‘Report any suspicion of the abuse of a child to law enforcement authorities’

Let’s turn to Penn State’s student paper, The Daily Collegian, for a summary of the scandal unfolding at the school — “Penn State President Graham Spanier, Head Coach Joe Paterno ousted by Board of Trustees“:

The Board of Trustees announced that Graham Spanier and Joe Paterno will no longer be employees of the Pennsylvania State University. …

The announcement comes five days after a grand jury presentment was released describing alleged incidents of sexual abuse by former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was released. …

Sandusky faces 40 counts on seven different charges stemming from incidents where he allegedly sexually abused eight young boys from The Second Mile program — the non-profit organization he founded in 1977 for underprivileged children — in Penn State football locker rooms, his home and other locations.

Thousands of PSU students responded by rioting in anger — not over the failure of school officials to report the alleged rape of young children to legal authorities, but over the firing of their revered football coach.

Something Is Rotten at Penn State,” Andrew Sullivan writes, with an appropriate heartfelt anger:

That the structure of Penn State – and its creepy Paterno worship — allowed this to happen is bad enough. That the student body would rather side with a negligent football coach over a raped child is beyond belief.

ESPN.com’s Howard Bryant (via) writes wisely of “Penn State’s failure of power“:

Schultz, Curley, Spanier and Paterno are unwilling to admit being blinded by the power of Penn State football. That power prevented other, less powerful people from coming forward. Their first, fatal reaction was the impulse to protect the program, keep it from embarrassment, to protect personal relationships and now what’s left of the precious, sacred institution.

The power of the names Penn State and Paterno were, it is now revealed through chilling grand jury testimony, far more important than the children now forever renamed Victim 1 and Victim 2. According to the state grand jury investigation, at least four eyewitnesses say they saw Sandusky committing inappropriate acts with children, and Sandusky admitted another to one victim’s mother. Yet an entire community was cowed by the power of the institution. The past several days at Penn State have been a case study of Joe Paterno and the failure of power.

For each expression of outrage, we’ve been here before with the failures by churches, police departments and teams. Somewhere, each institution committed the fatal mistake of believing that power was not a privilege to be handled with great care and humility but instead a license to be above trust. The powerful often have forgotten whom they are supposed to serve.

And finally let me recommend a column by someone I normally do not recommend reading: Southern Baptist Archbishop Al Mohler, who provides some wise, practical advice in “The Tragic Lessons of Penn State — A Call to Action“:

I discovered yesterday that the policy handbook of the institution I am proud to lead calls for any employee receiving a report of child abuse, including child sexual abuse, to contact his or her supervisor with that report. That changes today. The new policy statement will direct employees receiving such a report to contact law enforcement authorities without delay. Then, after acting in the interests of the child, they should contact their supervisor.

Mohler candidly acknowledges the way that churches and other religious institutions tend to want to handle accusations of abuse internally. He explains why that’s “both deadly and wrong”:

Any failure to report and to stop the sexual abuse of children must be made inconceivable. The moral irresponsibility that Penn State officials demonstrated in this tragedy may well be criminal. There can be no doubt that all of these officials bear responsibility for allowing a sexual predator to continue his attacks.

What about churches, Christian institutions, and Christian schools? The Penn State disaster must serve as a warning to us as well, for we bear an even higher moral responsibility.

The moral and legal responsibility of every Christian — and especially every Christian leader and minister — must be to report any suspicion of the abuse of a child to law enforcement authorities. Christians are sometimes reluctant to do this, but this reluctance is both deadly and wrong.

Sometimes Christians are reluctant to report suspected sexual abuse because they do not feel that they know enough about the situation. They are afraid of making a false accusation. This is the wrong instinct. We do not have the ability to conduct the kind of investigation that is needed, nor is this assigned to the church. This is the function of government as instituted by God (Romans 13). Waiting for further information allows a predator to continue and puts children at risk. This is itself an immoral act that needs to be seen for what it is.

A Christian hearing a report of sexual abuse within a church, Christian organization, or Christian school, needs to act in exactly the same manner called for if the abuse is reported in any other context. The church and Christian organizations must not become safe places for abusers. These must be safe places for children, and for all. Any report of sexual abuse must lead immediately to action. That action cannot fall short of contacting law enforcement authorities.

That’s right. And it’s good that it’s someone like Al Mohler saying it, as he has influence with a broad audience that’s not likely to be paying attention to Sullivan or Bryant or others like them.

(It also has implications that may go beyond what Mohler himself realizes, but let’s save that discussion for a later post so that the compliment I wish to pay him for the post cited above doesn’t become barbed or backhanded here.)

