Truth of child sex crimes hits home
In 1992, a book titled “Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence from Domestic Abuse to Political Terror” stirred American society. The author of the book was Judith Herman, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Harvard University Medical School. She counseled victims of sex crimes and wrote about them in detail. The book revealed the uncomfortable truth that 70 to 80 percent sexual predators are family members or neighbors.
Because most offenders are fathers, uncles or neighbors, victims frequently stay silent. Herman warned that the pain and suffering of young victims was far more serious than the post-traumatic stress disorder experienced by Vietnam War veterans. After her report, systematic psychological therapies began to be provided for victims of sexual abuse.
The murder of Megan Kanka in 1994 in New Jersey was a reminder of the reality of sex crimes against children. A neighbor offered to show the 7-year-old a puppy and abducted her. Then he raped and strangled. He twice had been convicted of sexually assaulting children, but Megan’s parents thought he was just a kind neighbor. Her murder led to the introduction of Megan’s Law, which requires the disclosure of names, photos and addresses of registered sex offenders.
Ten years later, another heinous crime occurred, this time in Florida. Jessica Lunsford was abducted by a neighbor while sleeping in her home. After raping the 9-year-old, he told her he would take her home and tricked her into getting into two garbage bags and buried her alive. When her body was recovered, it was reported that she had poked through the bags. Americans were outraged.
The murderer had been convicted of two child sex crimes. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison but paroled after two years. In response, the State of Florida passed the Jessica Lunsford Act, which requires that anyone convicted of a sexual crime involving a person under the age of 12 serve a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years in prison. And a person who commits a murder would be subject to the death penalty.
Ko Jong-seok’s abduction and rape of a 7-year-old girl enraged Koreans and sparked discussion of child sex crimes. Physical castration and capital punishment are being discussed. However, we may still be looking away from the inconvenient truth of child sex crime: The majority of sex crimes against children are committed by family members and neighbors.
Sex offenders are often punished lightly based on “settlements with the victim.” In the United States, the sexual crimes against children began to be strictly and severely punished after Americans faced up to reality and took appropriate measures.
* The author is the New York correspondent for the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Jung Kyung-min