Wednesday, November 29, 2006

REJECTING THE HYPE

We're the first to admit that Chris Hansen's "To Catch a Predator" reports on Dateline are compelling television (good TV! good TV!). But do they accurately reflect the size and scope of the predator population in the United States?

No. Check out this Skeptical Inquirer report on the hyping of sexual predators in America. A couple excerpts:
According to a May 3, 2006, ABC News report, "One in five children is now approached by online predators.” This alarming statistic is commonly cited in news stories about prevalence of Internet predators, but the factoid is simply wrong. The “one in five statistic" can be traced back to a 2001 Department of Justice study issued by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children ("The Youth Internet Safety Survey") that asked 1,501 American teens between 10 and 17 about their online experiences. Anyone bothering to actually read the report will find a very different picture. Among the study’s conclusions: "Almost one in five (19 percent) . . . received an unwanted sexual solicitation in the past year.” (A "sexual solicitation" is defined as a "request to engage in sexual activities or sexual talk or give personal sexual information that were unwanted or, whether wanted or not, made by an adult." Using this definition, one teen asking another teen if her or she is a virgin—or got lucky with a recent date—could be considered "sexual solicitation.")

Not a single one of the reported solicitations led to any actual sexual contact or assault. Furthermore, almost half of the “sexual solicitations" came not from "predators" or adults but from other teens—in many cases the equivalent of teen flirting. When the study examined the type of Internet "solicitation" parents are most concerned about (e.g., someone who asked to meet the teen somewhere, called the teen on the telephone, or sent gifts), the number drops from "one in five" to just 3 percent.
The report also tackles exaggerated claims that sex offenders are incurable recidivists:
The high recidivism rate among sex offenders is repeated so often that it is accepted as truth, but in fact recent studies show that the recidivism rates for sex offenses is not unusually high. According to a U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics study ("Recidivism of Sex Offenders Released from Prison in 1994"), just five percent of sex offenders followed for three years after their release from prison in 1994 were arrested for another sex crime. A study released in 2003 by the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that within three years, 3.3 percent of the released child molesters were arrested again for committing another sex crime against a child. Three to five percent is hardly a high repeat offender rate.

In the largest and most comprehensive study ever done of prison recidivism, the Justice Department found that sex offenders were in fact less likely to reoffend than other criminals. The 2003 study of nearly 10,000 men convicted of rape, sexual assault, and child molestation found that sex offenders had a re-arrest rate 25 percent lower than for all other criminals.
We've believed for a long time that the sex-offender list provide false comfort to scared parents. Most child molesters and abusers are known to their victims; the real dangers are within the victims' families, not on a list of strangers.

The odds of being burglarized in your lifetime are much greater than the odds of falling victim to an unknown sex predator. A list of burglars in your neighborhood? That would be useful information.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Personally I see nothing wrong in sex offenders having to report in their address regularily. It would be better if all ex-felons did so as well. However, I do not feel that this infomation should be made public.

Catch Up Lady said...

The very existence of those shows illustrates that there IS a problem, no matter how you read between the lines of offical reports and statistics. They've done many Predator shows now on Dateline and in every city there is no shortage of people wiling to show up, even when they suspect a sting. And the things they SAY to kids, even if a meeting doesn't occur are SHOCKING and scary to anyone with children. I report whatever I see to CyberTipline - we all have to do our part to educate ourselves and our kids and report anything suspicious we find!

MrsThurstonHowell said...

Coincidentally, I just read the following article: According the Sept issue of Behavioral Health, the Washington State Institute for Public Policy, which in 2004 was directed by state legislators to analyze the impact of sex offender sentencing policies reported last year that among felony offenders, sex offenders had the lowest recidivism rate for felony offenses (13%). By comparison, recidivism rates for other violent felony offenders and nonviolent felony offenders were 31.5% and 33.7%, respectively.

I wonder if our state legislators have anything in place to analyze the impact of all of the sex legislation that comes out of the General Assembly each year. Each legislative session many multiple sex bills are introduced because in part quite frankly, sex sells whether it is exploited on Dateline or in the chambers of our state capital.

Anonymous said...

Why would anyone who wants to bring peace and happiness to earth, wish their personal pain on the rest of the world forever? For the money!
Politicians and Law Enforcement with the help of victims advocate groups has lied to the public.
The reason victim’s advocates continue their style of activity is they are cashing in.
Encourageing the infliction of pain and suffering rather than peace is a distructive activity use by theses activist.
Requireing the breakup of families is extending intitlement which can only fail everyone.
The intitled have no room left for those that can not afford to buy justice.
See how children as young as 3 year old children have been placed on the registry.
How citizens are held indefinitely after their sentence has been served.

See it now on You Tube at
http://www.youtube.com/profile_videos?user=evil9999999999999999

RON DAVIS said...

I report whatever I see to CyberTipline - we all have to do our part to educate ourselves and our kids and report anything suspicious we find!

Catch Up Lady: You are being sarcastic, aren't you? Please say you're not serious.

Franki said...

pssst...
create a name, give it a teenage profile, and head into almost any chatroom on AOL or Yahoo. Set a timer, and see just how long it takes for you to get even just one IM.
I have done it several times. One of those times, 17 IMs in 5 minutes flat... 14 of them older men looking for a bit of action.

PS I see Keith has visited your blog too... with the same damn message he has posted on my blog at least 10 times.

Anonymous said...

But franki, you have no blog.

Anonymous said...

Dear Ron Davis:

Thank you for writing about the subjects that seem to complicated for mainstream media. Thoughtful discourse always helps me as I try to think through problems that face us everyday.

I am concerned that this year sex offenders are registering, next year it might be some other group that society (state legislatures) deem to be unfit to live with the rest of us.

Keith Richard Radford Jr said...

Please watch for our movie in the works by Keith Richard Radford Jr. targeting hate groups who for political reasons use hate to sway public opinion for personal and political gain.
The torture sex offenders have endured wile laws have been misdirected as a smoke screen to further the hate agenda of a nation intoxicated with greed and prejudice's to keep fear alive. Interviews of over 50 sex offenders at many levels of assessment and how they have been used by lawmakers, politicians, and community's, also including many Doctors, Journalists, Ministers, Writers, and other parties offering their solutions to the basic fundamental flaws in the construction of such laws.