  • Lori

     Do the football coaches come into contact with children in the course of their duties? Maybe some college students who are only 17; or maybe when they’re recruiting? They probably can’t weasel out on this line of reasoning, but maybe.

    Worse: was the kid under the care (etc) of the University? It doesn’t appear so, as he was the guest of a former employee and not in the care of Penn State. The former employee was faculty emeritus, with privileges he’d negotiated when he retired; but that doesn’t look like a convincing argument that his guest was under the care, supervision, etc., of Penn State.  

     
    The DA believed that the athletic director and the finance guy (in his role as head of the campus police) were mandatory reporters under Pennsylvania state law, which is why they’ve been charged with failure to report in addition to perjury based on their grand jury testimony. The issue with the head of the campus police is pretty obvious. He’s ultimately responsible for all law enforcement on campus. 

    The AD is trickier and it’s been a long time since I was last covered by mandatory reporter rules, but it’s my understanding that his status stems from the fact that the athletic department at PSU regularly held programs for underage children, like summer sports camps. Sandusky ran summer football camps on school property, which meant that he had a formal, on-going relationship with the school that went through the AD. 

    I assume the DA wouldn’t have filed the charges if he didn’t feel like he was on pretty firm ground in both those cases. Paterno has not been charged with failure to report because it appears that he technically discharged his legal duty when he called his boss, the AD. There are some questions being raised about that based on the question of whether or not Paterno accurately passed on what McQuery had told him, but I don’t know if that will go anywhere. It seems unlikely, but it’s difficult to say at this point. The grand jury investigation was not the best-handled I’ve ever seen and who knows what will shake out now that the story is in the open. 

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    and return again and again to the theme of “he/she only got off on a technicality

    There’s so much space to subvert this and it should happen more often.

    Cop 1: Bastard only got off on a technicality.
    Cop 2: What happened?
    Cop 3: It turns out that, technically, you’re not supposed to send innocent people to prison.

    Instead it seems to be that it’s always, “We think X is guilty so X is guilty.  If X is not convicted the only possible explanation is that it’s a miscarriage of justice.  It couldn’t possibly be the case that someone else corrected our mistake.”

  • ako

    I think very few people acknowledge to themselves that they’re part
    of a child abuse cover-up. Instead they tell themselves that they just
    don’t know what happened and they don’t want to be wrong or unfair and
    s/he has always seemed like such a good person and blah, blah, blah.

    This.  Someone who has almost no opportunity to look at the physical evidence is pretty much stuck going by their sense of what’s credible.  And people, in general, are really prone to going “That guy doesn’t seem like the sort of creepy pervert who would do such a thing!  Maybe the kid’s lying or confused?” and engaging in cover-up behavior without ever thinking they’re covering anything up.  Instead, they’re thinking they’re just protecting an innocent person from an accusation they don’t consider credible enough to merit police investigation.

  • P J Evans

    If people stopped and thought about it, a child-molester would have to be someone who appears respectable and honest, because they have to get the kids to cooperate and the parents to not believe the kids.

  • Ursula L

    A thing worth remembering is that even if what Paterno did (or failed to do) isn’t illegal, it is still immoral.  

    And it is completely reasonable for any institution to have a policy that, if an employee has reason to believe that a child is being harmed, they need to report it to the police or child protective services.  That can be organizational policy even if the person with the knowledge isn’t, legally, a “mandatory reporter.”  

    The welfare of human beings is infinitely more important than winning or loosing a game.  Frankly, even if the team would win every game with everyone involved in the scandal being left in place, and they’d loose every game if those people were kicked out, the right thing to do would still be to kick out anyone who didn’t have the basic decency to report suspicions of child abuse, rape (of anyone) or other tangible harms.  

    Part of the problem is that there is an expectation of “boys will be boys” and a willingness to overlook sexual crimes in general.  If people can get away with failing to report a team member who is suspected of date- or acquaintance-rape, then they won’t think twice if they find out evidence of other sexual crimes.  The line for reporting needs to be drawn, not at the point of the sexual abuse of children, but at the point of a drunk college senior at a party passed out and being raped by team members because she’s too intoxicated to say “no”.  

    “Yes” from a sober adult capable of giving consent, means yes.  

  • http://from1angle.wordpress.com emilyperson

    Age of consent – under it you’re still legally a child.

    Sometimes it’s more complicated than that. In my state, for example, you can have reached the age of consent (sixteen) and still legally be a child. And while any legal adult can have sex with any other legal adult, children who have reached the age of consent can only have sex with other children who’ve reached the age of consent. So, an eighteen-year-old having sex with a seventeen-year-old falls under statutory rape, no matter what the circumstances surrounding it are.

  • ako

    Yeah, one area where I do support reforming age-of-consent laws is making sure they all have reasonable close-in-age exemptions so that a high school senior isn’t getting busted for having consensual sex with a classmate who’s a few months younger.  It seems like a good balance between “We have to draw the line somewhere, and it’s not good to make a fifteen-year-old a target for any forty-year-old with a think for kids” and “Birthdays are not actually magic”.  (I also support making them gender-neutral in any jurisdiction where that isn’t already the case.)

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    There’s not a whole hell of a lot of taking the law into one’s own hands that a pre-teen can do. Nor would my dad being hurt or killed trying to – what did you have in mind? kill my classmate’s dad? – have helped matters. That’s why we have law enforcement and a judicial system. Does it need fixing? Hell, yes. Is vigilantism the answer? Probably not. (A tempting fantasy, but reality is a hell of a lot messier than fantasy.)

    The way I see it, the moment that guy raised his fist in anger against his spouse or child, that relationship needed to be ended, and that end needed to come as quickly as possible.  They need to be seperated, and no reason either party could give that they should stay together will be considered.  It ends, now

    The extra-legal part comes when there is a partner who refuses to immediately seperate, and such a seperation must be made to happen.  The force involved in this will have to escalate until seperation occurs.  For example, the wife needs to be asked to leave the husband.  If she will not, she needs to be insisted to leave the husband.  If she will still not, then there needs to be an intervention of several people arriving at their home, and explaining that she will be leaving now, getting into the van outside with the kids, and being taken to the shelter.  And if the husband resists or tries to call the police, members of the intervention will grab him and keep him restrained until the wife and kids are well on their way.  If she still refuses to go, well, that is when we start hurting her husband in front of her and their kids until she complies…

    Yes, it is harsh and unpleasant.  No, it is not strictly legal.  But allowing them to remain together for one minute longer than necessary is never an option.  Oh, she might have some practical reason why she sees it as necessary that she stays with him and is just too afraid of the consequences if she does, but frankly I do not care.  We can deal with this reasons after the two of them have distance between one another.  Whatever they are, they do not justify remaining. 

  • ako

    Your idea of how to help a battered woman is to kidnap her and torture her husband in front of her, while forcing her children to watch, until she agrees to go off to the shelter?  That is a bad idea in so many ways I’m not entirely sure how to start explaining.

  • Anonymous

    What.

    I don’t even… I just…

    What.

  • Anonymous

    It happens sometimes. One of the Law and Order spinoffs (SVU?) had at least one episode where the person that the overwhelming evidence pointed to was innocent, and pointed out that the arrest destroyed his career and marriage.

    I also seem to recall an episode of Castle where the prime suspect “lawyers up”, refusing to talk, and is shown to be innocent, just mistrustful of police.

    But yeah, cop shows should reflect actual conviction rates for arrests.

    Edit: This discussion has reminded me: Anyone here know the joke/urban legend/true story(?) about some police-force-or-other that has arrested a suspect, but lacks evidence. Realizing the guy isn’t too bright they attach some wires to a colander and a printer, put the colander on the guy’s head, and ask him questions, with a cop on a computer nearby printing “LIE” any time he answered. He quickly confesses.

    The humour is supposed to come from how stupid the criminal is, but having read up on what causes faulty convictions (and false confessions) it actually strikes me as incredibly abusive. When police officers, who one is raised to respect and trust, sit you down and hook you up to a “lie detector” (that media will have convinced you is infallible, despite being anything but) which then says that you committed the crime, well, that’s pretty psyche-shattering. Couple that with DAs that push very hard for confessions (“Well, the lie detector says you’re guilty, so you’d be better off just confessing than going to trial, since this way you’ll get a lesser sentence) and I could totally see that “harmless” interview tactic leading to false confessions.

    It’s weird how, until I read up on all this, I thought it was pretty funny. You’d think something’d click in my head to point out that, no, it’s not.

  • JohnK

    Yes, it is harsh and unpleasant.  No, it is not strictly legal. 
    But allowing them to remain together for one minute longer than
    necessary is never an option.  Oh, she might have some practical
    reason why she sees it as necessary that she stays with him and is just
    too afraid of the consequences if she does, but frankly I do not care. 
    We can deal with this reasons after the two of them have distance
    between one another.  Whatever they are, they do not justify remaining.

