|Elizabeth J. Letourneau, Ph.D.|
Registries, public-shaming websites like the one in Nebraska, and ever-harsher laws hammering registered citizens again and again do NOTHING to prevent sexual assaults of children.
Elizabeth J. Letourneau has spent decades working with sexual offenders. She is Director of the Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse and Associate Professor, Department of Mental Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
In a recent article written for Time, she looks at yet another high-profile child molestation scandal and the lessons it holds for our public policymakers. Here’s an excerpt:
. . . the idea that all sex offenders are monsters, and monsters are unpredictable, draws resources and political attention away from effective prevention efforts. We spend far more to address sex crimes after they happen.
In a case in which I served as an expert witness, “Tommy,” age 12, was convicted of sexually abusing his younger cousin. He spent five years in a juvenile prison—about $50,000 per year, to the cost of taxpayers—and another five years in a sex offender civil commitment program—never mind the court costs. By the time Tommy was released, his home state had “invested” over half a million dollars in him.
By comparison, the priciest violence prevention programs rarely cost more than $10,000 per family. Yet we don’t have prevention programs that target adolescents at risk of sexually abusing children, even though they account for more than 50% of cases. All the emphasis is on after-the-fact policies.