A Crooked Picture: Re-Framing the Problem of Child Sexual Abuse

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Janus, Eric S.
Child sexual abuse; paradigm; sexual predator laws; recidivist; sexual offenders; child molesters; child abuse; preventative legislation; stranger danger; rape myths; learned behavior; sexual violence; rape law; moral panic; civil commitment; sexual offender registration; registration laws; notification laws; residential restrictions; sexually violent predators; SVP; Jacob Wetterling Act; Megan's Law; Adam Walsh Act; Criminal Law
article description
This article discusses the problem of ending child sexual abuse using an allegory explaining that certain types of punitive solutions as solving the river "downstream", or in problem-solving mode, as opposed to "upstream", or in prospective problem avoidance. The thesis of this brief article is that our public policy is focused too far downstream. We rightly condemn child sexual abuse, but our public discourse frames the issue in a way that misdirects our public policy towards downstream solutions. If we truly want to protect our children from sexual abuse and end the cycle of violence, we need to reframe the way we seek solutions so that more of our resources and creative problem-solving are at the upstream end of the problem. We need to find out where the the problem is dropped into the river—and why—so that we can address it before it harms children. This article encourages a reframing of the issue of child sexual abuse to address the problem more comprehensively and systematically. Part I is an introduction explaining the allegory and indicating how our current paradigm of child sexual abuse leads us astray in directing resources intended prevent child sexual abuse. Part II of this article delves into the origins of contemporary sexual predator laws, briefly tracing their roots in the feminist and conservative movements at the end of the twentieth century. Part III outlines the resulting legislation. Part IV examines the disconnect between the policy underlying sexual predator laws and the realities of child sexual abuse. Finally, Part V offers an alternative frame for addressing the issue of child sexual abuse.