Wednesday, November 7, 2007
View the article here
Video available at the site.
SAN DIEGO -- "He raped my daughter, he's a sex offender," a local mother named Maryanne said.
A four-year-old girl, a preschooler, was raped by her 14-year-old cousin.
"She was so tiny and so young, and he's such a monster," Maryanne added.
For six years, the rape remained a secret until the little girl turned 10 and finally told her mother.
The cousin, 20 years old when the rape was finally revealed, admitted to the crime. He was treated as a juvenile because he was 14 at the time of the rape.
Because of the juvenile ruling, his records remain sealed and his name can't be made public.
He spent 9 weeks in jail and was placed on probation, records indicated.
It is a punishment Maryanne considered too lenient.
"The laws have to be changed," said Maryanne.
There is much debate over what to do about the 40 percent increase in sexually based cases involving juveniles over the last two decades.
The Associated Press reported in 1985 that 24,100 juveniles were accused of rape, violent and non-violent sex offenses. That jumped to 33,800 in 2004.
The increase is explained at least in part by more reporting and tougher rules. It is unclear whether society is raising more young sex offenders.
Pamela Sternaman, a supervising probation officer with the San Diego Juvenile Sex Offender Management Program, said, "We have approximately 158 that are active in our unit right now."
Sternaman said the youth in the program, ranging from age 9 to 18, often share characteristics that explain their sexually inappropriate or aggressive behavior, such as poor social skills, low IQ and low self-esteem.
"Some of our youth are acting out, sexually curious and haven't learned what's appropriate or what's not," said Sternaman.
In the juvenile system, the focus is on rehabilitation. Unlike adult offenders, juveniles respond well to treatment and counseling, according to experts.
Child psychologist Dr. Lisa Boesky said, "Juvenile sex offenders, the majority of them, never offend again. I think the rates are maybe 5 to 14 percent that they ever offend again."
Some parents of victims said they don’t care about the statistics. They said they want harsher penalties for offenders.
Another local mother said, "This is a sickness; it's a disease."
The woman's 8-year-old boy was molested by Nicolas Shur when Shur was 18 and working as a counselor at a YMCA skate camp. When the boy came forward, 2 other victims were found.
"His spirit was crushed by an adult he trusted," said the boy's mother.
While the courts never proved it, the victims were convinced Shur started molesting children before he had turned 18.
Studies showed one in 2 adult sex offenders began their sexually abusive behavior as juveniles.
"In some states they actually castrate pedophiles, because there is no other way to stop them, and I'm a little sorry we don't live in that state," added the mother.
Shur is serving 10 years in state prison and will have to register as a sex offender for life.
The 14-year-old who raped his 4-year-old cousin, treated as a juvenile, was not listed on any public sex offender registries.
States like Delaware, South Carolina, and Texas can post photos, names and addresses of juvenile offenders.
California is one state that does not take those steps.
Boesky said, "If we call them a sex offender, if we have them register as a sex offender, think of what that does to their self esteem… "
Boesky said she believed decisions should be made case by case, but in general, she said forcing kids to register will prevent them from turning their lives around.
To some victim's parents, that is something of little concern.
"He should have been put away for life," the mother said.
There is a push to get tougher on juvenile sex offenders.
At the federal level, the Adam Walsh Act calls on states to name and publicize young and teen offenders.
California is grappling with how to implement the law fairly, according to experts.
Some experts believe access to sex and pornography in the media and online is contributing to more juvenile sex offender cases.
Others think that school districts, social services and parents are now reporting behavior that in the past would be considered a normal part of growing up.
View the article here
So when is he going to register? He's not on the Texas Sex Offender Registry yet, nor is he on the National Sex Offender Registry.
SAN ANTONIO - The mayor of Poteet (poh-TEET') says he no longer plans to resign over his guilty plea to child indecency charges.
Lino Donato pleaded guilty last week to two counts of indecency by exposure and no contest to one count of indecency by contact for incidents between 1996 and 2000.
Donato's guilty plea cut short his trial on accusations he exposed himself to two girls and improperly touched 1 of them.
He planned a meeting today to resign as mayor of the town about 30 miles south of San Antonio. But Donato has now canceled it.
He says he's not guilty, didn't do those things and needs to clear his name.
He's still eligible for office because he was sentenced to deferred adjudication probation.
Donato, who must register as a sex offender, is in his third term. It ends in 2009.
View the article here
Just a "Good Ole' Boy!"
Dwayne Sheffield has already served some of his three-year, two-month sentence.
The trial for Chilhowie's former police chief ended just after a jury was selected Monday when Dwayne Sheffield entered an Alford plea to an animate object sexual penetration charge against him.
In exchange, a rape charge and three other charges against Sheffield were dropped. By entering an Alford plea, Sheffield was able to maintain his innocence while admitting there was enough evidence to convict him.
Sheffield and former Chilhowie Sgt. Brian Doss were indicted in May on charges that they committed sex crimes against a 17-year-old girl at a Halloween haunted house in the town between Oct. 23 and Nov. 1, 2006 -- an incident that, along with other drug distribution and child abuse charges against Sheffield, caused a corruption scandal in the small Smyth County community.
Sheffield claimed the sex with the girl was consensual, his attorney, Michael Untiedt, said Monday.
Under the plea agreement, which was reached during lunchtime Monday, Sheffield was sentenced to 10 years in prison, with six years and 10 months suspended. He was given credit for time served, including time he has spent on home electronic monitoring.
Untiedt said Sheffield has about 28 months left to serve. He is being held in the Southwest Virginia Regional Jail in Abingdon.
Sheffield will spend five years on probation after his release and register as a sex offender. As part of the agreement, no further charges will result from this case.
"Mr. Sheffield is disappointed that he suffered a conviction," Untiedt said. "The reason for the plea was not that he felt he'd done anything wrong."
Untiedt said jury selection began about 9:30 a.m. in Smyth County Circuit Court and wrapped up about four hours later. Untiedt and prosecutor Lee Harrell were planning to give their opening statements beginning at 2 p.m., but "between 12:30 and 2, the bargaining got hot and heavy," Untiedt said.
Harrell, of the Wythe County commonwealth's attorney's office, was appointed as special prosecutor for the case. He couldn't be reached for comment Monday afternoon.
In addition to the sexual penetration charge, Sheffield had also been charged with rape, felony child endangerment, sexual battery and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
All the charges are felonies except the sexual battery and contributing charges, which are misdemeanors.
Sheffield would have faced a minimum of 10 years in prison if he had been convicted of all of the charges, Untiedt said. A rape conviction can carry up to a life sentence.
"This boiled down to balancing on our part -- was the risk worth the reward?" Untiedt said.
The town council voted to terminate Sheffield and Doss at a May 2 meeting but accepted Sheffield's resignation the next morning, Town Manager Bill Boswell has said.
Sheffield was replaced by Stephen Price, an Emory & Henry College graduate and former federal air marshal, in July.
Doss has a trial scheduled for late December. According to court records, he is charged with forcible and nonforcible sodomy, felony child endangerment, sexual battery and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
View the article here
One day, the blind shall see! Why do they continue to fight? Why don't they sit down, and think for once?
Ordinance sparks debate over whether the two go hand and hand
Convicted sex offenders don’t have many advocates, but a recent rush of laws banning them from public parks has called into question just how many civil liberties these people should have to give up.
Jackson County Sheriff Jimmy Ashe knows exactly how complicated this issue can be. Jackson County enacted an ordinance in September 2007 banning sex offenders from public parks, but at least one county commissioner pointed out that such a law would mean. A local man who is on the sex offender registry would be barred from watching his stepchildren participate in sports. Even Ashe, who helped push the ordinance through, admitted this was a unique set of circumstances for which he did not have an easy answer.
The bottom line for Ashe, however, is that these kinds of ordinances should apply equally to all sex offenders.
“These offenders have got themselves into this situation and it might be a mistake, but we still have to protect our children,” he said.
The worst of crimes
Sex offenses are among the most taboo of crimes in this country. Perpetrators are despised, harassed, and shunned by the rest of society. Offenders are permanently placed on a registry, their faces, addresses and crimes grouped together for all to see — an effort to alert the community and prevent further offenses from occurring.
But to what point should a person’s individual rights be eclipsed in an effort to protect the general public, particularly children?
