This time it’s the case of the rape away the gay pastor, who tried to explain away his sexual abuse of boys by claiming he was trying to keep me from being gay, who has had his sentence reduced to 5 years of probation and mandatory sex offender classes. On the heels of what happened in Montana with the judge who wiped away the sentence for a teacher convicted of raping a 14 year old girl, it would seem that we suddenly have an epidemic of child sexual abuse cases not being taken very seriously at all. After everything we just went through with Penn State, how could this be? What happened?
First off, a couple of stories like these does not an epidemic make. Let’s not assume that all of our efforts to raise awareness of the damage done by child abusers has gone for nothing. There are still other examples where it is making a big difference. These are disturbing stories, but they are outliers.
On the other hand, these ARE disturbing. How can any judge justify these decisions? I think it has a lot to do with a subconscious bias. When we think about molesters, we simply don’t picture the people sitting around us, the people we work with, our neighbors, etc. It’s the creepy stranger who needs to be put away for life away from children, not Bob from church, or Sue from the preschool. They’re one of us, they seem just like us, they aren’t the monsters who abuse children. Those monsters are the ones we see in movies and tv shows, the homeless guys, the weird anti-social people, the ones who aren’t just like us. They are the danger.
Of course, we know that is completely ridiculous, but when it comes time to sentence the teacher, the pastor, the nice young lady who works with Special Ed students, it’s too easy for a judge to look at that person and not see a monster who deserves jail time, but someone who made some sort of mistake, had some sort of error that we can surely correct. But, the fact remains that children are much more at risk from people just like us, people they are around all the time then they are from random strangers. We need to recognize that the monsters don’t show their true face, that would make them too easy to find. True monsters work hard to fit in and look like one of us.