    I’d just like to make sure that you understand that this is a fantasy. In real life, you can’t make someone press charges or make someone leave their spouse, no matter how much you might want them to. You can ask but if you have to be willing to take ‘no’ for an answer. To do otherwise would be to violate the victim’s rights (again!) and I can’t imagine the mindset of a person who would think that this is helpful.

    The county where I work with has experimented so-called ‘evidence-based prosecutions’ (ie permitting the prosecutor to file charges without the presence or testimony of the witness). These cases are especially challenging because the prosecutor has to work exclusively using 3rd-party witnesses and physical evidence as workarounds for the Confrontation Clause and hearsay-evidence rules. It requires extremely diligent work on the part of dispatchers, first responders, and police detectives literally as soon as the crime is reported.

    Ultimately, though, domestic violence and child abuse are societal problems that can’t be resolved by law enforcement alone. There is some progress; I’ve won convictions recently that maybe ten years ago I would have had to withdraw.

    But it isn’t enough. We live in a culture that normalizes victim-blaming and violence against women, and often veils violence against children in a cloak of secrecy. I’ve been following the recent “Slutwalk 2011″ protests throughout the world after seeing a few columns about it on the other Slacktivist website. While they don’t seem to focus on child molestation specifically, I really hope that they catch on because in order to really eradicate this issue we need to force frank and open discussion and change our culture and society.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    FearlessSon: I tried to type up a response to this and really had to stop and think and even had a few false starts over it.

    I think in the end the problem is, for every case of vigilante justice that works well, there has got to be at least one that doesn’t. The abusive husband, instead of coming quietly, manages to sneak a concealed gun out, and starts a firefight that leaves many people dead.

    Or he simply escapes ‘custody’, and now he’s on the loose with no legal way to put out the APB on him without also admitting to false arrest and kidnapping.

    And so on.

    Resorting to the police-state tactic of “disappearing” abusive husbands may work in terms of a totally disproportionate tactic, but the very act of “disappearing” people creates the cloud of suspicion that the government didn’t really have a case to build against the suspected abuser.

    This is why most forms of justice follow the aphorism “Justice must not just be done; it must be seen to be done.”

    I have always thought there is an interesting double meaning to that phrase.

    First, it can mean that justice must be done fairly and impartially. People must see that the verdicts are reasonable and just.

    Second, it can mean that justice must literally be seen. It’s not sufficient to have closed-door trials with secret verdicts. People must be able to watch the act of justice as it happens.

    Abusive husbands put under the sharp shining light of our justice system, convicted properly under our laws, will be so clearly shown to have done wrong that there is no way anyone can say, “but maybe he didn’t.”

    This, your tactic fails to do, because it doesn’t publicly name the offender and demonstrate not just to the offender but to the community at large his guilt in striking his wife.

  • We Must Dissent

    Edit: This discussion has reminded me: Anyone here know the joke/urban
    legend/true story(?) about some police-force-or-other that has arrested a
    suspect, but lacks evidence. Realizing the guy isn’t too bright they
    attach some wires to a colander and a printer, put the colander on the
    guy’s head, and ask him questions, with a cop on a computer nearby
    printing “LIE” any time he answered. He quickly confesses.

    Like this?

    http://youtu.be/SHhxZ4BWeBQ

  • Dan Audy

    What we need, for everyone’s sake, is a society that treats being
    arrested as no big deal and definitely not as evidence of guilt.

    Wipe
    out the assumption that if the police investigate you then you must
    have done something and all these problems go away or become drastically
    diminished. Plus, you get fewer incidences of police brutality and
    coercion (if they acknowledge that an arrest isn’t proof and that their
    suspect might well be innocent then, with luck, that means less
    “bending” of the rules to convict the person they “just know” is guilty
    who has obviously done such a good job hiding all the evidence).

    Of
    course, since in Canada you can fail a police background check (needed
    for…a large number of jobs) if you’ve been found “not guilty” or
    pardoned, I don’t see this happening any time soon.

    Another important reform would be to make CPS accountable for their actions.  Currently they can impose ANY restrictions they want on a parent’s interactions with their child at the threat of having their child kidnapped for ANY reason they want without any recourse.

  • Mackrimin

    Yes, it is harsh and unpleasant.  No, it is not strictly legal.  But
    allowing them to remain together for one minute longer than necessary is
    never an option.  Oh, she might have some practical reason why
    she sees it as necessary that she stays with him and is just too afraid
    of the consequences if she does, but frankly I do not care.  We can deal
    with this reasons after the two of them have distance between one
    another.  Whatever they are, they do not justify remaining.