To some, an ordinance banning sex offenders from public parks is a prime example of an attempt at protection that goes too far. These types of ordinances have been adopted by an increasing number of towns and counties in Western North Carolina — but not without a fight. After the town of Woodfin in 2005 became the first municipality in the state to adopt an ordinance banning sex offenders from public parks, the American Civil Liberties Union sued on the grounds that that the prohibition was too broad and allowed for no exceptions.
“Obviously, state and local governments have a duty to protect their society. The problem is that we have to balance that goal with the rights of the individual and civil liberties,” said Todd Collins, an assistant professor of political science at Western Carolina University who teaches a class on constitutional law.
The ACLU lost the case against Woodfin and a subsequent attempt to appeal was turned down by a North Carolina Court of Appeals in an Oct. 2 decision this year. Since the ordinance was upheld, other towns in WNC have moved to adopt their own versions.
Canton was one of the first. It did not even wait for a court verdict on the Woodfin case, moving to enact the ordinance in May 2005. An ordinance was adopted in Jackson County in late September of this year, and Maggie Valley passed a similar law on Oct 23.
In Waynesville, a similar ordinance was temporarily tabled until town attorney Woodrow Griffin could research similar laws and provide more information to the town board.
The sex offender registry
Some who are critical of ordinances banning those on the state’s sex offender registry from public parks believe there are substantive problems with the state’s sex offender registry itself.
In North Carolina, individuals must list their name on the registry when convicted of offenses against a minor or a sexually violent crimes (the latter category includes rape, assault, etc.). Some offenses against a minor, though, have nothing to do with sex. Instead, kidnapping and abduction by a non-parent fall under this category. That means a grandparent, stepparent or parent who takes a child without explicit permission will be listed on the sex offender registry.
Additionally, individuals who committed an offense that would cause them to register as a sex offender in another state — even if that crime wouldn’t cause them to have to register in North Carolina — still have to put their name on the sex offender registry. Collins said this situation isn’t unusual. State laws are often conflicting, and the sex offender registry is governed by each state rather than the federal government.
For example, Katy Parker, legal director of the ACLU of North Carolina, cited the recent Supreme Court case of a 17-year-old male jailed for having consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old in Georgia. Under North Carolina law, a perpetrator must be six years older than a victim under the age of 16 to be convicted of a sex offense. Though this law differs from the law in Georgia (where consensual sex between persons close in age is punishable), a person convicted under Georgia law would be forced to register as a sex offender in North Carolina.
The above instances, say the ACLU and others who question aspects of the ordinance, serve to illustrate what is perhaps the biggest flaw in banning sex offenders from public parks — the ordinances cast too wide of a net. Indeed, there are no exceptions — all registered sex offenders are banned from public parks — and there’s no process to appeal.
In the ACLU’s case against Woodfin, the organization represented a convicted sex offender named David Standley. Standley was convicted in 1987 of attempted battery and aggravated assault against a woman in Florida. Standley, who moved to Buncombe County in 2004, has since been debilitated by a stroke and resides with his mother.
“Our client, there’s no allegation he ever committed any offense against a child. He was convicted and served his time for an offense against an adult 20 years ago. He’s had a stroke; he lives with his mother. They should at least have a process where people like that who aren’t a danger could appeal to someone and say, ‘This shouldn’t apply to me,’” argues Parker.
Fred Hawley, a professor of criminal justice at WCU, agreed that in some instances the ordinance could be over-reaching.
“They stick you with a label of sex offender and you’re 40 years old and can’t take your children to a swing set,” he said.
Collins said that a lack of due process is likely the ACLU’s strongest argument against the ordinance.
“If the government is going to take away some of your rights, they have to give you an ability to contest that and state your side. If they want to take away your driver’s license, you have a right to appeal that.
“My point of view is that there could be problems with (the ordinance), both in how it’s implemented and how we monitor this. Without some exception, are we going to stop (a sex offender) from attending a family reunion at a park?” Collins said.
It’s not as if the ordinance against sex crime offenders being in public parks was implemented without justification. Though the ACLU does argue that the town of Woodfin didn’t have a specific incident to base the ordinance on — “the town admitted that there had been no prior instances of sex offenders in the park harming anyone or even any allegations that there was anybody approached,” said Parker — it’s fairly simple to correlate parks with places that sex offenders might be drawn to. In the case of pedophiles, this is particularly true.
“(Parks are) out in the open space; they tend to be a place where children congregate. It would provide access to children for a pedophile if they were wanting to do that,” said Emma Beckner, a family advocate for Kids Advocacy Resource Effort (KARE) in Haywood County.
“Sex offenders do in fact frequent those kind of venues, where if they can’t prey on a child, they can watch them,” Hawley agreed.
Jackson County implemented its ordinance in response to a problem with a sex offender hanging around a park where children played.
“We had an incident with a registered sex offender at a local park with numerous complaints that he was lurking around a particular area. Come to find out, he was waiting for people to pick him up for employment purposes. Nevertheless, it brought up some concerns because residents knew who he was,” Ashe said.
Does the ordinance ignore the possibility that an offender can be rehabilitated? It’s possible, said WCU’s Hawley.
“With sex offenders, there’s a belief that they’re un-rehabilitatable. I’m not sure that’s true,” he said.
Recidivism rates among sex offenders are high, however, particularly among those who molest children, Beckner said. Of released sex offenders, 40 percent had committed a new sex crime within a year of being discharged from prison, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice. Those numbers are too high maybe to even make exceptions for those who may truly be free of a desire to commit another sexual offense.
“The problem for towns, counties, and states is that sex offenders, particularly those that are habitual child molesters, we haven’t really found a good way to treat that or rehabilitate those individuals. That’s why states and counties are trying to come up with these sex offender ordinances and really try to protect society,” Collins said.
“Is that urge still in those people to commit that crime and to harm children? If it is, (the ordinance) should apply lifelong, but we can’t pick and choose and kind of look at every person,” said Collins.
“Any risk or chance of another child being sexually molested isn’t worth the risk,” agreed Ashe. “Personally, I don’t believe sex offenders who molest children can be rehabilitated.”
Even Hawley has come to feel, after years of research, that it is the rare case when an offender is truly rehabilitated.
“I’ve come to kind of re-examine that view, that maybe these guys are so damaged and such a potential harm for the community, that I think these guys are not real good prospects for rehabilitation,” he said.
False sense of security
Some caution that these ordinances, along with the sex offender registry, may give the public a false sense of security. In truth, a public park is not the most likely place for a sexual offense to happen.
“Kids are in much more danger in their homes from sexual predators. There are a lot of statistics that support this. One of the most frequent forms of sexual predation is from another child, usually a boy, who has been preyed on by an adult male,” said Hawley.
These offenses are most likely to occur between blood relatives and family members by marriage, Hawley said. And often, crimes go un-reported.
“An awful lot of people end up committing offenses who are not on the registry,” said Parker.
Additionally, the public parks ordinance isn’t the easiest to enforce. Police rely heavily on the help of the community. Local residents alerted Ashe to the presence of a sex offender at a local park.
“We have people call us and say, ‘such and such is on the registry, he’s a relative, he happens to be up at the playground right now.’ That’s basically all we can do to monitor what happens there,” said Waynesville Police Chief Bill Hollingsed. His town doesn’t yet have the ordinance, but they’ve been discussing adopting it for two years.
Police also work to familiarize themselves with the sex offender registry in their town or county and make sure it’s kept up to date.
“We do spot checks to make sure that person is still living at the residence. Any violations of failing to notify us is a violation of the law, and they can be charged for that,” Ashe said.
Questioning the constitutionality of an ordinance that is meant to protect children doesn’t win the ACLU any popularity points. That’s the balance the organization has had to strike — it’s not trying to let sex offenders off the hook, but it doesn’t want to see civil rights jeopardized.
“It’s a very hard issue, and it’s an issue that is tough to talk about, because nobody disagrees that we ought to be taking care of our kids. We think this just goes way beyond doing that,” Parker said.
“You’ve gone beyond saying people have to register. You’re saying if you’re on the list, you can’t go to certain places,” Collins agreed.
The ACLU’s stance is a lonely one. Few people want to appear as if they’re supporting the rights of sex offenders over the safety of children. There’s been no one to speak out about the ordinance at the meeting of WNC towns and counties that have adopted it. The ACLU actually stopped talking to all media about their case until recently, because they had received flack from all over the country for taking it on.
