Going Too Far

Long time readers know that I have devoted a large chunk of my life (and income) to aiding innocent people gain the skills they need to fight their way through a violent criminal attack. I count it as my life’s work.

Obviously, I have a great deal of concern for the welfare of anyone who is a potential victim. Children in particular. As civilized people, we have a duty to protect the most vulnerable in our society.

But this admirable desire to protect children can lead to some extreme abuses of government power.

Case in point is this news article, which discusses a proposed law in Maine. If it passes, then “visual sexual aggression” against children will become a felony.

“Visual sexual aggression”? What does that mean? It means you can go to jail if you are observed to look at children in a public place.

Dr. Helen, who first blogged about this article, asks some very pointed questions. What is the difference between simply watching children in a public place, perhaps at a mall or city park, and actual visual sexual aggression? Who determines that, exactly?

Dr. Helen also points out that women will probably never run afoul of this law, since it is a treasured myth of our culture that women are never guilty of sexual abuse. But what about men like me, a big ol’ hairy-scary guy who is physically confident, and who always tries my best to be aware of everyone in sight? Do I have to start staring at the ground whenever I’m out in the open air, eyes demurely downcast like a woman in a country where Sharia holds sway? Do I have to wear a burkha next?

How in the world do you defend yourself against the accusation that you were gazing at a child with “visual sexual aggression”? “Sure, officer, I was watching the kids. But they were getting pretty close to the edge of the frozen pond, and I didn’t see their parents around. What was I supposed to do, just walk away and trust that Darwinian forces would strengthen the species?”

Many of the rights taken for granted by the general population are forever denied to those convicted of a felony. You can no longer vote in a national election, for example, and most state and local elections are also closed to the convicted.

What is worse in my eyes is that it becomes a crime to possess a firearm, the very tool needed to protect yourself and your loved ones. I don’t object to this restriction where violent criminal offenders are concerned, but to forever be made helpless because one was seen to be gazing at children in public? Might as well start locking men up for walking down the street, simply because they are men who have the gall to wander around in public spaces, and stop all pretense of trying to actually protect anyone from crime.

I don’t think anyone here will be surprised to find out that the state Representative who proposed the law, Dawn Hill, is a Democrat.

(Hat tip to Glenn.)

6 thoughts on “Going Too Far”

  1. I love watching my nephews and nieces play, I love hanging around with them and buying them ice cream or take them out to the movies. I love watching children everywhere they are, I simply believe children are, by nature, a beautiful thing to see and enjoy seeing, just like puppies and kitties and calves are a delight to see. Surely there are people who watch children perversely, surely there are perverted people, but who can tell the difference between one way of looking at them and another?

    I think this law is non sense.

  2. As a side note, notice that the law is predicated on the idea that the agents of the state will be able to determine if someone is looking “aggressively” at someone else in such a way that they can prove it court. It shows a staggering trust in the criminal justice system.

    I think this is another instance of “recreating victoria” i.e. the attempt to recreate in formal law what was once enforced by informal culture. In the old days, if a cop saw someone looking at kids funny, they’d haul them in on some other pretext and rattle their cage or somebody in the community would have “word” with them in a back alley. The system probably worked pretty well because it relied on raw unprovable intution. In any case the case of error the worst an innocent person might get would be some bruises and not a life long sentence to a sexual offenders list.

    Now days, we have to a law on paper but to have any hope of enforcement they have to have some sort real sanctions against the convicted. This law basically saws that if a cop doesn’t like the way you look at somebody, you life is ruined.

  3. The article that Dr Helen cited was poorly written–According to other sources (linked from her comments), there’s more to “Visual sexual aggression” than just looking. There have to be bare genitals, nipples or buttocks involved–Either an adult showing his/hers to a child, or looking at a child’s. The guy hanging around the bathroom was actually following boys into the bathroom to watch them, and the “loophole” was that the bathroom was public, not that he was looking at clothed children.

  4. I agree with your concerns, and yet…
    A couple of years ago, I was riding my bike on the east side of Portland when I stumbled onto a skateboard park ( featured in the movie Paranoid Park ) full of teenager doing amazing things on their boards. I watched them for a while and then noticed another man watching them. He was well dressed, standing next to a nice BMW with the doors open and hip-hop music blaring out. Something about his demeanor made me uncomfortable. I wound up ride my bike over to him and made a big show of staring at the plates on his car as if I were memorizing them. Then I rode off.
    Not saying there should be a law, but some awareness of potential problems could be beneficial.

  5. I had a disturbing experience a year or so ago. At a condo where I was staying, a group of 4 gay guys have a unit that they share (I had enjoyed talking, occasionally, with one of these men who was a full-time resident over a two week period). One of his co-owners, a week-end resident, showed up and was introduced to me outside. When my nephew, a good looking blond kid of 11 walked up this guy leered and acted as if he would like to eat him. Who knows what was in his mind but he was digusting and I was disgusted and amazed. So, I don’t know how I feel about the law, but I know how I feel about this particular perv.

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