When I first read this story yesterday, I was immediately suspicious, as the article I read made no mention of the sex offender being a suspect or having been arrested. So why was his criminal background in the headline? Furthermore, the article provided his name, but not the names of any of the other adults living in the home. It also included his charge, which was sexual contact with a 15-year-old girl.
After five minutes of "research", I had discovered the following:
- The man was 19 or 20 years old at the time of his conviction, and there was no mention of force or coercion in the description of his crime.
- The man DID NOT own the house. He is the son of the caretaker of the house.
- He is NOT a suspect.
If this is not sensationalist reporting at its best, I don't know what is. No one is interested, of course - I've yet to receive a SINGLE response from any of the papers I contacted about it. I'm just amazed that I seem to be one of the few outraged by this. It's far from the first time an article like this has been published and it certainly won't be the last, but it doesn't cease to infuriate me. Not just from the perspective of someone fighting for sex crime legislation reform, but also from a human decency point of view. Why is it that the horrific conditions these children were living in are not enough on their own to make a decent headline? Are we that jaded that this has become uninteresting? Whatever the reason, arbitrarily throwing in the term "sex offender" to a title is doing a disservice to TRUE victims and instances of sex crime.
Whomever hurt these children, based on the information we're provided with, needs some help - no question there. They will hopefully be prosecuted and sentenced fairly for their actions. But unlike the registrant who is probably kicking himself for choosing to live in this house, once their sentence is up - it's up. They can easily pack up and move to some other place, and probably won't have much difficulty doing the same thing, if they are so inclined. The registrant whose criminal background is now a national headline cannot. Even if he had no part or knowledge in the treatment of those children, his name is in every paper across the country - and no one cares.
While snide people may say, "why should we care about a sex offender?" it's not just about the man's right to live a normal life, 15 years after his crime. It is the fact that we are apparently more interested in shaming someone with a certain label than we are in determining who is actually responsible. It is a sad day when exploiting children to punish sex offenders is an acceptable practice.
In the same vein as what I mentioned above, consider the message of the graphic below: