Tuesday, May 13, 2014
By Matt Howerton
City Council members in Mart will be voting on a new sex offender ordinance Monday night. The town has never adopted a sex offender ordinance before and if passed, this would be the city’s first ever.
The proposed law comes on the heels of a sex offender registration in town. In April residents’ living near the city’s elementary and high schools were notified via postcard that a registered sex offender was residing in the area.
Since Mart currently has no sex offender ordinance whatsoever, the offender only has to comply with state law, which states that a sex offender can’t live within 500 feet of places where children commonly gather only if he or she is on parole or probation.
Offenders can live wherever they want if they aren’t on parole or probation and there is no city ordinance in place.
Since April, council members have been under the gun to adopt a sex offender ordinance.
“I was bombarded with emails and phone calls and that's what made me realize we needed to do something about this pretty quickly," Mart Mayor Pro-tem Henry Witt said.
“I was just as appalled as some of the other members of the city council.”
Witt and other city council members have since drafted a sex offender ordinance for Mart that states registered sex offenders with violations against children 16 and under cannot live within 1000 feet of where children commonly gather.
If passed however, current sex offenders living near child safety zones like schools or parks would be grandfathered into the ordinance and wouldn’t be forced to relocate.
But new offenders coming into the city could be fined each day they live in a prohibited child safety zone.
Mart’s city council meeting starts at 6:30 pm Monday night.
By LAURA BENSHOFF
Pennsylvania's Supreme Court is hearing arguments on whether teens found guilty of certain types of sexual offenses must be registered on public sex offender lists.
In some cases, that label can last for a lifetime. Pennsylvania adopted the federal Adam Walsh Act in 2012, which means that juveniles between 14 and 17 convicted of certain categories of sex crimes must register as sex offenders.
The challenge to the current registratrion requirements has brought more attention to the issue of juvenlie sex offenders — some of them are as young as 10 — and it raises tough questions: Where do kids learn to act that way? And how do judges and therapists currently treat sex offenders who are also children?
Natalie Dallard is a therapist at the Joseph J. Peters Institute in Philadelphia, an organization that provides treatment for survivors and perpetrators of sexual abuse. A variety of factors influence kids' behavior, she said.
"Probably nine out of 10 of the girls that I've worked with have been victims," said Dallard. "With boys, not as much as people think. Generally with boys there's a lot of other anger issues, and a lot of exposure to pornography, poor boundaries, and association with older peers, negative peers."
If kids are charged with a sexual assault, disclosing their own sexual trauma or family environment may actually backfire, said Megan Perez, a supervisor with the Public Defenders Association of Philadelphia. She said that if her clients have themselves been abused, she would not share that information in the courtroom.
"A lot of people assume that people who have been perpetrated against are more likely to be a perpetrator themselves," said Perez. "I think our Family Court judges in Philadelphia would look at a factor like that as more indicative of guilt than of innocence."
"Impulse control develops as you get older," said Dallard. "You have a greater ability to manage some of these feelings. And young kids are also a lot more susceptible to outside influences, and they don't have that critical thinking to think out outcomes."
Dallard believes that sexual offenses elicit such an emotional response in people that it clouds their understanding of who the offender is.
"People are always asking me how I do what I do, but, at the end of the day, I'm helping children. Sex crimes are so stigmatized that people fail to see that these are children," said Dallard.
She recommends teaching boundaries and reducing access to pornography as keys to reducing assaults by young people.
In Pennsylvania, juvenile sex offenders who are found guilty are typically ordered to receive treatment — the minimum is six months of individual and group therapy. Depending on their own history of trauma, treatment could continue for two years.
Juveniles commit around 30 percent of sexual assaults against victims 18 and younger. Statistically, sex offenders – particularly young ones – are not likely to reoffend.
Fear of false child-sex abuse accusations is driving Australian men away from a career in teaching, according to high-profile education officials.
Australian Education Union members have reported that young men are showing an increasing reluctance to become teachers, said the president of the union's South Australian branch, David Smith.
"Quite frankly, there are concerns about (men's) safety regarding vexatious accusations," Smith told the Advertiser.
Smith said that the Debelle royal commission, which released a report in 2013 that was highly critical of the response to a child sex abuse case at an Adelaide school in 2010, has only made men more hesitant about becoming teachers.
"The recent publicity following the Debelle inquiry has led to a negative atmosphere," Smith said.
SA Primary Principals Association state president Pam Kent agreed, saying male teachers have become "more vulnerable to the possibility of unfair or vexatious allegations" when they are alone with students.
In South Australia, more than 50 schools did not have a single male teacher in 2013.
Those figures are reflected across the nation: The Australian Bureau of Statistics' Schools Australia 2012 report indicated that the number of male teachers had declined in the previous decade.
The NSW Department of Education and Communities said the percentage of male primary school teachers slipped from 20.1 to 18.9 from 2009 to 2013, while male secondary school teachers fell from 45.3 to 43.
|Richard and Maureen Kanka|
By Cristina Rojas
The International Megan’s Law cleared a major hurdle Friday when the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously passed it.
Rep. Chris Smith (R-4th Dist.) has worked to pass the bill, which would expand the system of registering and tracking sex offenders to the international community, since 2008, when he first introduced the legislation. It was previously approved by the House in 2010.
It bears the name of Megan Kanka, a 7-year-old from Hamilton who, in 1994, was kidnapped, raped and killed by a repeat sex offender living nearby.
Under the bill, the United States would notify countries where registered sex offenders were seeking to travel. Those countries, in turn, would be asked to inform the U.S. when sex offenders travel to the U.S.
“The goals of this legislation do not stop at protecting children overseas from U.S. predators,” Smith said in a statement. “Sex offenders around the world are now able to cross borders and oceans to carry out their nefarious activity under the cloak of anonymity and disappear before a child is able or willing to reveal the crime.”
“The International Megan’s Law would establish the model needed for the U.S. to persuade other countries to take action to stop child sex tourism originating within their borders and threatening children in the United States and elsewhere,” Smith continued. “The goal is reciprocal notice.”
Smith said the International Megan’s Law would work in conjunction with anti-human trafficking laws, which Smith wrote and steered through Congress in 2000.
The bill is expected to be brought before the full House in the near future.