    “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its
    victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under
    robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s
    cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be
    satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us
    without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.” – C. S. Lewis

    No, it isn’t harsh and unpleasant, it’s simply evil, and arrogant as all Hell too. Greedy bastards cause half the problems in this world, and arrogant, violent assholes like you cause the rest.

    BTW: Fearless Son is pretty much how The Right sees liberals in general: as people who want to decide everything for everyone and use force if refused. Is it any wonder if they prefer to side with the robber barons?

  • Anonymous

    mmy: It
    doesn’t help, does it, that so many of the police procedurals in the US
    show lean so heavily on the side of “if the police arrest you there is a
    good reason” and return again and again to the theme of “he/she only
    got off on a technicality

    Replying both to your post and to mmy’s comment: it seems to me that the way most procedurals work, at least on TV, is that the police suspect person A, and as time goes on it becomes apparent either that person A couldn’t have done it, so they start looking for who did, or that person B is in fact the culprit, and A only looks guilty for circumstantial reasons. (In fact, there’s probably a TV Trope for that, but if I wander into that forest, there goes my afternoon.)

    So I haven’t seen any evidence that TV shows of the police procedural variety assume that police suspicion automatically means guilt. Possibly you are thinking of the (so-called) “reality shows,” like COPS. They are, I think, an entirely different kettle of fish.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    From what I’ve seen (and I haven’t watched such things in a while so apologies if this is inaccurate) it’s the case that, yes, they initially suspect someone who didn’t do it, but when it comes to actually arresting people … well the only time I ever seen cases where they arrested the wrong person were rare times that they had to reopen a case initially conducted off screen.

    If the person they’re sure is guilty isn’t convicted I’ve never seen it be the case that it turned out they were wrong to be sure, instead it’s always presented as they were right but there was miscarriage of justice.  The sole exception being if them being sure happened entirely offscreen, which is very, very rare.Mind you if Matlock has anything to say about it it the police are never right.  (Well, the police are never right if Matlock casts his detect guilt spell and concludes his potential client is innocent.  So not so much the police are never right as Matlock is never wrong.)

    I think the problem comes from the fact that they seem to take place in the magical world where the police are never wrong in their final conclusion, but in that magical world it still isn’t the case that the guilty party is always found guilty.  As a result they do show episodes where the police’s final suspect isn’t convicted, which happens often enough in real life, but every single time they show such an episode that person really is guilty, and that doesn’t reflect the way the word works at all.

    It’s not like they can’t have it turn out that the police are wrong.  They’re already shooting for downer ending by having the guilty party get away so, “You wasted all of this time and effort and the criminal is still out on the streets,” is what they’re going for.  You get that just as much by having it turn out the final suspect is in fact innocent as you do by having it turn out that the final suspect was guilty but got off on a technicality.

    Personally, I like happy endings, I’d be fine if the police were always right in the end in the shows and the person they correctly believed to be guilty always went to jail.  That would still have problematic implications in the extreme but I think it’d better than the current thing where if the police said you did it and you aren’t in jail that means you’re absolutely guilty but you got off on a technicality.

    Less problematic still would be to have the outcomes more closely resemble what happens in real life.  I wouldn’t like that much because, as I said, I like happy endings.  But the point here is beyond what I like.  It’s what kind of a message it sends.  Sending the message that if the police suspect someone and the charges were dropped that means that they’re definitely guilty and simply weaseled out of justice is not good.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     This discussion has reminded me: Anyone here know the joke/urban legend/true story(?) about some police-force-or-other that has arrested a suspect, but lacks evidence. Realizing the guy isn’t too bright they attach some wires to a colander and a printer, put the colander on the guy’s head, and ask him questions, with a cop on a computer nearby printing “LIE” any time he answered. He quickly confesses.

    Far as I know, the story originated in David Simon’s quasi-documentary book “Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets” (a compilation of newspapers columns he’d written while following around Baltimore City homicide police for a year). It was adapted for the TV series “Homicide: Life on the Streets” (where they threw in a side bit about the cops all pretending to be afraid of the dangerous radiation the machine emitted), and was copied in “Law & Order”, and possibly a few others.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Replying both to your post and to mmy’s comment: it seems to me that the way most procedurals work, at least on TV, is that the police suspect person A, and as time goes on it becomes apparent either that person A couldn’t have done it, so they start looking for who did, or that person B is in fact the culprit, and A only looks guilty for circumstantial reasons. (In fact, there’s probably a TV Trope for that, but if I wander into that forest, there goes my afternoon.) 

