Sunday, October 24, 2010
By Madonna King
When did we start to dislike men so much that we're happy for them not to be part of our children's lives? That's the question posed by the latest ridiculous assault on the integrity of all males.
It comes in the form of a ban on schoolboys using a public pool change room after swimming lessons because men fear they will be falsely accused of pedophilia.
Of course, the fact that many men support that decision is understandable; any man now knows he is automatically viewed with suspicion.
That's why our children might sneak through the entire education system now without a male teacher.
It's why men stopped jogging along bike tracks, when the city was on the lookout for the bikeway rapist.
It's why airline staff try not to seat adult males next to children.
And it's why most fathers I know won't supervise their young daughters' play dates, unless there is a female adult present.
The distrust of males has been creeping up on us, fanned by the sick minds of a few who have stolen the innocence of children, and left heartache in their wake.
But can you now be guilty simply by gender?
Alan from Brisbane has this story: he was at South Bank when he saw a small girl, about four years old, wandering along the river's edge and crying.
He watched as more than 30 people walked by without helping. He stopped one of them, a woman, and asked her to help him help the child.
"I told her why - I'd be accused of being a pedophile," he said. "If that little girl had fallen into the river and I dived in after her I'd be on the front page as a hero; but when she was only 30cm from falling in I'd be called a pedophile."
How did we allow ourselves to get to the point, he wrote on a Daily Telegraph blog, where caring people are considered pedophiles?
Just stop reading this, and ask the man sitting nearest to you. His reaction would probably mirror Alan's - because society has made men feel that way.
This is another Brisbane man on the same blog: "I know a teacher who was accused of rape by a schoolgirl because he refused her advances, and he lost his job, his wife, his kids and his life. Never mind that she admitted it and cleared him. This culture has to change, or this sort of rule will become more common."
It seems it already has. After revelations of the Sydney pool decision, several people joined the debate, saying it had become standard practice in Brisbane.
Rory said it was happening at his children's school: "The poor little buggers were freezing coming home from the pool - about 10 minutes drive - and had to change into their dry clothes at school."
"It's ridiculous! If society keeps running on fear, its going to become a pretty hollow environment to live in."
Ann of Brisbane: "Our school has been doing this for years. The kids wrap themselves in towels and sit on the bus for 20 minutes in wet togs."
These are boys made to feel bad because of their gender.
Allan, from the Gold Coast, explains it this way: "Why would a male teacher want to put himself in that position? All it takes is for some smart-alec kid to joke about a male teacher perving on him and (his) professional life is over . . ."
Matt of Perth: "I like this rule. You're in more danger of being falsely accused than you are of actually being a victim."
Aaron: "The last thing you want to be doing is changing from your swimming gear to work clothes or vice versa and find out a couple days later you've been accused of exposing yourself or something of the kind."
The Doc of Sydney: "I cannot get out of the pool change room fast enough if children are there as I have no defence against a false allegation."
Clancy: "I would have thought banning parents from taking pictures of their children at the beach would have been enough to wake people up from this insane pedophile mania . . . but apparently not."
Someone else: "Why don't you just stop males from being teachers to protect the student, or just stop fathers from being parents to their sons, in case they get branded a pedophile."
John from Alice Springs calls it "pedophobia", but its consequences are bigger than that. We're creating a generation of young boys who don't have confidence in their own sexuality; sons who think their gender marks them as bad; and daughters who grow up with few, if any, male role models.
And in that scenario, men and women lose out.
By DIANE JENNINGS
Sex offenders who must update their registration with the Dallas police have been routinely turned away after waiting outside the department door for hours.
"I've got to abide by the law or they put me back in prison," said one offender who asked not to be identified.
Department spokesman C.L. Williams said the department "erred badly" by limiting the number of registrants to about three dozen a day in recent weeks, a short-term response to a manpower shortage during the State Fair of Texas. On one recent day, a small waiting room was packed and lines snaked down to the sidewalk outside the Jack Evans Police Headquarters. Similar scenes had been reported in recent weeks.
- What? So do all sex offenders not register on their birthday like most other states? Or do they have to all come down on a certain day? It sounds like the latter!
After the problem was called to its attention, the department stopped turning offenders away before they are registered.
Dallas residents shouldn't be "alarmed that there are large numbers of offenders in the general public who are out there unregistered because of this error," Williams said.
He estimated that only a few offenders out of the approximately 3,100 the department oversees may be out of compliance with the registration law. He said he was not aware of any arrests for noncompliance and said officers would be "looking closer" at arrest warrants for failure to register in the next few months to make sure no one is picked up after being turned away.
"For those that may have been caught up in this circumstance, been harmed by it, the message I have to them is, 'We'll look very closely at individual situations,' " he said. "We're not intent on putting people in jail for minor transgressions of the registration compliance if there's some reasonable explanation."
The decision to limit the number of registrants was implemented during the State Fair, Williams said, when two of four officers were temporarily reassigned to work the fairgrounds. Hours had been reduced earlier this summer as part of overall budget cuts, and Williams said that with four staffers again working to register the offenders, the department should be able to keep up.
