Lolita and Crime & Punishment

Hearing about child abuse really gets my hackles up - it's hard enough to retain any innocence in our younger years without being subjected to that sort of horror. My heart goes out to the victim. I used to work for NightLine, a listening service run for/by students, and listen to these sad stories and it was hard sometimes just to keep it all together for the poor souls on the other end of the phone. I only ever had to deal with one such incident and even though I never spoke to them again, much less met them (outside our remit), I still do wonder if they're ok.

Reading through the responses to Ryan's post I was struck by the intensity of emotion of the comments, particularly when discussing the appropriate punishment for the offender. Let me be crystal clear: I abhor child and sexual abuse, especially the sexual abuse of a child, in all its forms. Also, I'm not judging or criticising any individual posters - we all know that this blog (and its original authors) have suffered attacks on here from external sources over the years so the last thing I want to do is provoke any infighting - I'm just opening up a topic for debate. Consider what follows as an "opinion piece" to use the broadsheets terminology.

I'd like to address the issue of punishing the offender. I certainly don't agree with (physical) castration, as this is a dangerous step down the "life for a life" route and I don't support torture/death-penalty/etc. However, I do agree that most offenders cannot be "cured".

So how does one resolve this paradox? Simply sticking ones head in the sand and hoping the problem goes away or (worse still) covering it up are not options. The (perceived) typically British attitude to not talk about domestic/child/sexual abuse has led to more problems than it solves and still not enough cases are brought to court with too many perpetrators walking free as the result of a "X's word vs. Y's word" type cases falling apart (especially instances of rape allegations). Science is of some help here in assiting those in judgement to discern the truth of a case but it should be born in mind that it is still the precise wording of our legal systems and its implementation that is the tool that determines the outcome of any day in court. Thankfully, we now live in a time where it is easier to debate the issues not only of the crime, but also its punishment and I hope that this will help the victims. Political parties can easily win popular approval for their stance on crime and debating and re-examining the legal system is very much in vogue - but it pays to remember that this was not always so: Consider that it took a considerable amount of effort to see Lolita/Ulysses published and one immediately uncovers an entire history of topics that were deemed too taboo for public consumption and debate.
There has been some talk of chemically castrating offenders by giving them hormone injections but as far as I'm aware this hasn't been trialled anywhere and there are many obvious problems with its implementation and policing. The Sex Offenders Register in the UK prevents offenders getting jobs which put them in proximity to and in a position of trust of children and I would hope has minimised any re-offence but it's certainly not foolproof. Locking away offenders is (possibly) my favoured option although this has regularly become uneconomical in the past for various British governments. And what does one do with offenders when it becomes too expensive for the taxpayer to keep them incarcerated? I remember many years ago when it was announced that known sex offenders were being reintroduced to communities that there was a huge public outcry - many of the redtops carried out witch hunts to name and shame these people with usually horrendously bloody repercussions. Those in favour of sex offenders meeting a more violent end may not necessarily see a problem with this but consider the following true event - in Leigh Park, a deprived area of Portsmouth, a mob found out about a child abuser in their community and pursued a man, chasing him down the streets, throwing bricks etc, all the while he was crying out "but I'm a paediatrician..." Mob mentality terrifies me, we so often behave at our worst when in large groups. Thankfully, the police rescued him before anything (more) serious happened.

The ideal solution would of course be for these offences never to happen but sadly we don't live in such a utopia and Philip K Dick style precognition enhanced law enforcement is scientifically unlikely (not to mention necessitating a thorough re-imagining of the legal system). So, we're stuck with picking up the pieces after something unforgivable happens and learning as a society how best, not to forgive, but at least move on.

Once again, this isn't a criticism of anybody's opinions - any comments welcome.
2 Responses
  1. Ryan Says:

    sorry calvin i didnt mean 2 trump your post. u know me and my mouth once i get started haha.

    awesome post thanx!

  2. Laurie Says:

    I feel the same way. It is hard
    enough to be a child of any day
    and age. It's made even harder when
    you can't turn on the TV without
    being brought down by the news
    of another abused child.
    Back several months ago (maybe
    longer) there was this guy in a
    park in Dallas that exposed himself
    to several children. WELL, when the
    kids told their parents...THEY
    got him and BEAT the crap out of
    him. He was glad to see the police
    after that.