Roger writing the LAWmag

Child Sexual Abuse: Let's Get Tougher

Sitting in a comfortable leather chair in a lovely home-office, with the delightful sounds of young children reverberating gently through the walls, comfortable tranquility is rudely interrupted by two articles appearing in the day’s press.

One is the story of Peter Whitmore, the Canadian pedophile who left the Regina courtroom in shock as the details of his sexual assaults were made public.

Whitmore, 36, kidnapped a 14-year-old boy and raped him "many times". He then forced the 14-year-old to assist him in then kidnapping a 10-year-old, whom he proceeded to chain to a bed and rape until, two days later, the police caught up to him, and only after a tense 10-hour standoff, in the sleepy town of Kipling, Saskatchewan.

Canada allows the indefinite imprisonment of dangerous offenders. According to the Public Safety Canada website:

"The dangerous offender provisions of the Criminal Code are intended to protect all Canadians from the most dangerous violent and sexual predators in the country. Individuals convicted of these offences can be designated as a dangerous offender during sentencing if it is shown that there is a significantly high risk that they will commit future violent or sexual offences."

However, the prosecutor decided to spare the boys the pain of having to testify and plea bargain with Whitmore, which meant a life sentence but - absent the dangerous offender designation - eligibility for parole in as little as  six years. Six years in a prison cell (see picture) for Mr. Whitmore.Jail cell According to the Regina Leader-Post, quoting Saskatchewan psychologist Blair Sirup, the victims:

"... will get better but they won't be the way they were before."

In a related news item, a forensic investigation revealed that 29,000 of the USA’s 600,000 convicted sex offenders were found to have accounts on Myspace.com. This, in the aftermath of MySpace’s announcement in  May that there were only 7,000, and after it was threatened by a group of state prosecutors suggesting legal action would be taken if the popular website did not act. Some of the state attorney generals are now issuing subpoenas to MySpace for the identity of the convicted sex offenders to cross-reference that activity with the conditions of the offenders probation or parole.

In the USA, access to the sex offender registry is not restricted. The USA has had some success in rounding up pedophiles lurking on MySpace:

  • In April 2007, Stephen Letavec, 41, was sentenced to 10 years in prison followed by 10 years of this supervised release revenue for having used my space to lower and engage in sexual activity with a minor (a 14-year-old girl).
  • Kiley Bowers, 29, was convicted in Santa Anna after having seduced a 14-year-old girl he had lured through myspace.com. The young American girl committed suicide a year later.
  • Rafael Ramirez, a Palm Beach music teacher was convicted after it was discovered that he had used is MySpace.com account to lure a 15 and 17-year-old student.

But even high-profile convictions do not tell us the whole story. Project Safe Childhood, at www.projectsafechildhood.gov, maintain and updates press releases related to convictions of pedophiles. Those conversant with criminal law know, though, that the number of convictions is different from the number of perpetrators just as the tip of the iceberg showing above the water line is not indicative of the entire size of the iceberg.

In submissions before the United States House of Representatives on September 26, 2006, a Federal Corrections officer observed that:

"Over the course of my ten years of clinical work with federally convicted sex offenders in the SOTP, I have observed that in the course of treatment many child pornography offenders admit to unreported sexual crimes, many of which include multiple sexual contacts with the victims."

In addition, far more alarming is the fact that the 29,000 deleted MySpace accounts are only for convicted sex offenders that use their real names on MySpace; it does not include the likely far greater number that are using an alias. Colorado NBC affiliate KOAA reports that an email address is all that is required to create a fake MySpace profile and that "80 percent of 12 to 17 year old's access myspace (sic) weekly".

I logged into the MySpace.com website at 8 p.m., July 25, 2007, and nowhere is there any advisory on the homepage about this shocking threat to their young, naive and vulnerable users.

It's ironic that highways spend money for reflective signs to announce a tight curve in the road ahead and yet MySpace.com, now clearly aware of the danger, publishes no such warning on its website.

The law has not fully awakened to the devastation caused by child sexual abuse. The trauma caused by this type of offense is unique and complex. Much of the damage lays dormant and may only manifests itself later and adulthood, particularly when the normal sexual clock ticks in. There is no shortage of evidence that the psychological sequelae of a sexual offense,  be it pedophilia or otherwise, are rarely anything but, extremely debilitating.

Clearly, child sexual abuse in particular ought to be punished as if it were part-murder because something is taken away from these victims. Something sacred; something as priceless as life itself. Part of the victim soul is burnt during the assault.

The turn of events in Whitmore is a reflection of the difficulty prosecutors have in ensuring a conviction in these types of cases.

References:

  • Section 753 of the Criminal Code of Canada
  • Public Safety Canada at http://www.securitepublique.gc.ca/index-en.asp
  • April 9, 2007, press release, United States Attorney's Office District of Connecticut
  • Department of Justice Press Release 107, Los Angeles FBI
  • US Department of Justice, Miami FBI, January 24, 2007 Press Release
  • Project Safe Childhood at www.projectsafechildhood.gov
  • "Canadian Law Protects MySpace Sex Offenders", Times-Colonist Newspaper, July 25, 2007 (Victoria, BC, Canada), p. A5.

Posted in Child Sexual Assault, Crime and Criminal Law, Social Justice
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