Though the department is at fault for closing the doors early – and sometimes for several days for staff training – "it doesn't alleviate anybody else from their obligation to register," Williams said. "There is enough grace period that if you miss a date, you've got time to get back in."
Most offenders have 30 days before and after their annual registration date to comply with the law. Higher-risk offenders, who may be required to register quarterly, have a seven-day grace period. When changing jobs or moving, offenders have seven days before the change to notify authorities in person.
- So if this is how it works, and this day is on their birthday, then why the problem? The most, should be maybe a dozen offenders in one day, not a huge line around the building. That is insane!
But some offenders say returning repeatedly to register has been difficult. Those who are employed have angered bosses who need them at work. For those who are unemployed, the cost of bus fare or gas to get to the sole downtown location can be a burden.
[name withheld], 25, showed up to notify the department of a change of address, only to be told to "come back on a later date." When he returned earlier this week, "I got here at 7 o'clock, and the line was all the way down there," he said, motioning to a sidewalk about 30 feet away.
The office is open on a first-come, first-served basis three days a week, 2 ½ hours a day.
Though he's been convicted before of failing to register, [name withheld] says he's trying to comply with the law.
Frustrated, he finally phoned the department while waiting outside. "I want you to tell me how I can fix this problem without violating my registration," he told the officer. The officer didn't have a solution other than to keep waiting, [name withheld] said.
[name withheld] said he told his probation officer about the problem, and others on parole said they, too, had notified their parole officers.
Spokespeople for probation and parole agencies said they were aware of the problem and had been assured it was being addressed.
"There's two issues," said Teresa May-Williams, assistant director of the Dallas County Community Supervision and Corrections Department. "One, the public needs to know and be aware of the sex offenders in their area. Two, we do not want to see problems with the clients trying to comply with their orders and the law as well due to some kind of system failure.
"They've assured us they're working on it," she said.
By Lenore Skenazy (Twitter, Website)
Canandaigua - Trick or treat! Trick or treat! Do not snatch me off the street!
The big fear for parents this time of year is sex offenders. Municipalities across the country are passing laws that make it a crime for former offenders to leave the house on Halloween. In some places, it’s against the law for them to turn on the lights. Is this because so many of them were preying on trick-or-treaters?
That’s what Elizabeth Letourneau, a researcher at the Medical University of South Carolina’s Family Services Research Center, wanted to find out. Are sex offenders really trolling the streets in costume? Are they grabbing grade-school goblins when they ring the doorbell? To find out, she and her colleagues pored over 67,000 crime reports from 30 states, dating from 1997 to 2005. They gathered their findings in a report titled “How Safe Are Trick-or-Treaters? An Analysis of Child Sex Crime Rates on Halloween.”
So, how safe ARE they?
“There’s just no increase in sex offense on that day,” states Letourneau. In fact, “we almost called this paper ‘Halloween: The Safest Day of the Year’ because it was just so incredibly rare to see anything happen on that day.”
Surprisingly, the researchers discovered that children were just as safe in 1997 as they are today, even though in 1997 there were almost no “Offenders must stay at home!” laws and today there are hundreds. That means that these new laws are protecting children from an almost nonexistent danger. It’s as if a new law mandated seat belts on cafeteria benches to protect kids from falling off.
More seriously, the new laws also mean that cops across the country are spending Halloween checking in on all the local sex offenders to make sure they’re home (and sitting in the dark). That means the cops are not available to do other things, such as direct traffic.
This is too bad because even though there is zero increase in child sex crime on Halloween, FOUR TIMES more children are killed by cars than on an average night, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The reason is obvious: Far more kids are outside than usual. So if we put the cops on busy street corners instead of knocking on darkened doorsteps, we probably would be saving some kids.
Instead, we concentrate on sex offenders, says David Hess — a Baptist pastor outside of Rochester — for a simple reason. “We always need some sort of monster on Halloween. It’s the nature of the holiday.” Predators prowling on Halloween is, he says, “the new urban myth.”
Before this, the urban myth of choice was the fiendish neighbor ingenious enough to poison candy bars but too stupid to reseal them neatly. That’s why children always were instructed to bring their candy home for “inspection.” Anything with a tampered wrapper was immediately thrown out (or eaten by the parent once the kid went to sleep).
But it turns out the poisoning neighbor myth was completely unfounded, too. Joel Best, a University of Delaware sociologist, studied Halloween crime reports going back to 1958 and found not one single child poisoned by a stranger’s candy.
Considering how long that myth has held on, it’s doubtful the sex offender myth will die any time soon, in this era of in-your-face Nancy Grace. But for your own sake and sanity, try to remember that the real danger on Halloween is cars.
Dress your kids in reflective clothing; teach them how to cross the street safely. And to keep calm, you know what to do.
Lenore Skenazy is the author of “Free-Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry)” and “Who’s the Blonde That Married What’s-His-Name? The Ultimate Tip-of-the-Tongue Test of Everything You Know You Know — But Can’t Remember Right Now.” Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Tom Tolan
His family feels like target of 'witch hunt'
Fox Point — When [name withheld] and his family moved onto a quiet block of mostly small houses on _____ Road, neighbors came over to introduce themselves and welcome them.
