at 17, Gravens then spent a decade on the public sex-offender registry. Today, at 28, he has never re-offended. Yet he is still required to update police when moving, and is now facing up to 25 years in prison — for registering a new address a week late.

As a researcher trying to understand widespread and exaggerated fears of sex offenders, I have a different perspective than those enraged at the Duggars for not turning to law enforcement or therapists (many counselors are mandated reporters, like the Christian counselor who reported Gravens to police).

While most express disbelief and anger about the response of the Duggars, I understand why they bent over backward to keep their son from being chewed up by the cops and courts.

Our sex-offender laws start with excessive punishment followed by long-term labeling and public shaming. Those convicted of crimes join 800,000 other Americans on lifetime registries.
Sex offenses, it’s crucial to understand, aren’t just predatory acts involving young children. About one-third of child sex abusers are minors. Fewer than 10% involve stranger perpetrators. Sex offenses can include statutory rape, Romeo-and-Juliet scenarios, teenage consensual sex, prostitution-related crimes and indecent exposure. Most sex offenders I interviewed were older men caught with adolescent girls — non-violent, but legally non-consensual.

Yet the registry treats all offenders as permanent threats to young children, regardless of the victim’s age or the perpetrator’s potential for rehabilitation. [...]

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