“It’s a very, very important thing to protect our kids. But when people’s constitutional rights are involved, you have to have some balance there,” said Parker.
View the article here
TORONTO - A Waterloo lawyer's fight to change Christopher's Law has made its way to Ontario's highest Court.
Yesterday, the Ontario Court of Appeal heard Steve Gehl's arguments on why it should scrap Ontario's sex offender registry.
It's the third Ontario court to hear the case that may yet end up at Canada's Supreme Court.
Gehl's challenge to the constitutionality of the law started in Kitchener's Ontario Court four years ago after a Kitchener man, Abram Dyck, was charged with failing to comply with Christopher's Law by not reporting a change of address.
Dyck had been put on the registry after being found guilty of sexual interference.
In June 2004 Justice Gary Hearn agreed with Gehl's position, finding the law to be unconstitutional because it was too broad. Hearn said it deprived offenders of their right to liberty by requiring everyone convicted of a sex offence to register, not just those convicted of serious crimes at risk of reoffending.
Ontario's Attorney General appealed that ruling to the Superior Court in Kitchener. In December, 2005, Justice Peter Hambly overturned Hearn's ruling, finding the law constitutional.
He said the modest restrictions imposed on an offender's liberty were not "grossly disproportionate'' to the goals of the registry -- helping police investigate sexual assaults by checking out registered offenders in the neighbourhood of a crime.
Now, it's up to the Court of Appeal to weigh in. It reserved its decision yesterday after a full day of arguments.
Gehl told the three-judge panel that he isn't opposed to the idea of having a registry. But the current law forces everyone convicted of a sex offence, no matter how minor, to register.
He argued this is an intrusion on the liberty of some offenders, such as those at low risk of reoffending.
Offenders should be able to challenge their inclusion on the registry at a hearing, he said. The federal government's sex offender registry, set up after the Ontario registry, allows for this.
There are currently 10,446 sex offenders on the Ontario registry. The law requires everyone convicted of a sex offence to register with their local police force. They must provide personal data and a photograph, and update the information whenever they move.
The law came into being after an 11-year-old boy named Christopher Stephenson was raped and murdered by a convicted pedophile out on parole.
Police called for a law to help them track the movements of sex offenders, especially in emergency situations.
But Gehl feels the net was cast too wide, catching every offender, rather than just the dangerous ones.
Someone convicted of sexual assault for patting a victim on the bum should not be on the registry, he has suggested.
He argues that being on the registry and having to go to the police station to update information for years stigmatizes an offender.
But Justice Michael Moldaver suggested yesterday that any stigma arises out of a conviction for sexual assault, not inclusion on the registry.
And someone on the registry can apply for a pardon, he said. Their name would then be removed.
"It's not forever,'' he told Gehl.
Under the law, someone who's committed one offence must register for 10 years. Someone who commits two sex offences is on the registry for life.
Outside court, Gehl said, "I don't believe for one second that anyone on the sex offender registry will get a pardon.''
Prosecutor John Pearson told the panel the law intrudes only minimally on an offender's liberty. And any restriction is far outweighed by the social benefit to be achieved, he argued.
Moldaver also wondered if the fact that the federal registry allows offenders to have a hearing before being included should "make us nervous that this provincial act should be reconsidered. You have to address the concerns (Gehl) raises,'' he said.
But Pearson said there's no problem with both levels of government adopting different approaches.
The province can require that anyone convicted of a sex offence automatically be included on the registry, he said.
"Deference should be shown to the legislature, especially when it comes to the issue of public safety.''
He urged the court to look at the reason for the registry -- to prevent harm to children. Sex offenders have been shown as a group to be likely to reoffend, he said.
"It all goes back to the alarming rate of recidivism with respect to sex offenders.''
Gehl refutes this, saying that figures from the John Howard Society show that only a minority of sex offenders are likely to reoffend.
The Criminal Lawyers Association of Ontario joined Gehl in his challenge. Vanora Simpson said the privacy provisions in the law aren't strict enough.
She agreed the public can't find out who is on the registry. But police can disclose such information for the purposes of crime prevention and law enforcement, she said.
The Crown asked the appeal court to suspend any declaration that the law is invalid for six months if it finds the law unconstitutional. That would give the province a chance to decide whether to amend the legislation, Pearson said outside court.
View the article here
In bald political terms, you can't go wrong demonizing sex offenders. Everybody hates perverts.
Drafting fresh laws to keep them away from trusting children is like wearing one of those little American-flag lapel pins – it's easy, crowd-pleasing, unassailably upright and it doesn't cost much. Where's the down side?
The fact that these restrictions don't seem to work very well doesn't detract much from their universal popularity. The list of places registered offenders can't live, work or even visit – schools, parks, libraries, day-care centers – gets longer and longer.
My colleague Wendy Hundley reported in Sunday's editions that such ordinances aren't having much effect in area cities that rushed to pass them.
Most of these laws create "child safety zones" barring registered offenders from living within a minimum distance – usually 1,000 to 2,000 feet – of places "frequented by children."
Well, that can't be a bad thing, right? Putting a minimum distance between child molesters and potential victims can't do any harm, can it?
Probably not. But experts – the people who actually deal with the hard realities of this topic, day in and day out – say it doesn't really do much good, either.
First, these ordinances target the monsters of our collective imagination – the greasy stranger loitering at the playground, picking out a victim to lure away with a candy bar.
But while the icky-stranger scenario gets a lot of public attention, these are the overwhelming minority of child predators.
Molesters – you can't say this too often – are usually somebody the child knows and trusts. It's a relative, a coach, the always-helpful aide down at the rec center. If they were all strangers wearing trench coats and lurking in the shrubbery, they'd be a lot easier to spot.
Second, there's evidence that when the zones-of-residency get too restrictive, offenders just drop out of the system and quit trying to comply.
In California, where a tough new law severely restricts areas where registered sex offenders can live, many offenders are just going off the grid. Rather than admit to living in a prohibited zone, they lie and say they're homeless – which makes them almost impossible to track, according to an Associated Press report published Sunday. Now the cops and parole officers we expect to keep an eye on them don't know where to look for them.
The same report says that in Iowa, frustrated prosecutors are trying to repeal a minimum-distance residency law for offenders.
"Most legislators know in their hearts that the law is no good and a waste of time," said the leader of a state association of Iowa prosecutors. "But they're afraid of the politics of it."
And politics should not be getting in the way of making meaningful progress toward protecting children and monitoring the sick, sad deviants who try to sexualize them. Wishing the problem would disappear does not make it happen.
When the stakes are this high, we need to deal in practical reality, not in hollow-but-crowd-pleasing grandstanding. Practically and constitutionally, you cannot lock every one of these people up for life (please don't argue – we're talking about reality, not about the way we wish the world could be).
And while isolating them as much as possible seems like the next-best-thing, the truth is that if we're going to have sex offenders living in a free society, they need two things: a lot of supervision and a lot of therapy.
Both are more expensive, more labor-intensive, and less immediately popular than easy-to-pass not-in-our-'hood ordinances. But feel-good laws that keep offenders hiding in the basement all day looking at God-knows-what on the Internet is a recipe for recidivism.
Listen, I don't want sex offenders working at the Y or coaching Little League. I don't want one living on my street any more than you do.
But it's the height of foolishness to just pass laws that do little more than tell them to stay out of sight and keep the porch light off on Halloween. Hiding and keeping secrets is what these people do best.
Addressing the ugly, complicated, deep-rooted problem of sex abuse in our society takes money, effort and political will.
If it were easy, it would already be fixed.
View the article here
By Michael Bader and Vivian Dent, AlterNet. Posted November 7, 2007.
In response to Robert Jensen's controversial book, Getting Off, two clinical psychologists debate the intersection of violence and sexual fantasy.
Pornography is a mirror that shows us how men see women, writes Robert Jensen in his latest book, Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity. And with mainstream porn becoming increasingly degrading and violent toward women, looking into that mirror can be unsettling.
That's the theme running through Jensen's book, which AlterNet excerpted in late September. The excerpt, viewable here, stirred a fiery debate among readers, with dozens of commenters defending pornography as a healthy form of sexual expression and dozens more condemning it as dangerous. For all the discussion, a lot of questions remain: Can men who view violent pornography separate fantasy from reality? Do men who are aroused by this type of porn want to hurt women? What influence does porn have on the people who view it? Under what conditions can it be healthy? Harmful?
In a quest to better understand these issues, AlterNet decided to ask some experts. Below, clinical psychologists Michael Bader and Vivian Dent go head-to-head on pornography and why people watch it.
But first, a refresher from Jensen's book:
Although few admit it, lots of people are afraid of pornography. The liberal/libertarian supporters who celebrate pornography are afraid to look honestly at what it says about our culture. The conservative opponents are afraid that pornography undermines their attempts to keep sex boxed into narrow categories.
Feminist critics are afraid, too -- but for different reasons. Feminists are afraid because of what they see in the mirror, because of what pornography tells us about the world in which we live. That fear is justified. It's a sensible fear that leads many to want to change the culture.
Pornography has become normalized, mainstreamed. ... As a New York Times story put it, "Pornography isn't just for dirty old men anymore." Well, it never really was just for dirty men, or old men, or dirty old men. But now that fact is out in the open. That same story quotes a magazine writer who also has written a pornography script: "People just take porn in stride these days. There's nothing dangerous about sex anymore." The editorial director of Playboy, who says that his company has "an emphasis on party," tells potential advertisers: "We're in the mainstream."
There never was anything dangerous about sex, of course. The danger isn't in sex, but in a particular conception of sex in patriarchy. And the way sex is done in pornography is becoming more and more cruel and degrading, at the same time that pornography is becoming more normalized than ever. That's the paradox.
The paradox of pornography
First, imagine what we could call the cruelty line -- the measure of the level of overt cruelty toward, and degradation of, women in contemporary mass-marketed pornography. That line is heading up, sharply.
Second, imagine the normalization line -- the measure of the acceptance of pornography in the mainstream of contemporary culture. That line also is on the way up, equally sharply.
If pornography is increasingly cruel and degrading, why is it increasingly commonplace instead of more marginalized? In a society that purports to be civilized, wouldn't we expect most people to reject sexual material that becomes evermore dismissive of the humanity of women? How do we explain the simultaneous appearance of more, and increasingly more intense, ways to humiliate women sexually and the rising popularity of the films that present those activities?
As is often the case, this paradox can be resolved by recognizing that one of the assumptions is wrong. Here, it's the assumption that U.S. society routinely rejects cruelty and degradation. In fact, the United States is a nation that has no serious objection to cruelty and degradation. Think of the way we accept the use of brutal weapons in war that kill civilians, or the way we accept the death penalty, or the way we accept crushing economic inequality. There is no paradox in the steady mainstreaming of an intensely cruel pornography. This is a culture with a well-developed legal regime that generally protects individuals' rights and freedoms, and yet it also is a strikingly cruel culture in the way it accepts brutality and inequality.
The pornographers are not a deviation from the norm. Their presence in the mainstream shouldn't be surprising, because they represent mainstream values: The logic of domination and subordination that is central to patriarchy, hyperpatriotic nationalism, white supremacy and a predatory corporate capitalism.
Standing Up for Sexual Fantasy
By Michael Bader, DMH
Porn is not harmless. But neither is it an important cause of sexual violence or misogyny. Partisans on both sides of this debate have littered their arguments with distortions, hyperbole and cheap rhetorical tricks. We have to wade through a lot of bullshit to get to the truth.
When representatives of the media conglomerates that produce $10 billion of porn each year come out and talk about the "free choice" of the women starring in their videos and the harmless "entertainment value" provided to male consumers, they're making a silk purse out of a sow's ear. The actors in these films are degraded, underpaid and used up by an industry with the morals of a slaughterhouse, despite what Jenna Jameson and Nina Hartley say. The women come into the industry with the self-esteem of earthworms, histories of physical and sexual abuse, and are often plunged into alcohol and drug abuse as a way of coping with their jobs. When the apologists from the porn industry point to the "voluntary" nature of this work, they are using a legal technicality as a fig leaf to cover up the normative pathology and exploitation in this industry.
Furthermore, with the near-universal availability of porn, there are now thousands -- perhaps tens of thousands -- of men who have become addicted to it. Spending between 10 and 50 hours/week glued to their computer or TV screens looking at porn, talking dirty in chat rooms, seeking out greater and greater taboos to violate, these particular men are being victimized, their relationships betrayed, and their families and friends cheated of their presence. Such men were likely never really connected to others in healthy ways before the advent of porn, of course, nor can it be convincingly argued that the absence of this outlet would make them so, but like any addict, their compulsion makes any other options impossible, including that of getting psychotherapeutic help. The presence of a casino doesn't cause the tragedies that sometime result, but neither are casino operators morally innocent.
So much for harmless porn.
On the other hand, it is amazing to me how literal and concrete is the thinking of anti-porn advocates like Jensen who watch a porno, note its sordid and dehumanizing story line, and then assume that the man masturbating to it must really hate women and secretly want to dominate and devalue them. The shock value of the story line (to the extent there is one) is intended to carry the weight of an argument that is basically superficial. After all, if some guy gets off on watching 10 men ejaculate on a woman's face -- while she begs for more -- he must be either a misogynist watching his wishes come true or one in the making.
Except that he's not. I've treated dozens of guys who might get aroused by such scenarios who don't hate women at all. They have decent and loving relationships with women. And most important, they are able to distinguish between a fantasy and reality, something that Jensen seems both unwilling and unable to do.
What turns them on in porn scenarios depends crucially on the fact that the woman is depicted as excited. If she were depicted as primarily hurt and humiliated, these men would instantly lose their interest and erections. If there is one nearly universal common denominator in heterosexual porn it is that the women in it are generally portrayed as easily, constantly and powerfully sexually aroused, driven wild by whatever men want to do with and to them. For most men, this fact is crucial to their arousal, not because they're looking for a rationalization for their violent impulses but because they are guilty about feeling strong, selfish and masculine; feel overly responsible for and worried about women; and secretly believe that women are unhappy and relentlessly dissatisfied with men and their own lives. In the service of masturbation, these portrayals of "women in heat" momentarily reassure men against their fears, relieve their burdens and offer them a freedom they find lacking in relationships with real women. The sexual fantasies expressed in pornography, as well as those of their own private invention, are arousing to men not because women are being hurt but because they're not.
Pornography is the visual enactment of a sexual fantasy. That's fantasy -- to be distinguished from reality. That's fantasy -- to be distinguished from an intention, wish or even attitude. A fantasy occurs in the imagination. The imagination is creative, capable of all sorts of tricks and distortions. Recently, for example, I had a daydream -- a fantasy -- that my brother had suddenly died. In the daydream, lots of people came to console me in my grief. Now, in reality I love my brother and don't have a shred of resentment toward him. What I did have at the time was a need for a certain kind of love and attention. The meaning of my daydream was not "you wish your brother was dead." The real meaning of my daydream was, "You're so guilty about wanting attention that you think the only way you can get it is if you suffer a terrible tragedy." The meaning of a fantasy is often the opposite of its plot; whatever the meaning, it's subjective and can't easily be inferred from its story line.
Over the last 10 years I've studied sexual fantasies. I've discovered that they have a fascinating but secret logic. Imagine this scenario: A guy grows up in a family in which he feels responsible for and guilty toward his mother, who he sees as unhappy and weak. He develops an implicit or default view of women as unhappy and weak like his mother. Unfortunately, it's difficult for him -- for anyone in this situation, for that matter -- to get really excited by a woman if he experiences her as unhappy and weak. That's just the way our minds work. We can't get maximally aroused if we're worried, guilty and responsible. Fortunately, our imaginations come to our rescue, and we construct some type of fantasy or preference in which this barrier is momentarily overcome. For example, this guy in question might be attracted to strong, dominant or tough women because their energy reassures him that he can't hurt them and doesn't have to feel responsible for them. Or he might like to be on the bottom during sex or even lightly restrained for the same reason. It's easy to see in these cases that if the scenario -- really, just another type of fantasy -- involves a strong and excited woman, his unconscious worries about women are temporarily negated and he can get aroused.
