On Monday 18th December 2017 Irish Independent Correspondent Conor Feehan reported how a local community are seeking the eviction of convicted sex offender, Michael Murray from his rented accommodation in South Dublin.
Members of the local community have placed posters of Michael on the lampposts in the area where he lives with the words ‘Warning – Rapist About.’
Murray was jailed in 1996 for raping four women and sexually assaulting two others in south Dublin during a six-day reign of terror in September 1995.
What Should We Do With Sexual Offenders?
As a survivor of sexual abuse, the following opinions might seem strange but it has come about through personal healing and education.
So, what are we to do with those individuals that are convicted of sexual offences. Do we put them on an island and leave them to fend for themselves? Do we take them out and shoot them? Do we castrate them?
If you even look at the headlines and how we describe offenders and their crimes, the language used when talking about them is unhelpful and can even be quite dangerous.
A Sense of Security
Sex offenders registers were first established in the early 1990’s in the US and have since been introduced by multiple jurisdictions as a way to make communities feel safe. They are designed to keep people informed about where convicted sex offenders live within communities. However, it must be said that sexual crimes are the most underreported crimes across the globe and those that are reported have such a low conviction rate that we must understand that the majority of those who perpetrate sexual crimes are successfully living amongst us having never been convicted of a sexual crime.
We must be very clear that isolating those who are sex offenders can be a very dangerous road to travel. If we think that we can treat all sex offenders the same and that it is safer to remove them from society without any focus on rehabilitation we are not protecting our children or communities.
Abusers, rapists and child molesters do not look like the monsters portrayed by the media. They are individuals who live in communities. According to Abel and Marrow, 83% of child sexual abuse seems to occur in domestic settings by men who are typically married, religious, holding a good job, well educated, and in positions of trust. They also point out that 93% of typical abusers have a sexual interest in adults as well as children and as such are unlikely to cause suspicion in our homes or within our communities.
It is natural to want to live in a community that is safe. Often marginalised groups within society are portrayed in the media as being different and this can cause suspicion and fear of what we do not understand. But it is only when we are willing to become informed about those other groups that we will even begin to find ways of living together.
We need to consider each case on its own merit and recognise that different categories of abuse and abusers require a carefully tailored response to avoid destroying lives unnecessarily.
Sexual Crimes and The Law
I also think that in Ireland, and also across the globe, there is inconsistency in sentencing and often members of the legal system that are charged with dealing with sex offenders are likely to have received little or no education as to the true impacts of such horrendous crimes. This results in mixed messages about what we think and feel about sexual offences and its millions of victims.
However, I also feel we must also temper any punishment with appropriate treatment programmes that will assist those individuals to understand their behaviour and put interventions in place to encourage them to seek professional help prior to committing any crimes and also for those who have abused to prevent them from continuing to abuse, hurt and devastate the lives of their victims.
The Paedophile Voice
When we were researching for our latest book, ‘Why Go Back?’ we spoke to Todd Nickerson, from Tennessee, who is a non-acting paedophile. He contacted us having read our first book ‘Click, Click.’ We may not agree with all of Todd’s opinions, but we found if encouraging that he was open to reading and educated himself on the damage the actions of those who abuse can cause. Below is a statement that Todd made when trying to explain about who are paedophiles that don’t offend.
Not many of us are willing to share our story, for good reason. To confess a sexual attraction to children is to lay claim to the most reviled status on the planet, one that effectively ends any chance you have of living a normal life. Yet, I’m not the monster you think me to be.
I’ve never touched a child sexually in my life and never will, nor do I use child pornography. But alas, I could never hurt a child. No matter what, some small part of me still holds out hope that things will go back to normal, or as close to normal as a celibate paedophile with little prospect of a future can get. Besides, like I said earlier, I just couldn’t allow myself to foist this abomination onto another human being.
The following information was drawn from Channel 4’s ‘The Paedophile Next Door’ November 25th 2014
The programme was a radical and controversial documentary which explored a new approach to protecting children and interviewed a non-offending paedophile on camera.
In the programme, they discussed how predatory paedophiles operate at every level within society abusing children with impunity. It states that child abuse had reached epidemic proportions ten years ago and it is only getting worse year on year. The programme stated that a staggering number of one-quarter of a million known paedophiles exist in Britain.
The more messages we send out to paedophiles about how sick and perverted they are and just how bad a person they are, then the more they are likely to internalise that self-hatred resulting in them acting out the very behaviours we are trying to stop.
Where To Next?
It’s time to open the discussion and encourage frank exchanges about what makes someone sexually abuse another child or adult. We need to acknowledge the devastating impacts that any sexual crime leaves with its victims. We constantly underfund and undervalue the services that do exist to provide those most vulnerable with care and support. We must be at the very least open to the possibility of funding treatment programmes for offenders.
Focusing all your attention on those very few high profile and know convicted offenders draws all the attention away from the millions of offenders that fly under the radar on a daily basis. Offenders are your brother, father, son, daughter, sister, friend, family relations)
By ‘de-monstering’ offenders we can begin to understand the underlying problem associated with offending and its resulting impacts.
It is time to admit that what we are currently doing is not working.
Paula, 18th December 2018