    The ones I watch, it seems recently like they don’t just suspect person A, they are instantly so convinced of person A’s guilt that they don’t even consider any other suspects and they bully and badger person A and make really obvious idiot-ball mistakes, frequently endangering other people recklessly.

    I’d really like to see more of these cop shows end with person A being shown to be totally innocent, but so utterly broken that their life is obviously over. Because far too often, I get the feeling that the writer was thinking “Yeah, technically he didn’t actually do it, but he’s still a bad person and deserved what he got”

  • maybekay

    The lack of respect you have for the woman’s personal agency is pretty disturbing.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    How is what I have said any more disturbing than the rape of children being covered up?  How is it any worse than allowing domestic battery to continue?  Is what I think should be done harsh?  Of course it is.  But not acting is the greater evil.  Unless we, as a society, are willing to do what is necessary, it will continue to happen. 

    Again, and again, and again. 

    It.  Must.  Stop.  And we must make it stop.  If the legal mechanisms we have put in place are not taking care of it, then those legal mechanisms are insufficient.  Domestic abuse is not a problem between individuals.  It is a problem for society as a whole, because anyone who continues to get away with it will continue to perpetuate the behavior.  Individual agency no longer has a factor in it by the time it gets to such a stage. 

    It is in fact bigger than any two people and it has to be ended swiftly and decisively. 

  • Tonio

    If I had been in Mike McQueary’s position, I hope that I would do the most moral and responsible thing, per the title of Fred’s post here. I’m concerned that I might not, simply as a Pavlovian response to anything involving conflict. Twice I’ve seen people have arguments where they almost come to blows, and both times I seem to freeze, to zone out, and I’m not exactly sure why. I do know that I am very uncomfortable whenever anyone is angry at me, or any individual is upset about something.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Nobody’s denying the passion you bring to the discussion, FearlessSon.

    It’s just that there are logistical and ethical difficulties with your proposed remedies to the problems you’re passionate about. It’s like you wanting to bodyguard women or QUILTBAG people in Africa. The idea itself is not wrong, but it can smack of being patronizing if you do it without asking first.

    A related issue is at stake with your idea about forcibly withdrawing abusive husbands from their households. As much as one might like to say it doesn’t matter, the basic principle of our law is that all accused must get a trial. Even the people caught in flagrante delicto. They still have the legal right to have the accusation levelled against them tried in a court of law.

  • Anonymous

    In addition to what others have said, I’ll add that you want to be very careful about setting yourself up as the arbiter. There are judges and juries for a reason. The system, however flawed, works better than one untrained individual making decisions about what action to take.

    Not to mention that, historically, such decisions have as often as not been flawed. A lot of the people who started lynch mobs were convinced that they were defending poor innocent women who just didn’t know enough to be able to see that it just wasn’t safe to be around one of those men.

    The extra-legal part comes when there is a partner who refuses to immediately seperate, and such a seperation must be made
    to happen.  The force involved in this will have to escalate until
    seperation occurs.  For example, the wife needs to be asked to leave the
    husband.  If she will not, she needs to be insisted to leave the
    husband.  If she will still not, then there needs to be an intervention
    of several people arriving at their home, and explaining that she will
    be leaving now, getting into the van outside with the kids, and being
    taken to the shelter.  And if the husband resists or tries to call the
    police, members of the intervention will grab him and keep him
    restrained until the wife and kids are well on their way.  If she still
    refuses to go, well, that is when we start hurting her husband in front
    of her and their kids until she complies…

    You do know that there’s a history of women’s relatives beating up (or killing) their not-accepted-by-the-family husbands or lovers in front of them, don’t you?

  • P J Evans

    The ones I watch, it seems recently like they don’t just suspect
    person A, they are instantly so convinced of person A’s guilt that they
    don’t even consider any other suspects and they bully and badger person
    A and make really obvious idiot-ball mistakes, frequently endangering
    other people recklessly.

    That’s a lot like real life, actually. The police really do that in a lot of cases (and frequently they also have the right person). It’s the times they have the wrong person, because they didn’t bother to do a real investigation, that give me pause.

  • ako

    How is what I have said any more disturbing than the rape of children
    being covered up?  How is it any worse than allowing domestic battery to
    continue?

    But none of us are arguing for any of those things.

