Years ago a co-worker of mine at the social service organization where we both worked, witnessing every day the lasting effects of molestation on children who were victimized before they were out of diapers, turned to me with a grin. She had determined the ultimate punishment for child molesters, one which would undoubtedly keep them from repeating their torture of children and stop any person, no matter how tempted, from taking from children what they never want to give. The day before, I had suggested we ship all the child molesters to a deserted island, Alcatraz with a Survivor twist, thereby removing them from society and leaving them free to molest each other if they felt so inclined. She had agreed at the time, but felt there was certainly more intimidating punishments to be created. Her solution: an upturned bowl of underfed rats, taped on the stomach of a child molester, and three days in solitary confinement with their hands and feet bound together.
As demented as it made us, we laughed. It seemed that no matter how angry we were and as much as we yelled and screamed to the contrary, child molesters were running free to haunt their victims time and time again, a crime made even worse by the reality that the majority of child molesters do not fit the “dirty old man” stereotype, but are close, trusted friends and family members of the child they scar. A few years in prison has little effect on many sex offenders; many such individuals plea to remain behind bars, aware even before they are released that they will offend again. Others, meanwhile, are released from prison still holding fast to the belief that they have not done anything wrong, that it is society which determines a sexual relationship with a child to be inappropriate and that nature determines otherwise. Those connected to their victim by blood may even be allowed to return to the child’s life, thus scarring the child over and over again and leaving them irreversibly damaged. These are the citizens who are truly frightening, the ones which laws such as Jessica’s Law seek to protect children from.
Chemical castration is not enough. Sex offender registration is not enough. A few years in prison is not enough. Sex offenders take from the most innocent victims in society and create a cycle which creates more offenders, poisoned by what has happened to them and unable to exorcise their own demons except through the violation of another child. Until the link in the chain is broken, the sexual victimization of children will continue to grow, unabated, until it becomes too frequent an occurrence to consider unacceptable.
Sex offenders require longer periods of time in prison. They need to be analyzed, studied, and picked apart in every single way so we may determine the factors which lead individuals to rape and molest children. Participation in a sex offender research program must be mandatory, so that sex offenders may prevent such acts of violation from ever happening again. Once the factors which lead to child sexual abuse are determined, and control regained by the larger society, the policy may be reevaluated and a determination made as to whether or not sex offenders are able to be rehabilitated. We have spent too long as a society debating the rights of the offender and too little time protecting the rights of our children – the time has come.
Until it does, we can always dream of the rats.