Sunday, November 25, 2007


New report on the number of arrests for sex offenses dropping 10% in the last decade. Before we applaud the good news, let's think a bit.

Of course, the proponents of all the tough child sex legislation recently are already proclaiming success even though the article itself makes the point that the decline started before these laws were passed. Time and causation have no effect in la-la land. Plus, note that the arrests apply to all sex crimes, not just child sex crimes. And note that, maybe, treatment was effective, not the longer sentences (although the article does a nice job of noting the problems with quoting recidivism rates for sex offenders). What is true is that punishments for sex offenders overall and especially for the lower level offenses have been increasing in the last decade and that most offenders are known to the victim, usually a family member or friend, not the stranger made popular on Lifetime made-for-tv movies. Which only lends credence to the possibility that, as prosecutors and sex offense experts have noted, as we have increased penalties, we find it less likely for victims to press charges, not wanting what they see as the harm to that family member or friend. IOW, what we may very well be seeing, at least in part, is not a decrease in offending, but a decrease in reporting as we "protect" potential and real victims.

Naturally, the article doesn't even mention the possibility. Doesn't fit the narrative, doesn't sound good, doesn't help the logic or ratings of "Law & Order: SUV." Also, doesn't change what needs to be changed to make real protection possible.

1 comment:

Guy said...

You're right to assert that it does not make sense to credit tougher laws with the decline if the decline already started before the tougher laws were passed. However, as I understand your claim, it doesn't make much sense either to blame tougher laws for a decrease in reporting sex crimes to authorities for much the same reasons as above.