    And if your idea of how to defend your kidnapping-and-torture proposal is “Well, it’s not worse than covering up the rape of children!”, I suggest you go read Fred’s NABA-NABA post:http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2007/04/26/naba-naba/

    Domestic abuse is not a problem between individuals.  It is a problem
    for society as a whole, because anyone who continues to get away with it
    will continue to perpetuate the behavior.  Individual agency no longer
    has a factor in it by the time it gets to such a stage.

    This is why your “Individuals are cogs in the machinery of society” thinking creeps me out.  Because it leads to thinking that battered women and abused children are cogs that you are entitled to kidnap and psychologically brutalize in the name of stamping out a social evil.

    When you hold a child down and force them to watch as you torture their father, you are causing them sever harm, even if their father is abusive.  And it’s the sort of harm you should be desperately trying to protect a child from, not deliberately inflicting on them because you imagine it will stamp out domestic violence.

    (It wouldn’t work, anyway.  For one thing, many abuse victims have mixed feelings about their abuser, and “I will torture him until you come with me and accept the help I am trying to force on you” is a good way to increase their sympathy for the abuser and make them wary and mistrusting of people offering them help.  And if they did file charges, any legal case would be complicated by the abuser showing up badly injured, and questions about whether the abuse was mutual, or the victims were involved with recruiting the vigilante assailants.  It’d make it much harder to get a conviction.)

  • Killoren

    It just occurred to me that this discussion is exactly like the ones we have about terrorism.

    “These guys are really evil, so we have to be just as evil to stop them! Disagreeing is almost the same as saying that you support evil! Ignore the speciousness of my argument!

  • Mackrimin

    Individual agency no longer
    has a factor in it by the time it gets to such a stage.

    See, that’s the problem here. If you feel like beating up someone who beats his wife and/or kids, go ahead. That might be right, or it might be wrong; reasonable arguments can be made either way.

    But that’s not what you’re talking about. You and your posse could send the abuser to a hospital, or simply beat him to death, if you really felt that strongly about it. It would accomplish the goal of separating him from his victims. Instead, you came up with a scenario that seems designed to make the victims suffer too. The way you set it up, it’s hard to avoid the thought that you’re trying to punish them too. That might be defended with the (rather weak) argument that the woman should had defended her child by taking him and running – it’s not actually reasonable, but it might be understandable, should this scenario have something to do with your own background. But even that excuse doesn’t explain what you’re trying to punish the kid for – unless, of course, the kid is of no concern for you beyond being useful to make the mother suffer more.

    That’s why your post is so disturbing: you are talking about taking vengeance not only on abusers, but also on their victims, including victims (little children) who could not possibly have influenced the situation in any way. You are, in other words, talking about your desire to abuse abuse victims even more. Oh, and you’re excusing this abuse by claiming that your victim is not fit to make her own decisions, which is classical abuser behaviour.

    TL;DR: Everythink you’ve written makes you seem like a domestic abuser waiting (I hope) to happen. Get help.

    It is in fact bigger than any two people and it has to be ended swiftly and decisively.

    So you admit that what you’re suggesting harms the victim too? Because you seem to be making an excuse for that here.

    I will not step away from what I said. However, I do apologize if my
    passion on this issue is disturbing. I wish my feelings did not cause
    such upset, and I will endevor to share less of them.

    You don’t have passion, you have anger issues, and pretty severe ones at that. And while fantasizing about revenge on random people is certainly satisfying, it’s not healthy and just makes the problem worse. Seriously, get help.

  • http://from1angle.wordpress.com emilyperson

    You know, you might not want to reinforce in front of impressionable little kids the idea that it’s okay to use violence to solve problems. “He started it” isn’t any better an excuse when you’re an adult than it was when you were six years old and hit your classmate. Let the people whose jobs it is to mete out punishment for starting something be the ones to do so.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    I came across an article today which put its finger on something I’ve been inkling towards but wasn’t able to find the words for myself:

    As you absorb the news about the key people at Penn State who ought to have reported what they knew of coach Jerry Sandusky’s alleged assaults on little boys, please keep one thing in mind. Penn State’s cover-up is embedded in the interest it, and all universities, have in keeping many forms of sexual violence and sexual harassment a private, internal matter.  The mistake Penn State made was, in many ways, a simple category error:  they mistook these pubescent boys for women.  They forgot that children occupy a very different status in the law than do the female students, faculty and staff who are most frequently the object of unwanted sexual attention and/or violence. 

    This whole time, I’ve been trying to sort something out that basically boiled down to “If Sandusky had been raping female college students instead of male children, Paterno would probably still be employed.”