Then the letter from Police Chief Tom Czaja arrived at the neighbors' houses - the one announcing that [name withheld]'s stepson, a convicted child-molester whose name is on the state's sex offender registry, would be moving into the house, too.
The welcome died fast, [name withheld] said Friday in the family's first interview with a reporter.
"It reminds me of the Salem witch hunt," he said, though he later added, "I totally understand their feelings," and "What [name withheld] did was a horrible thing."
Several neighbors don't buy the witch hunt analogy, though they do agree that the family of [name withheld] is no longer welcome on the block, and that fears for the block's children are rampant.
And they've organized to question the state Department of Corrections for allowing [name withheld]'s placement in a neighborhood full of young girls and close to a park where children play - and to push Fox Point to toughen its rules on where sex offenders can live.
On Oct. 12, the Village Board directed Village Attorney Eric Larson to draft a much more restrictive ordinance, based on one in effect in Franklin. And they asked him to research whether the new rules can be made retroactive, which would presumably force [name withheld] to move. The board is supposed to take up the measure Nov. 9.
The Franklin ordinance bans sex offenders who weren't living in Franklin when they committed their offense, prohibits offenders from living within 2,000 feet of schools, parks and other places children gather, and sets up child-safe zones where offenders are not allowed.
Larson says he's in the process of putting the ordinance together, but so far he could find no precedents that included retroactivity.
The Department of Corrections, meanwhile, says that [name withheld] is under tight GPS supervision, and that his DOC minders knew what they were doing when they placed him on _____ Road.
And his attorney, Steven Kohn, says the whole episode shows that being a sex offender "is the scarlet letter of our day," and that treatment of offenders "has to be brought out for discussion."
Despite ordinances passed in a number of communities restricting where registered sex offenders may live, people on the registry live in most communities in the Milwaukee area. State online records show five others in the same 53217 ZIP code as [name withheld] - three in Fox Point and two in Glendale.
According to a criminal complaint and online court records:
[name withheld], now 41, was charged in 2003 with having multiple sexual contacts - including intercourse, once - with an 11-year-old girl who was living with her mother in a Dodge County house where [name withheld] was staying.
He was convicted in 2004 of repeated second-degree sexual assault of a child and sentenced to 42 months in prison and 78 months of extended supervision, with rules against having unsupervised contact with his victim or any girls under 18. He was also ordered to undergo treatment for sex offenders and for alcohol and other drug use.
According to the Department of Corrections, he served the 42 months, was released (and got a job on the south side, his stepfather says), but then was picked up for an unspecified parole violation in January. While he was on a parole hold, authorities found he hadn't followed orders to take court-ordered programming, so he was sent to the Racine Correctional Institution to finish the programming.
When he was due to be released, [name withheld] and his wife, [name withheld]'s mother, [name withheld], bought a house at _____ that had been vacant since its previous owners died and moved there from Arizona. Also moving in: [name withheld]'s brother [name withheld].
They chose Fox Point because the [name withheld] had grown up just about seven blocks away in Bayside. Bayside's sex offender residency rules would not have allowed [name withheld] to live there.
When [name withheld] arrived in the neighborhood, the Department of Corrections had him on GPS monitoring and set up a list of 47 rules that restricted his activities and movements.
Still, his presence made many residents extremely nervous. Kevin Suing, who lives just to the south and has a 13-year-old daughter, says there are 19 girls under 18 within a block of the house. He also says there are six houses for sale within a block of the [name withheld], and he and others in the neighborhood expect it will be harder to sell those houses now.
"I can tell you every neighbor in this neighborhood is fearful for their children," he said.
He and other neighbors also fault state officials for letting [name withheld] violate one rule in particular out of the 47 - the one that says he can't live less than two blocks from parks, playgrounds or any other places frequented by children. Suing points out that Indian Creek Park, with playgrounds, tennis courts and playing fields, is less than two blocks away.
The rule includes the phrase "unless you receive approval by agent," however, and a Department of Corrections spokeswoman said in an e-mail that approval had been given.
[name withheld] has sent two letters to neighbors, the first right after Police Chief Czaja's letter went out.
The first was an attempt to make amends with neighbors shocked by Czaja's letter. "I was devastated you received the Fox Point letter before I could give you some well deserved information," she wrote in a three-page, hand-written note headed, "Portrait of a 'Sex Offender'/A Mother's heartfelt thoughts."
"I empathize with the emotions you must have experienced. Fear and anger were probably at the top of the list!" she wrote.
But the letter did little to allay the fear.
Another resident, Donalda Hammersmith, said she was molested as a child, and she didn't want something similar happening to others.
"We don't need another victim in Fox Point," she said.
As the controversy played out - with coverage on television news - [name withheld] said his wife felt increasing stress, too, and at one point went to a hospital and was diagnosed with a "mini stroke."
"Her crime is that she loves her son," he said.
She later sent out a second letter, which said, "Clearly, I misjudged the decision to return to our roots in Fox Point," and said the family would "make every effort to vacate this environment."