Paedo Alert!

Here we go again…

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Please Read and Repost.

For not the first time in one of the many marketing campaigns of the gutter press politicians have once again bowed to the grinding machine of media instigated moral panic.

This major breakthrough comes in a top-level Home Office review and will be welcomed by 88% of the minority of this country who are too daft to realise that the rag they read is far better suited to cleaning up dog crap than making an honest and informed social commentary.

In future parents will be able to ask police or other agencies if there are dangerous sex offenders (or indeed some poor student who was once caught pissing in public, or someone who’s towel blew off on the beach or someone who got a bit raunchy with their lass in the middle of nowhere) in their area. And, for the first time, cops will be forced to disclose that information to the baying hordes.

Risks: (Nice to see that are addressed.)

Sara Payne—mother of murdered eight-year-old Sarah declared yesterday: “These proposals are a positive step in the right direction to protect our children better.”

Many others with a bit of sense were somewhat sceptical about the morality and indeed efficiency of plans called for by that bastion of criminological knowledge, the News of the World.

The changes mean:

SINGLE MUMS can ask if a new boyfriend has a sex-crime record. Obviously this is great ‘cos it exonerates anyone from the problem of getting to know their sexual partners before allowing them access to their kids. So we can now be safe in the knowledge that as well being safe from the paedophile we know to be hidden behind every infant school bike-shed we can be safe from the one in every home!

PARENTS will be able to find out if the streets their kids play in are really safe. Great. My streets safe, because of course the ONLY danger to a small child left running about outside unaccompanied ‘cos his parents are too busy doing crack or watching Cash in the Attic to give them any fucking attention is the fact that Fingers the Clown is hiding in the bushes next door. Look! There’s loads of the buggers everywhere. Look!!!! There!!!! Behind that fence!!! Oh shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit…. Little ‘uns just been too busy looking out for the local kiddie fiddler and he’s just been hit by a car.

COMMUNITIES will be told of sex offenders at government hostels in their area, the risks they pose and how they are being managed. This is wonderful, as when you discover there’s a sex offender in the local hostel you can campaign to have it closed down. So the veritable hordes of child-rapists in every one go even deeper into the community and are even harder to keep track of. Whoo-hoo. Genius.

LOCAL people will be appointed to hostels’ management boards to check how they are run. It gets even better. So all the lazy bastards who don’t give a flying fuck about doing something helpful like volunteering can now get really stuck in ‘cos there’s more nonces to keep track of than there were Bugs in Starship Troopers!

PAEDOPHILES freed from jail will be securely tagged and tracked, using new technology to monitor their precise whereabouts 24 hours a day. That is the ones who comply with the requirements, the ones who are actually trying to be re-integrated into the community and are ipso facto least likely to offend… Of course all the ones who do a runner, rip their tags off and go TOTALLY underground – which of course is likely to be far more if they know that every Tom, Dick and Harriet will know where they live so they can build a nice big bonfire round their house – will be fine, safe and dandy.

THE INTERNET will be used to give better information to parents who fear kids are being groomed. Wow. A sensible one. Let’s have some nice informative websites on how to prevent this. Of course the News of the World in its self proclaimed expert status can manage this. Of course we could take some personal responsibility for monitoring what our kids do on the net. Or actually encourage them to live in the real world rather than online.

The government review, being carried out by Home Office minister Gerry Sutcliffe, is now exploring how to deliver the reforms. (Is there an election soon..?)

Officials say early findings of his report, to be handed to Home Secretary John Reid after Christmas, conclude a massive shake-up is essential. Some reforms may even be included in the National Offender Management Bill, expected to be in the November Queen’s Speech. (Wow! That’s quick. Even quicker that the White Paper hurriedly rushed through in a similar time of electoral turmoil that became the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 was rushed through after James Bulger.)

THE DOWN SIDE – The Home Office still opposes demands for people masquerading as responsible parents to know names and addresses of dangerous paedophiles in the area. But they will be able to learn how many there are and the risk they pose. Of course this information will be carefully controlled enabling her majesties finest to take quick and effective action against the next person to incorrectly spray the word “paedo” across a consultant’s door. Like they always manage to uphold law and order in our great nation state. A senior source told us: “The challenge now is to determine how we do that.” Parents may get specific warnings about people in their family circle, such as a mum’s new bit on the side who’s porking her when dads out down t’club.

Last night MPs from both sides of Parliament backed the moves. Senior Tory Edward Leigh said: “I hope they are fully implemented. There’s nothing more important upholding our view that the only thing available to prevent crime is tighter controls over those irritating little buggers we can’t quite find enough resources to treat yet.”

Communities minister Phil Woolas told us: “I signed up to the principles of Sarah’s Law and welcome this potential slide towards a Fourth Reich.”