    Anyway, it’s here:
    The Penn State Scandal: Connect the Dots Between Child Abuse and The Sexual Assault of Women on Campus

  • Anonymous

    There are so very many ways to critique the Catholic hierarchy without resorting to petty, gendered and (arguably) transphobic insults like “dress wearing guys.”  There is nothing wrong with a guy wearing a dress or any other kind of less “manly” attire.  Try to be a little more creative with the insults, or at least come up with something less shallow than making fun of how someone dresses as a way to show how much you abhor their actions.

    Describing a group of banker/corporate types as ‘suit-wearing guys’ is not unreasonable.  Admittedly, what the Magisterium et al are wearing are technically robes, not dresses, but still…Plus, they are quite silly.

    No, it’s not.  Paterno is accused of neither molestation nor coverup.  Likening him to Polanski (or Michael Jackson, as I have seen elsewhere) is misguided.

    What exactly did Paterno do that was so bad?  I’d assumed he’d been involved in some kind of coverup/terribly incompetent offender removal, but I haven’t really been able to tell.  And what did the president do?

    Because that would require admitting that secular authorities are, and _should be_, superior to the Church? Which might be quite difficult when you’re sitting on a throne in a millenia-old palace, wearing a kingly dress, surrounded by gold and priceless works of art and people kneel before you and kiss your fingers.

    I don’t think it’s an authority issue… it’s not like they’ve ordered the Inquisition to investigate either… or even actually taken any kind of action against the cases they *do* know about.  Apparently there’s some kind of rule that a priest can’t be ‘de-frocked’ without actually being excommunicated (or maybe even with, somehow?), or something like that?  They aren’t using the power they do have, or even ignoring the secular authorities and imposing their own extralegal punishment, or the like…
    And I wouldn’t so much say that secular authorities are ‘superior’ to the church as ‘in a different business entirely’.

    “Gullible kids from the ghetto”?

    ‘Gullible kids from the ghetto’ is a subcategory of kids from the ghetto, it doesn’t neccessarily mean that all kids from the ghetto are neccessarily gullible.  And due to the generally terrible education infrastructure in these ‘ghettos’, it’s not hard to imagine that many such student’s can’t do well in college (heck, even fairly ‘good’ high schools aren’t great at preparing students for college…)But yeah, a certain unpleasant aftertaste to those lines.

    It would be like if every time a researcher at a med school fudged the numbers on a clinical trial they decided to not let any student at the school take the MCATs.

    Or the med school somehow did something bad enough to be disqualified from certification?  Actually removing the school from the NCAA seems more on that level…

    It doesn’t help, does it, that so many of the police procedurals in the US show lean so heavily on the side of “if the police arrest you there is a good reason” and return again and again to the theme of “he/she only got off on a technicality

    I’d say that around 30% of the people arrested (let alone questioned) in police procedurals turn out to be innocent (in the context of the show).Of course, it *is* possible to get off on a technicality.  Typically this means someone along the line screwed up, but there’s also the ‘technically the evil thing done is not actually illegal (ref Wall Street et al)’ occurance.

    Cop 1: Bastard only got off on a technicality.Cop 2: What happened?Cop 3: It turns out that, technically, you’re not supposed to send innocent people to prison.

    I think there was a L&O (or possibly something else?) episode that used a pretty similar conversation.

    But yeah, cop shows should reflect actual conviction rates for arrests.

    Failure isn’t particularly interesting.

    A related issue is at stake with your idea about forcibly withdrawing abusive husbands from their households. As much as one might like to say it doesn’t matter, the basic principle of our law is that all accused must get a trial. Even the people caught in flagrante delicto. They still have the legal right to have the accusation levelled against them tried in a court of law.

    Yes, but there’s such a thing as pre-trial detention.  Mandatory seperation for where domestic abuse is suspected (using the either the ‘reasonable suspicion’ or (preferably) ‘probable cause’ standard here) isn’t unreasonable.  It’s the utterly pointless torture.  If you already have the ‘offender’ in such a compromising position, you can simply drag them off to wherever it is you’re going to ‘warehouse’ them.  You don’t need to beat them until they agree with you.

    So you admit that what you’re suggesting harms the victim too? Because you seem to be making an excuse for that here.

    Criminal investigations, especially of such personal crimes, generally ‘harm the victim’ in some way… but this is not the goal

    This whole time, I’ve been trying to sort something out that basically boiled down to “If Sandusky had been raping female college students instead of male children, Paterno would probably still be employed.”

    There’s a slight difference in that it is theoretically possible the same acts could have not been rape… and also, for some strange reason, I don’t believe there are mandatory reporting laws for adult cases.


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