Because of the alarming number of high-profile sex crimes throughout the United States, public outrage resulted in more stringent Federal and state laws geared toward protecting the most vulnerable (children) from the most heinous criminals. Setting up a national “Amber Alert” and enacting “Jessica’s Law” have improved the monitoring and locating convicted sex offenders and missing children before any irreparable harm is done to the latter group. Many sex offenders still roam local streets and live in our neighborhoods.
Has the media overblown or sensationalized the issue by running the stories on the national nightly news or run series in daily newspapers? Certainly the media’s handling of sex offenders has helped ratify tougher laws. Since the outcry of two young girls who were kidnapped and murdered in separate cases by known sex offenders, “Megan’s Law” and “Jessica’s Law” have been enacted in many states. (Greenblatt, 2006, p. 723) The former law enables people to thoroughly track convicted sex offenders.
This legislation happened after seven-year-old Megan Kafka was raped and murdered in New Jersey by a neighbor who lived across the street. (Greenblatt, 2006, p. 726) The other law was named for Floridian Jessica Lunsford, 9, who was kidnapped and killed by a sex offender. (Greenblatt, 2006, p. 723). This statute enforces tougher mandatory sentences for sex offenders and puts a heavier emphasis on tracking them. (Greenblatt, 2006, p. 723) Media outlets can educate the public, but it usually makes offender’s lives difficult.
Natacha Carragher of the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust said the media is also to blame for the actions of the pedophile. She said the media often plays up the “stranger” angle when, in reality, victims often know his or her attacker. (Carragher, 2007, p. 5) U. S. laws aim to inflict additional punishment after the offender leaves prison, she said. (Carragher, 2007, p. 10) Examine sex offender laws recently passed and people notice that sex offenders must register with local police, not live near school, playgrounds or other places where children assemble and be monitored.
Laws are geared toward keeping children safe, not to help the lives of those who paid their debt to society. (Greenblatt, 2006, pp. 723-726) Sex offenses are not just confined to men. Women also commit sex crimes. When the crime is older women having sex with younger boys, it might sound romantic—but it is wrong. Older women understand right from wrong while younger people may not. It is about power and control, and that heavily favors the older, more experienced individual. (Duncan, 2004, p. 1)
Duncan pointed out that the typical victim falls between the ages of 13 and 17 while the perpetrator is usually between 18 and 25 years old. (Duncan, 2004, p. 2) This may explain why teachers are having sex with their students. The ages align on both sides of this equation. It is also a reason why the media continues to highlight such cases as Mary Kay Letourneau, then 34 years old and a married mother of four children, who was caught having sex with a student who was 12 years old at the time of the affair.
She went to prison for seven-and-a-half years. The twist in the story was that Letourneau went on to marry the man who she was found guilty of molesting. (Carl, 2005, p. 1) It does not matter what the gender of a possible sex offender is—male or female. What matters is having the media use its influence to educate and inform people of how they can stop from becoming victims. That would be the best service of all.