Please if you can vote for Sarah’s World on this site http://www.ihavefoundagreatwaytogetfamous.com we need the song to chart and so shore up my ailing music career.

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I post the above with slight trepidation, that I may have breached the boundaries of taste this time.

But I have sat on this post for the best part of a year now, since this daft bulletin (well, the original version) appeared on myspace amid a sudden renewed interest in Sarah’s Law ‘cos one of the social-networking champions of the cause had managed to get into a recording studio and wanted to use the death of a small child to further his fame.

And now, we see it has began all over again with Madeleine McCann with a petition to instigate a European sex offenders register.

Have another read through the above and think. There is nothing that I have written that is any was less credible than the assumptions made about “Sarah’s Law”, and all the (admittedly flippant) changes to this original document that I have made are valid arguments against this policy. I’m not going to go through and reference them all. I am of the opinion that anyone interested will have a vague idea that I am right (at least in presenting the arguments as valid, however open to debate) and the rest won’t be swayed by academic discussion.

This is not the point of this post.

At this point, I am going to make it clear that I am not protecting people who commit sexual offences against children, I am also not going to embark on a justice/welfare debate (other than just to point out that there is a very strong statistical correlation between sexual abuse as a child and committing abuse in later life, or indeed sooner, indicating therefore that this is learned behaviour and so is likely to be treatable).

The first point that I am going to have a bit of a rant about is this: Since when did we let the gutter press declare policy?

Yes folks, this is what it comes down to. The origins of “Sarah’s Law” are not a well thought out method of dealing with the perceived social problem of stranger danger. They are a moral panic created and inflamed by the News of The World in order to sell papers and promote the moral entrepreneurship of the tabloid press.

As with McCann. Do you think the News of The World gives a flying fuck about missing kids… What? They do? They’d better increase their page count then. There are currently 347 children listed as missing on the Interpol website. Not to mention the thousands of street kids killed every year all over the world. But of course, half of the kids listed have a face like a bull-dog’s anus, or their skin is a little too dark or their parents haven’t realised that fame is round the corner. They won’t sell papers.

And is no-one else able to see the hypocrisy in this whole paedophile thing anyway? This is my second point.

The same paper carries endless pictures of barely eighteen year old girls with their tits out, and as for the picture of that lass from Harry Potter that I saw on the side of a bus a couple of years ago, looking every bit the archetypal Lolita…

Can any one else see a teeny weeny dichotomy here..?

Here’s another example. Chris Morris’ satire of the paedophile issue condemned as perversion. But next to it: “Oooh Drool, Dribble, look how big Charlotte Church (15)’s boobs have grown.

 

Of course, everyone knows it’s a joke. Right?

OK there is a difference. Most of the people who may drunkenly discuss in the boozer when that Harry Potter lass will be old enough to get her baps out in FHM, or chortled knowingly when Radio Djs asked the likes of Charlotte Church and Billie Piper when their 16th birthday is do not abuse and kill 7 year old girls.

But we do sexualise children to an alarming extent in the way we dress them and expect them to act, and even without moving into the realm of pornography, much of our fashion, music and television regards looking youthful as desirable. When one can buy adult women’s underwear adorned with Hello Kitty, or worse, tops for 6 year-olds with “wait and see” written on them what exactly is going on…

Now of course this does not justify abuse.

However recently a judge was attacked for handing out a “lenient” sentence to someone who “raped” a 10 year old girl. I reserve judgement on this case, but if not only the judge, but the doctors who examined the victim believed she could have passed for 16, one does have to wonder.

Of course there is the response from Dr Michelle Elliot of Kidscape that:

“It takes us back to the 1950s when the victim was blamed if they were dressed provocatively.
[…]
“You can never blame a child victim for sexual abuse when excusing the abuser of any kind of abuse.”

which is valid. Though if you read the report, the Judge seems to me not to be blaming the child, nor excusing the abuser. He is simply stating that he believes the mistake could have been made.

This is an extreme example and in this case I side not with the judge, and more with Dr Elliot that

“No-one in my opinion could mistake a 10-year-old child, even dressed up, for a 16-year-old.”

But it has to make us think about how we do dress our children. When sexualised child-identities are normalised so much, can we then be surprised that this is in debate?

One last point. The more astute will notice my enclosure of the word “rape” in quotation marks. Again, before the vigilantes come knocking at my door this is not to deny that rape happened, but to highlight the fact, mentioned in the BBC article that as the sex was consensual, this is only rape within the framework of the Law. I am not, before the comment is made, advocating a lowering of the age of consent. But, how many men have had consensual sexual intercourse with someone below the age of consent? Put this a different way: how many have at the age of 17 slept with a girlfriend before her 16th birthday? How many therefore are guilty in Law of Statutory Rape, and therefore a sex offender, or in colloquial terms: A Paedophile.