Lots of porn features strong women -- picture the dominatrix -- and the male viewer gets aroused for precisely this reason. But many other types of porn address these same issues but in a different way. For example, often the woman is portrayed as dominated, hurt or even degraded, but in the porno she's excited and eager. Men are doing these bad-looking things, but the women are enjoying them. Our psyches are amazing things, really. They interpret the depiction of a woman's arousal as signifying her health and happiness! And thus you find in almost all porn that women appear aroused. Their arousal subliminally says to the male viewer, "I'm not hurt ... I'm even happy!" In fact, were these male viewers confronted with a woman's real pain and fear, they would immediately extinguish their excitement. In other words, they know the difference between fantasy and reality. They don't primarily want to hurt woman. What they really want is to be strong, selfish or masculine in ways that excite women, not degrade them. Porn provides them with imaginary scenarios in which this wish is safely gratified.
This fact accounts for the absence of any reliable, repeatable studies that prove that exposure to pornography increases the likelihood that the men consuming it will act badly toward women. Among the reasons for this robust finding (or lack thereof) is that the men who were studied intuitively knew the difference between fantasy and reality, between the women on the screen and their girlfriends or wives. Add to this the fact that men, themselves, often don't understand what they're feeling or why, and you have a good understanding of why porn researchers who interview men to explore the effects of porn on male attitudes cannot come up with any convincing evidence that it poses a danger.
Now, Jensen is correct when he points out that there is a growing species of porn that is explicitly violent and that appears more extreme in its treatment of the women appearing in it. Know as gonzo or extreme porn, it features such things as gagging, double anal penetration, gangbangs, bukkake (in which a group of men masturbate on a woman), and face slapping. Again, despite their irrationality, the scripts almost always call for the woman to get aroused by and seek out such abuse behavior. One might fairly say that it's a sad commentary on the state of our culture and that of the male psyche that such depictions sell so well. But the reason that the commentary is so sad isn't because it reflects what men want to do to women. It's sad because men in our culture are so disconnected from themselves and women, and often feel so helpless in their efforts to make women happy, that they require these kinds of fantasies to get aroused, to masturbate, fantasies that temporarily reassure them that they're connected to women in the most selfish and aggressive way possible and that, in the end, the women are turned on and not hurt.
Now, there is a subtype of these pornos that feature -- that make explicit and central -- the woman's suffering, her fear, humiliation, helplessness or some combination thereof. Some men require the actual suffering of a woman to get turned on. Such men have almost always been victims themselves of frightening and traumatic abuse as children and develop such fear and hatred of women that the only safe way they can experience pleasure is through turning the tables on their "persecutors" and doing to women what they feel was once done to them. Out of this cauldron come rapists and other men who get sexually excited by the infliction of fear and pain on women. Were snuff films to actually exist, these would be their customers.
Jensen would have us believe that this category of men is huge and that its numbers are maintained and replenished by porn. I see no evidence of either of these assumptions. My research, clinical and otherwise, suggests that this type of man is rare -- dangerous, but rare. Second, there is no basis for claims that porn causes this type of sexual violence. All kinds of porn, including the gonzo variety, are found in various European countries, which have extremely low rates of sexual violence. Sexual violence has been seen in recent years in countries like Bosnia and Rwanda, where there is almost no porn. The fact that men can become sexually violent under extreme conditions is a fascinating and troubling fact, but I see no evidence that porn has ever been causally linked to such transformations. Instead, I think that other factors are much more important, including various types of deprivation, the creation of paranoid identity myths, messianic leaders and propaganda, economic competition, cultural scapegoating and ignorance. In the absence of evidence, to argue that such sexual violence, much less male violence in general (as Jensen suggests), is caused or even exacerbated by porn is simply to substitute our own fantasies for reality. Since men who watch porn don't make such a mistake, we shouldn't either.
Context, Please: Internet Porn and Sexual Degradation
By Vivian Dent
When I hear claims that "Porn's this" or "No, it's that," I often feel a similar incredulity as when Bush begins a sentence with, "The American people demand ..." Says who? When? Why?
What does it mean -- what can it possibly mean -- to discuss "pornography" or "men" or "women" or "sexuality" outside the environments where they exist? Porn today usually involves a solitary, online interaction between a man and sexual images. In this encapsulated world, porn's intensity builds steadily. More and more is available; it's accessible at any time for any length of time; and it portrays a wider and wider range of subjects, activities, and fantasies. I believe all of these changes have transformed what porn "is" and how it affects both men and women. And I'm concerned that we know far too little about the implications of these changes.
To introduce my ideas, I'll begin by listing some things about people, porn, sexuality, and the web that we might be able to agree on.
- Men are very different one from another. So are women.
- People behave differently in different physical and emotional settings. When we feel secure, effective, loving, and lovable we have a different range than we do when we feel worthless, terrified, miserable, enraged, or hopeless.
- A lot of men use porn just to get off. It has a minimal, perhaps even beneficial, impact on the whole of their lives and relationships, including their sexual relationships.
- Some men get seriously addicted to porn, with all the damage and pain that severe addictions bring.
- Some men use porn as an inspiration for, or a weapon in, efforts to hurt or degrade real women, often enough their wives and girlfriends. [By the way, I know all this can apply to men with men, or to women with women for that matter, but I'll stick to heterosexual relationships for now and let others fill in the gaps.]
- Some women like porn. Some are indifferent to it. Some are disgusted, horrified, frightened, or humiliated by it.
- Some women really enjoy getting into the sexually edgy scenarios that porn can inspire.
- But some play along, wanting the relationship, or wanting to prove themselves strong enough, sexy enough, tough enough. A lot of these women end up feeling used, damaged, and degraded by their experiences.
- Under certain circumstances, which we think of as normal, men have sex with a willing partner.
- Sometimes both people come out of the encounter very, very satisfied.
- Sometimes one or both feel bad, even awful, before, during, or after -- even though the sex was consensual.
- Sometimes a man knows perfectly well that he's degrading or hurting his partner; and he gets off on that.
- Sometimes the damage is accidental, and he'd be horrified to know it happened.
- Under certain conditions, men have violent sex with unwilling partners.
- In wartime, men who would never have imagined themselves hurting a woman have become rapists.
- Sex lives at the intersection of love and aggression. Aggression infused into love and desire makes sex exciting. But violence and sadism can take over. Then sex becomes an expression of power, and part of its excitement is its capacity to dominate, humiliate, even destroy the other.
- The cultural switch that tips sexuality into violence can get thrown suddenly. Witness Rwanda, where lunatic broadcasts and a history of injustice turned citizens into mass murderers and rapists. Witness Abu Ghraib, where war, contempt, and an inexcusable lack of structure and training allowed young soldiers to become gleefully perverse torturers.
- The Web does not breed civility. People write things in emails they would never consider saying directly. Worse, under cover of anonymity, people insult, threaten, and genuinely menace other people's reputations and lives. Consider the posting of addresses of doctors who perform abortions, or the viciousness shown toward the parents of a teenage girl who snuck out with the family's Porsche, crashed, and died. Not everyone loses social sensitivity in the anonymity of the web. But it's a lot easier to let fly with ugly emotions online than in voice-to-voice or face-to-face encounters.
- Porn is available every instant of every day.
- It's inexhaustible; people are constantly posting new samples.
- It's lost its public context -- the long-outdated context of a movie theater, the more recent context of a store where you have to go in, show your face, and rent your videos. No one knows; no one sees. The only interaction is you, your mind, your body, a screen, and whatever you watch there.
- And, as it becomes more private, more and more porn is apparently becoming more degrading to the women involved.
Men and Porn
Women and Porn
Relationships and Sexuality
Sexuality without Relationship
The Internet and Porn
So: increased degradation, decreased social influence, and increased amounts of time spent with only one's fantasies for company. I'm protesting any account of porn that refuses to take this context, very carefully, into account. In the accompanying article, Michael Bader talks about men in therapy who discover that their ostensible desire to see a woman in a gangbang has to do with their need to know that women can really enjoy men, masculinity, and sexuality. OK; I'll trust his clinical experience. But I think he's missing the point that these men aren't just watching pornography alone -- they're talking about it with their therapist, a man who sees them as good and loving and who's encouraging of their sexuality. That's a social context, and a strongly supportive one at that.
But I don't see that what Bader is saying necessarily applies to the legions of men who believe that the women they desire could never love or desire them, who feel demeaned, disrespected, alienated, and lost. A lot of men get angry when they feel like that; no surprise there. Does porn ever encourage any of these men to take their anger out on women? When, why, under what conditions? Again, I don't want to imply that I think those men are on their way to producing snuff flicks, or something equally absurd. I do want to say that the questions deserve real attention.
