By Georgina M. Schaff
On behalf of our 4,000-plus members, the Dakota Reform Sex Offender Laws Family Solutions is asking South Dakota Senate candidates to make this issue a campaign priority.
Our mission — promote medical research, legislation and education to provide an empirically based, rational approach to dealing with sexually related offenses and stop the cycle of abuse to protect all children.
According to the Department of Justice, most child sexual-abuse victims are molested by family members or close acquaintances. About 40 percent of crimes take place in the victim's own home, and 20 percent take place in the home of a friend or relative. Your children are more at risk from your family, your friends and you than from convicted sex offenders.
While I was growing up in the Dakotas, incest was common. The abuser was confronted by family members and the inappropriate behavior stopped, a method that was very successful. I know from personal experience that the behavior can be changed and the abuser can be stopped, with the support of family and loved ones.
History has proved that incarceration and labeling does not protect all children. The Unified Judicial System Annual Report and the Crime in South Dakota report published each year by the Division of Criminal Investigation verify the number of new offenses each year while another child is victimized.
For an "offense" of any sexual nature, America law does not hesitate to destroy the family structure, slowly bankrupts the family and might force the family on public assistance (paid by taxpayers). Often the accused is provided additional legal resources through the court (paid by taxpayers). Citizens are incarcerated (health insurance, room and board paid by taxpayers), and once their sentence is served, they are released back into society, labeled with the registry as to where they can live and have difficulty finding jobs.
Tax dollars could be spent on prevention with a focus on changing the behavior and stopping this cycle of abuse. The Dakotas are known for their compassion and the opportunity to reach out and help those less fortunate.
We must take the "weapon" away, the "law" that provides the power and control over their victim. "If you tell I will have to go to prison, you will never be able see me and our family will be divided." Replace that "law" with, "If you tell, I will have to change my behavior or go to jail."
Early intervention is the only true way to protect all children who are being sexually abused by a first-time offender, and many can live with their family with respect and dignity while confronting their wrongdoing.
Among intervention benefits:
- Protect all sexually abused children with a promise of resources to change the behavior and stop the abuse.
- Behavior therapy is covered by most insurance, not the taxpayer.
- Children would be encouraged to immediately report.
- Future, additional victims will be prevented.
- Taxpayers would save billions on prosecution, incarceration and the registry.
- Cover-ups would be eliminated if treatment were the first option.
- Overcrowding in prisons would be eliminated.
- Families would not have to face a lifetime of shame.
- Many lives would be saved for those who choose suicide.
Dakota RSOL Family Solutions' Mission is for legislation for a confidential family intervention for first time nonviolent sex offenses.
Georgina Schaff of Lemmon is a Dakota RSOL Family Solutions State Affiliate Organizer.