Think of this when you campaign for the Gutter Press’ new Laws. This issue is far to complex to hand over to the tabloids.

 

Crack open the Wife-Beater and let’s get Violent…

I have recently had the misfortune to be sent on possibly the worst training course I have ever experienced. The subject matter was domestic violent, or more correctly “women who experience violence from men that they know”. Quite correctly it was pointed out that “domestic violence” covers a number of issues, including (and I’m glad she pointed this out, as the inability of many people and agencies to accept this) violence women commit towards men.

The content was fine, the facilities bearable (though the tea was a little crap), and some of the participants were even quite pleasant. The problem was one of the Trainers, who was the most ignorant, arrogant, blinkered, self contradictory, sexist idiot I have ever met.

I’ll mention briefly the fact that any point made by a male participant was apparently invalid – you get used to that kind of freak, who do very well to totally disfigure their beloved feminism from a valid and useful philosophy into a pile of extremist nonsense. The problem, in my mind of course as a heterosexist male chauvinist, was less this, but her unquestioning reliance on theories of deviance that were at best somewhat to the right of Thatcherism, and bordering on Lombrosian.

Her background, she claimed, was in Higher Education (she didn’t expand, and I hope to God it was not Academia, as most academics I have met, however strange their views, will at least question and accept debate), and her work “with Lifers in Armley Gaol” of course set her up as the fountain of all Criminological Knowledge. (By the way, this work was as a volunteer counsellor for the Samritans.)

Now I don’t not for one minute claim to be the Fountain of all Criminological Knowledge. I also put forward contradictory views, both for debate, as Devils Advocate, and as I develop the synthesis of my personal viewpoints with my academic study. However I maintain at least a modicum of common sense and integrity.

The session went thus:

We were asked to brainstorm as to why men may commit violence against women. So we filtered through the usual suspects of causal factors of deviance, tailored to the subject: Learned aggression, past abuse, media influence, patriarchal society, the man has had a bad day, needs anger management, she’s stressed him out and so on. We then discussed grouping these into categories (and their overlaps): Learned behaviours, Social Conditioning , Power and Control, Male Excusing, Woman Blaming. A good exercise to provoke discussion on any deviant behaviours in a gendered setting.

We were then told that these were “reasons” society puts forward, but we should ignore all this, and accept the fact that every man who commits violence against a woman does so through rational choice.

I ignored the fact that actually at least some of these causal factors are those that left-wing public-sector apologists (of which I am probably one, I admit), rather than society put forward when the tabloids are baying for blood. However the second part of her statement I had to challenge. This was not in a argumentative manner, but simply questioning why, when most thinking people have moved away from the Rational Choice proposition of crime (see Cornish & Clarke 1986) we were being asked to embrace this as a foundation for Best Practice.

Her reply was simply that there is no excuse for violence against women.

Well, strangely I agree. I think there is little excuse for any crime that has a direct effect on an innocent party. And I think that save an extreme example where reasonable self defence may be needed, there is no act a women could do, however much she may antagonise (and it happens folks, get used to it) removes her innocence (in the terms of this argument) such to justify violence from a partner, or other significant figure.

But there is a difference between causal factors and excuses.

I replied that personally I reject Rational Choice theory pretty much outright, but accepted others differing opinions, but offered the idea that in managing (and supporting victims of) other forms of crime it was usual to debate possible causal factors, to try and gain understanding, at least when one attempts to re-embrace the welfarism that has been thrown out the window in recent years.

Her reply to this was that we were not discussing other issues.

Bit of a cop out that, in my mind.

Her stance, it transpired, was that men who commit violence against women do so, through choice, because Patriachal Society makes the sanctions imposed less than if for example they had chosen to batter their mates.

I agree that it is sickening that it was only in 1991 that non-consensual intercourse (or rape, to use the colloquial rather than legal term as legally until 1991 it was not rape) became non-consensual in marriage rather than the previous acceptance that marriage implied continual consent. I agree that it is worrying that penetration of any bodily orifice (other than the vagina) was not rape until even more recently. I agree (shock horror) that many aspects of contemporary UK society (to place this in its exact setting and avoid the what is society argument) are patriarchal and provide women with a bum deal. But the fact that the CPS will almost always prosecute “domestic violence” even if the victim drops the charges, occasionally to find out that she actually was lying (this happens too, get over it folks, I’ve seen it), seems to indicate that actually punishment is seemingly pushed for.