In the early 1970s, Zimbardo's famous prison experiment took a group of male undergraduates, screened them carefully for psychological stability, and then randomly assigned them the roles of prisoners or guards. The experiment was designed to last two weeks, but within six days, according to the Stanford Prison Experiment Web site, "The simulation became so real, and the guards became so abusive, that the experiment had to be shut down. ... Half the prisoners were released early due to severe emotional or cognitive reactions." None of the guards quit, however. And nothing in the extensive pre-experiment personality testing predicted which guards would become abusive. Zimbardo concluded, "Abusive guard behavior appears to have been triggered by features of the situation rather than by the personality of guards."
Bader claims that men watching pornography can reliably and consistently understand the difference between fantasy and reality. I have some doubts: People are not at their most grounded and realistic when it comes to sex. And, again, I believe context matters a lot, especially when cruel or degrading scenarios provoke intense excitement, both sexual and violent. On a concrete level, a lot of kids and some isolated guys do use porn as a kind of "how-to" manual for sexuality. Porn's getting more extreme could lead them into some very unfortunate blunders. Plus, there's a long and sorry history of men rationalizing the sexual abuse of women with the words, "She really wanted it;" "She was asking for it." Is there a risk, even if just for some men, even if just at some times, in reinforcing a fantasy that women really want to receive the cruelties some men imagine inflicting on them?
I also suspect there are psychological consequences to seeing repeated enactments of violent sexuality, of fantasies that until recently existed pretty much exclusively in our imaginations. Sex and violence share a slippery boundary. At Abu Ghraib, young soldiers' anger and fear became sexualized violence in very short order. How much do we really know about the tipping point where emotional pain turns to satisfy itself in sexual cruelty? Bader's right that "We can't get maximally aroused if we're worried, guilty and responsible," and that feeling confident of the other's pleasure offers one source of relief from these fears. But he neglects the fact that denying the humanity of the other can stifle guilt just as effectively -- at least for some people, at least in some circumstances, at least some of the time.
We've created a brave new world where porn is constantly available in steadily more intense forms, with few or no social controls limiting access. Whatever the truth about pornography 20 years ago -- and we don't seem to know much for sure -- "the situation," as Zimbardo puts it, has changed. And I think we need to pay attention.
Michael's Rebuttal to Vivian
Vivian speculates that there are conditions under which porn might trigger an increase in male sexual violence. These conditions include the privacy of the Internet, the increased availability of extremely degrading porn, and social conditions like Abu Ghraib and Zimbardo's prison experiment. Porn is getting worse and more ubiquitous and this is apparently provoking or reinforcing harmful male sexual behavior.
Unfortunately, there's simply no evidence for this claim. At the same time the availability and alleged misogyny of porn is increasing, the incidence of sexual violence is decreasing. Societies with more porn and Internet usage than ours have much lower rates of sexual violence. And, again, despite how extensively it has been studied, there is no research that shows that exposure to porn increases the aggressiveness or sexism of a man's interaction with women in his everyday life.
Now, I would agree with Vivian that a fair number of men -- and women, for that matter -- feel hostility toward each other. And some of them -- both sexes -- act this out in the bedroom. They might criticize each other's performance or attractiveness. A man might unconsciously but intentionally refuse to "read" his partner's cues about what she wants or enjoys, or he might detach the moment after he is satisfied. A woman might be consistently critical of a man's ability to satisfy her, or make him feel bad for wanting sex too often. In these cases, the hostility of one partner hurts the other one.
But the fact that people can hurt each other in their myriad transactions around sex, while tragic, doesn't bear on this debate at all. My primary point was not that men don't ever feel hostility toward women but that the fact that they get aroused by porn isn't evidence of it. Men don't have a primary wish to see or participate in a gangbang at all -- in fact, doing so would horrify them. They desire pleasure and connection, like all of us do, but the conditions under which they can safely experience this involve somehow counteracting their worry and guilt about women, a condition that is satisfied in these imaginary porn scenarios. My point was that you cannot infer, as Jensen does, that a porn script reflects what the male viewer actually wants to do to women. The unconscious mind makes use of the porn script in ways that an outside social observer can't possible divine.
In a sense, this brings me to another point of agreement with Vivian. It isn't clear at all what the causes or effects are of the growing incidence of rougher and more extreme scenarios in porn today. Is the essential psychology of porn the same but merely taking more dramatic forms or is this trend something qualitatively new? There does seem to be a tendency in our sexual imaginations to seek out deeper and deeper taboos to challenge or violate, provided it's safe to do so. I see no evidence that such potential for escalation in a world of fantasy poses a threat to women in the real world, but I'd be foolish to deny that it could do so in the future in ways unknown to us now. And I have been impressed with the ways that the anonymity and ubiquity of Internet sex invites certain men to retreat from social and family life. The content of porn is less important here than the private ways that it is constantly available. Perhaps, in the end, the problem lies with a society in which men are disconnected and unable to find comfort in ways other than masturbation.
Vivian's Rebuttal to Michael
When Michael Bader describes sexual cruelties in his response to my article, he moves directly from criminal assaults to the petty cruelties of everyday life. He skips over the area where porn concerns me most deeply -- its potential to encourage the dehumanizing of women in consensual, or quasi-consensual, sexual encounters. We know that boyfriends, ex-boyfriends, and men that women had thought or wished were boyfriends are posting explicit content without the woman's consent. What else is going on in or because of our new online world that hurts women, diminishes their agency, transforms their sexual pleasure into fodder for their humiliation?
Porn doesn't just provide relief from inhibiting fantasy; it serves up inspiration for sexual games. A lot of people, men and women, enact scenarios derived from porn. A lot of people also push the limits of their sexual experiences. Depictions of violence or degradation -- particularly when the woman seems to be loving it -- encourage the fantasy, in men and women so inclined, that the games can get meaner without damage being done. A "real" woman would feel excited, not humiliated, frightened or hurt. And having porn so constantly and immediately available makes the gap between wish and action that much narrower. I'm not talking mutually enjoyable kinkiness here; I'm talking about situations where porn can nudge a man toward taking his pleasure at a woman's expense, whether in ignorance or with full intent.
Michael's argument rests heavily on a lack of conclusive evidence linking pornography with mistreatment of women. Yet in studies of groups, individual differences easily cancel each other out. According to a recent New York article, we can't even prove that exercise promotes weight loss. It seems that a fair number of people work out, get hungrier, and eat more, gaining weight in the process. This finding doesn't negate the experience of all those folks who got more active and dropped a few pounds, however. They're built differently -- or they're living in contexts that successfully encourage their efforts.
Perversity -- by which I mean getting aroused by degrading or dehumanizing another person -- exists. Sadism -- sexual sadism -- exists. People make tragic and terrible sexual mistakes. (Read On Chesil Beach if you have any doubts.) Michael's experience, as a clinician and I assume as a man, has led him to appreciate how greatly a man's love and desire for a woman can be underappreciated. Mine, as a fellow clinician and as a woman, has led me to recognize how very badly things can go wrong, and how devastating it can be when they do.
I'm sure that Michael and I agree that none of us is born taking pleasure in another's pain and degradation. Yet in certain contexts, people -- even people who under different circumstances are loving and concerned -- get very excited in just this way. I believe that the current solitary, nonstop, and increasingly vicious realm of pornography can foster just this kind of excitement. And so I believe we owe it to ourselves, as men, women and a society, to take it seriously.
View the article here
Judge says agency isn't following law
A Franklin Circuit Court judge again has ordered the Kentucky Juvenile Justice Department to abandon a "one size fits all" system it uses to classify and house juveniles who commit sex offenses.
Calling some of the department's arguments "baffling," Judge Phillip J. Shepherd reaffirmed his earlier decision to strike down the department's practice of housing minor offenders in a treatment program along with older youths who commit serious sex crimes.
The practice violates state law and was not intended by lawmakers, who established a treatment-oriented system based on a child's needs and the nature of the offense, Shepherd said in an order Thursday.
"The department cannot dictate that it will provide only one kind of treatment," Shepherd's order said.
Juvenile Justice Commissioner Bridget Skaggs Brown declined to comment, spokesman John Hodgkin said.