I guess it’s inevitable though, that this gendered and emotional subject will attract a reliance on these kind of theories. I just find it had to stomach, one contentious one being quoted as fact. Sadly, this is endemic of how crime is seen in Late Modernity. As Garland (2001) points out, we have almost gone past the Rational Choice idea, to a dystopian and Hobbesian view that instead of choosing to commit crime when opportunities present, it is acted on as if people chose not to commit crime when preventative measures are not there. (I wonder how many of the pro CCTV brigade who continually spout that “if you’ve nothing to hide you’ve nothing to worry about” realise this analysis.)

I note also that the training notes rely much on the work of Daly and Wilson (picking and choosing though) about the risk to women who leave violent relationships. Daly and Wilson (1999) promote this wonderful theory that violence is an evolutionary process to reduce competition. Their slight problem is that they argue that men will not kill those close to them, of course when it is pointed out that most violence against women is from men they know (and for all my ranting I do accept that, from at least some analyses of statistics) they say that close is genetically close, which spouses are not (Daly and Wilson 1996, Discussed in Brookman 2005). Quite how it is evolutionarily sensible to kill one’s spouse I am unsure, unless you are a mantis, or a spider.

At times the cynic in me would agree with this view, from as far back as Hobbes in the 17th century that actually humans are nasty and brutish (Oh the fun we had with the fact that the sociology tutor who taught us Hobbes was short and poore too…)

There are many theories of causation for interpersonal violence.  They can be grouped in many ways. Pete Morral (2000), for example breaks  things down into  Faulty Individuals (atavism, illness, evolutionary psychology etc.), Faulty Society (Learned Behaviour, Patriachism etc.), Faulty Images (Moral Panics, Media Influence etc.) and Realism (looking at the real fact that crime or violence does happen). We have seen the categories presented in this training. We could go on.

Rachel Jewkes (2002) presents a good meta-analysis of different suggested causal factors of intimate partner violence taken from a number of cross-cultural studies. Poverty is a strong one, the fact that masculine identity in many societies includes a general expectation of misogyny, alcohol and drug use (and the contention from social anthropological research that connections between drinking and violence are socially learned). The fact societies where a conservative view of the social status of women is held have higher rates of abuse.  And of course the widely accepted (for most at least) experience of abuse in infancy, whether personal – (look at Boswell (1995) for compelling statistics relating to young people and violence) or seen within the social setting (remember Bandura et. al. (1961) and the Bobo Doll experiment).

Of course many of these are suitably damning towards men, and I have no problem with that. I’m not going to stray too far into feminist debate about patriarchy, but all these are societal issues too.  I actually quite like Dreadzone’s assessment here: “We are all responsible. We are all personally responsible.”

The problem of course, is that no criminological theory I have found does ever provide a satisfactory answer why some some people commit crime and others don’t. The Trainer at the root of this rant used this in her argument for Rational Choice. But it applies in many groups and forms of crime that some people experiencing the Causal Factors associated with a deviant behaviour express that behaviour and others don’t. Do we need to go back to Lombroso and his criminal types?

I’m gonna throw one theory in just to make my point. Look at Merton’s (1938) take on Anomie and deviance being a reaction to being unable to attain the norms people feel have been lost from the American Dream. Merton’s idea is that people react in different ways, some innovate, create a new way to gain wealth. Some accept. Some drop out and become drug users, outcasts etc. Can we say that, when we look at complex ways of dealing with the snake eyes roll in the worlds dice game someone might wake up and chose, consciously and rationally to become a gang leader for example? Bollox can we. The reasons people fall to devience (however that may be defined) is a complex interaction of opportunities, learning, yes there is an element of choice, social forces and so on. Whether that be battering a woman or nicking milk of doorsteps.

But of course, the moment a subject gets distasteful, people can make have opinions they like. So I stand corrected. I’m (as a man) an abuser waiting for my moment.

Cited:

Bandura, A., & Hutson, A C. Identification as a process of incidental learning. J. abnorm. soc. Psychol., 1961, 63, 311-318.

Boswell,  G (1995) Violent Victims: The prevalence of abuse and loss in the lives of Section 53 Offenders. London: The Princes Trust.

Brookman, F (2005) Understanding Homicide, London: Sage

Cornish, D and Clarke, R (eds.) (1986) The Reasoning Criminal, New York: Springer-Verlag

Daly, M and Wilson, M (1996) The Evolutionary Psychology of Homicide, Demos Dec 8 pp39-45

Daly, M and Wilson, M (1999) An Evolutionary Perspective on Homicide. In: M D Smith and M A Zhan (eds) Homicide: A source book of Social Research. Thousand Oaks: Sage

Garland D (2001) The Culture of Control, London: Sage

Jewkes, R (2002) Intimate partner violence: causes and prevention. The Lancet, 353. April 20.

Merton R K (1938) Social Structure and Anomie, American Sociological Review, 3 pp. 672-82

Morrall, P. (2000), Madness and Murder, London, Whurr.