Tim Arnold, a supervising attorney with the state Department of Public Advocacy, which filed a lawsuit on behalf of youths it represents, welcomed the decision.
"We're pleased," he said. "I hope they will consider whether they want to revise some things."
Shepherd's ruling comes as he is considering a broader challenge to the department's entire system of classifying and housing youths by public defenders, who argue it funnels too many youths into state juvenile centers when many could be served at home or in their communities.
The department has denied those allegations and the case is pending in a separate lawsuit.
Shepherd struck down the department's sex offender system in September. But department lawyers asked him to reconsider, mounting more arguments in defense of the practice the department adopted last year.
They argued it was more efficient and the youths could benefit from the program.
Public defenders argued the practice resulted in younger youths who committed minor offenses, such as fondling, being placed in centers with older teens who committed felony sex offenses such as rape and sodomy.
Public defenders filed the lawsuit on behalf of five youths with mental retardation who they said could not benefit from or understand the program that included classes, written assignments and group discussions. Gail Robinson, a public defender, said one of her clients being held in a juvenile center has an IQ of 40, with 70 being the threshold for mental retardation.
Shepherd's order said the law clearly excludes children with mental retardation from being forced to participate in such programs.
But he said the law also is clear that any children who commit minor offenses may not be placed in such programs and must be treated in the most appropriate setting -- whether at home or in placements such as foster care or group homes.
Department officials had argued it was easier to centralize treatment for all sex offenders, an argument Shepherd rejected.
"Administrative convenience is no excuse for violating statutory requirements for treating youths according to their individual needs," Shepherd's order said.
Critics said the policy led to some absurd results.
Christian County District Judge James G. Adams said the department wanted to send a 12-year-old boy in his court who had admitted the misdemeanor offense of fondling another child to a residential center for sex offenders. Adams said he refused to commit the child to the department and placed him on probation, with the requirement he get counseling.
Shepherd said the department must move any youths who are wrongly placed in treatment programs for serious offenders. Generally, those programs apply only to youths 13 or older who commit felony offenses.
Public defenders say they are not sure how many youths the ruling will affect but said they are spread throughout several residential centers and group homes the department operates.
View the article here
RIVERSIDE -- For the second time, a La Jolla woman has pleaded guilty to charges stemming from a sexual relationship she had with an underage Temecula girl that involved trysts in three counties.
Aimee Robin Rosenberg, 27, pleaded guilty Monday to all 27 counts just before jury selection was to begin in a downtown Riverside courtroom.
She admitted to 25 felonies -- 13 counts of sexual penetration of a minor, 11 counts of oral copulation with a minor and one count of burglary for entering a dwelling with the intent to commit a felony. Rosenberg also pleaded to two misdemeanor counts of providing obscene matter to a minor and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
Rosenberg faces a maximum sentence of 22 years in state prison when she returns to court in January.
She had reached an agreement in February with the prosecution in which she pleaded to 18 felonies and would have been sentenced to 16 months in prison. However, Rosenberg later requested to withdraw those pleas, claiming she was not aware it meant she would have to register with law enforcement as a sex offender for the rest of her life. A judge granted her request.
Her guilty pleas Monday mean she will have one strike against her under the state's Three Strikes Law for the burglary and she will be required to register as a sex offender, Deputy District Attorney Blaine Hopp said.
According to court documents filed by Hopp, a "secret world designed by the defendant began to unravel" in October 2005 when a teacher at a Temecula high school learned that a student was having a sexual relationship with Rosenberg.
The girl was 14 when the relationship began, court documents state.
"The defendant used the privilege of having parents of prominence and money to buy this child items, take this child places, and provide her an artificial environment that was designed to seclude and cut this child off from her family and friends," the documents state.
The relationship started in January 2005 and continued for nine months with Rosenberg and the underage girl having sexual encounters in Riverside, San Diego and Orange counties, according to the prosecutor. Incidents happened at Rosenberg's home, the girl's home, Knott's Berry Farm, Disneyland, The Promenade mall in Temecula, a high school locker room, a movie theater restroom and at various hotels, Hopp wrote.
The two met through the workplace of their parents, Hopp said in an interview Tuesday. It started through instant messaging via computers.
"It then became much more sexual and sinister," the prosecutor said.
Rosenberg even provided the girl with a "secret cell phone," Hopp said.
Investigators determined that, in less than three months, of the 268 times Rosenberg used her cell phone, 260 were to contact the victim, according to court documents.
Hopp said Tuesday he was pleased with Rosenberg's plea because she now will be properly punished and will have to register as a sex offender, while the victim will not have to endure the trauma of a trial.
"We thought eight months ago we had achieved a fair and just resolution in this case," the prosecutor said. "However, I am confident that a just result and sentence will finally occur."
Rosenberg's attorney, Irvine-based Robert Weinberg, said by telephone Tuesday that he plans to present an independent probation report to the judge before his client is sentenced early next year.
"Aimee and her family hope that, when all is said and done at the time of sentencing, the court will have a complete picture of the personalities and events and that justice will prevail," Weinberg said.
The defense attorney said he also expects to present testimony from the Make-A-Wish Foundation with which Rosenberg is involved.
Weinberg said he expects the judge will hear from "many people who have been inspired by the kindness and goodness of Aimee Rosenberg over the years."
He plans to present evidence of Rosenberg's discovery that she had throat cancer "and her brave and prolonged triumph over the disease."
View the article here
Residence near schools, other facilities prohibited
Waukesha - The City of Waukesha on Tuesday became the latest area community to adopt an ordinance restricting residency of registered sex offenders, but aldermen backed off from imposing severe limits for fear of driving offenders "underground."
The Common Council voted 10-3 to ban sex offenders from living within 750 feet of a school, park, playground, day care center or recreational trail. The council's Ordinance and License Committee on Monday had recommended 1,000-foot zones, which would have effectively banished registered sex offenders from all but a few small pockets of the city.
The ordinance also prohibits registered sex offenders from loitering at schools, parks or playgrounds and within 200 feet of day care centers.
Voting against the ordinance were Aldermen Kathleen Cummings and Eric Payne, who wanted limits of 2,000 feet, and Paul Furrer, who argued Monday that such ordinances do not necessarily protect children.
Debate on the issue has been highly emotional, with some aldermen saying that previous calls for nearly citywide sex-offender-free zones were aimed more at upgrading Waukesha's downtown image than protecting children, and others saying that property values would plummet with less-restrictive areas.
Aldermen agreed that their goal is to reduce the overall number of sex offenders living in the city, which they say is a disproportionate share of offenders in Waukesha County. But in the end, fear that overly restrictive zones would drive offenders to non-compliance with statewide registry lists led to the decision for a middle-of-the-road approach.
By law, sex offenders are released from prison to the county where they were convicted unless there are exceptional circumstances, such as family and rehabilitative support in another county, Waukesha Deputy Police Chief Wayne Dussault said Monday.
Ald. Carrol Waldenberger, chairman of the Ordinance and Licensing Committee, also cited frustration over the placement of sexual predator Dennis Marth in a home on Buena Vista Ave., causing an uproar among neighbors.
In an interview Tuesday, Waldenberger acknowledged pressure from business owners in the downtown area, where rooming houses and low-rent apartments have housed sex offenders.
"I think they want to clean up the downtown and get rid of the perception that it's a haven for transients, homeless and others," he said.
Ald. Peggy Bull went further, saying she was told the ordinance was crucial to supporting the downtown. "I was told, 'If you want to be an alderman in Waukesha, you better vote for this,' " she said.
Ald. Paul Ybarra, who said he did not feel pressured to protect downtown, argued to reduce the limits from 1,000 feet to 750 feet. He said that driving sex offenders "underground" could also discourage them from attending rehabilitative services that help offenders avoid reoffending.
"One concern I have is that if they don't find placements for these people in the community, the court can release them to the community and waive the requirement that they comply with registering," he said.
The 750-foot ordinance adopted Tuesday excludes downtown and the Buena Vista Ave. area from residency by sex offenders.
The ordinance will be formally read at the next Common Council meeting and will likely be published and take effect soon after.
View the article here
Philbrick Accused Of Trying To Molest Boy, 13
INDIO - A computer expert testified Tuesday that he found explicit images and sexually oriented messages during a search of a desktop computer belonging to a former Coachella Valley newsman accused of trying to molest a 13-year-old boy.
Riverside County District Attorney's Office investigator Tom Gstrein, testifying in a preliminary hearing for 45-year-old Jim Philbrick, a one-time news anchor for two Palm Springs television stations, said out of several hundred images he recovered on Philbrick's computer, there were two pictures of genitalia.
He also testified that a search of the hard drive uncovered past instant Internet chat conversations in which Philbrick allegedly talked explicitly about sex to a decoy from Perverted Justice, the group now famous for participating in numerous "Dateline NBC" sting operations against suspected pedophiles.
Philbrick faces two counts of attempted lewd acts on a child under 14 and two counts of attempting to distribute harmful matter with intent to arouse or seduce.
The preliminary hearing will determine if there is sufficient evidence for a judge to order Philbrick to stand trial.
Gstrein testified that he looked specifically for conversations between Philbrick, who used the instant chat handle "Jimster7," and the decoy, who was posing as a 13-year-old boy and using the handle "LB Ninja92."
Laura Nugent, Philbrick's attorney, asked Gstrein whether any of the instant messages between the accused and the decoy referenced either's age.
Gstrein replied that in one message, Philbrick mentioned "as you get older" to the decoy, but he did not find anything further about age or difference in age.
Philbrick, a former anchor for NBC affiliate KMIR-TV and CBS affiliate KPSP-TV, has denied the charges.
He was arrested as part of a joint sting in March 2006 conducted by Perverted Justice and the Palm Springs Police Department.
Philbrick, who is openly gay, has admitted to communicating in a chat room for gay adults, but maintains that he thought the other person was merely pretending to be a child.
The Perverted Justice decoy was actually a 25-year-old Florida man, according to investigators.
After three days of online chatting, Philbrick allegedly agreed to meet the "boy" at the Palm Springs Tennis Center on East Baristo Road, where a youthful looking police employee waited, pretending to be a teenager.
As investigators watched, Philbrick drove by in his Lexus but left without getting out of his car after seeing what looked like a minor outside, authorities said.
Police arrested him about 20 minutes later during a traffic stop later shown on the Fox television show "COPS." Philbrick's defense attorney, John Patrick Dolan, contends some of the content in the e-mails and instant messages between Philbrick and the decoy was edited out. He has filed motions asking that the chat logs be suppressed.
The attorney said there's no such thing as a "drive-by sex crime" and added that the prosecution had yet to produce authenticated records of the Internet chats and e-mails or a copy of Philbrick's computer hard drive to the defense.
Ingrid Wyatt of the Riverside County District Attorney's Office said prosecutors would "prefer the evidence come out during the preliminary hearing."
View the article here
Some advice, don't make any video tapes of your sexcapades, it will always haunt you!
Amy Fisher really doesn't want you to watch her home video. There are already photos of the notorious woman that once dated Joey Buttafuoco and was tossed in jail for shooting his wife Mary Jo Buttafuoco in the face. Fisher was charged with multiple counts but pleaded down to one count of aggravated assault and in December 1992 was sentenced to 5 - 15 years in prison.
Now she is out and she is really out. Her fifteen minutes are not quite up as she is now starring in a wild home video that has her pictured in the buff, around the house and of course going at it with her husband on film.
So - now what? The photos have been leaked, there is also a tease video that shows Amy full frontal online as well. She's not too happy about it and has filed a lawsuit to try and stop the tape from being sold. AOL's TMZ.Com has the details and reports that they have obtained the lawsuit filed by Amy Fisher in New York Federal Court, claiming that her then estranged husband, Louis Bellera (a former police officer) had no right to sell the private home videos to the company, Red Light District.
According to the lawsuit, Bellera entered into a contract to distribute the tape in August of 2007 -- without permission from Amy. She claims the video was private and does not want it distributed.
View the article here
PIERRE - The jury has found former state Rep.Ted Klaudt guilty on all four counts of second-degree rape.
A Hughes County jury began its deliberations in the second-degree rape trial of Klaudt on allegations involving two foster daughters early this evening. Word came that they had reached a verdict just after 8 p.m.
Klaudt, a 49-year-old farmer from rural Corson County, is charged with four counts of second-degree rape. The alleged victims, both foster daughters placed in the Klaudt home by the state Corrections Department, say he tricked them into allowing him to physically examine their breasts and vaginal areas by telling them he could help them make money by harvesting and selling their reproductive eggs.
Patricia DeVaney, lead prosecutor in the case, told the jury in her closing arguments that the case involved deception, manipulation and a violation of both the girls’ trust and their bodies.
“He was her foster father,’’ DeVaney said at one point. “He was supposed to protect her.’’
Defense lawyer Tim Rensch called Klaudt’s actions despicable and immoral, but he said the girls were old enough to consent to sexual activity. One did, in hopes of making money selling reproductive eggs, he said.
“Rape is not persuading someone they should do it because they can make some money,’’ he said. “It was a despicable, terrible scheme he was perpetrating on these girls, but it was not forcible rape.’’
Klaudt’s defense rested shortly before 3 p.m. after offering three witnesses. Closing arguments took most of two hours, and the jury of eight men and four women were led to the jury room.
In his opening remarks, Rensch had urged said the jurors would have to “stretch the rape laws’’ to find Klaudt guilty.
DeVaney closed by saying that wasn’t so.
“In this case, they didn’t consent to a sexual act,’’ she said. “These girls were deceived about the act itself.’’
View the article here
Video available at the site.
DUNCANVILLE - It's been a secret in the suburbs for years.
A house in Duncanville that holds large private parties for swingers is now gaining unwanted attention. Swingers are single people or couples who are open minded about their sexual partners.
"We have friends over for private parties," said the organizer, Jim Turlock.
The City of Duncanville wants to crack down on the parties. So far, the city has been powerless to stop the parties at the house on Cedar Ridge Drive. But Tuesday night, the city council will consider a different tactic.
People gather at the house every Friday and Saturday night. As many as 200 people showed up for a Halloween party. So many people attend the parties that the organizers have a man directing traffic and parking.
Organizers say the Cherry Pit is their own private club. Their Web site offers photos, giving a tour of where they meet.
The owner says the sex is consensual and optional. "They are people who are open-minded… [They] may not be having sex with other people… That's not what swingers are about," said another organizer, Julie Norris. "Some are voyeurs, some are exhibitionists."
We asked Turlock what he would say to someone who accused him of having wild sex parties in his house and said it wasn't right. "If that's my belief, and that's what I want to do, and if it's not outside the law, then those are my rights," he answered.
Turlock and Norris have held the parties at the Cherry Pit for years at a 3,400 square foot house in the residential neighborhood of the Hills of Duncanville.
Frank Wood's house overlooks the Cherry Pit, and he's complained to the city for years.
"I was shocked. I thought you had to be on Harry Hines to have something like this, not next door," said Wood. "When I bought my house, I didn't think I'd be living next to a massage parlor and brothel."
Turlock insists no one exchanges money for sex. "I don't run a brothel," said Turlock. "I don't run prostitution."
But on their Web site, he and Norris ask for donations to cover dinner and other costs for the parties.
"Those that can donate, donate. Those that can't, don't," said Turlock. "We've never required anyone to donate. We've never turned anyone away for not donating."
Because they only ask for donations, the City of Duncanville said the Cherry Pit isn't regulated by its sexually oriented business ordinances. Police say they haven't found anything illegal. But the city has had to issue code enforcement citations and fines.
Detective Brett Beene of the Duncanville police department said, "The complaints have ranged from your typical traffic congestion type complaints to the just neighborhood nuisance type complaints."
After Wood said he complained, the city put up no-parking signs in front of his house and the Cherry Pit. But that hasn't kept visitors away.
The Duncanville City Council is set to vote on an ordinance that would declare the Cherry Pit and other clubs like it illegal and a public nuisance.
The city said the problem is the Cherry Pit promotes the activity on its Web site. If the new ordinance passes, when the city finds a sex club is advertised or promoted, then officials will have a system in place to shut it down.
The city attorney said the city won't look for sex clubs, but if they receive complaints, the city will investigate.
Turlock and Norris vow they'll fight any action. "We're not flaunting it in front of anyone. I don't put a sign up in front of my house that says, 'Cherry Pit… Stop here.' I don't wear a t-shirt that says, 'Ask me about the Cherry Pit,'" said Norris.