Mental health articles

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Identification and control of the offender in child sexual abuse

Identification and control of the offender in child sexual abuse If children are allowed to remain in their homes with their nonoffending guardians, then the manner in which offenders are handled by the system must also change. The most important change is that offenders need to be removed from the child’s environment or, if allowed to stay, need to be monitored closely by law enforcement so that the victim can be protected. Because this is such a complex issue, it is recommended that a panel of legal and child sexual abuse experts be brought together to consider methods for protecting children while allowing them to remain in their homes. Two issues need to be addressed. The first issue is how to get offenders out of the immediate environment of the child and second is how to make law enforcement (instead of the mother) responsible for protecting the victim. Both require the commitment of local and state governments for their success. The first issue—how to remove the offender instead of the child from the home—is fraught with legal considerations. Because it is primarily a legal issue, it is beyond the scope of this book. It does seem logical to suggest, however, that if there is enough evidence to conclude that abuse likely occurred, then there should be enough evidence to conclude that the alleged offender is a potentially serious threat to the child. Just as victims of domestic violence can seek protection through a restraining order, it seems that courts, acting to protect the child, could issue orders requiring offenders (even if they were only alleged offenders) to maintain adequate distance from the victim. If punishment were to include automatic incarceration or other severe penalties, then alleged and convicted offenders would be less inclined to violate the order. The second issue is how law enforcement can enforce these orders. Here it seems that the likely solution is the implementation of sophisticated monitoring such as the global positioning system. This method has already been partially implemented in at least four states to monitor violent felons and sex offenders (Leinknecht, 1997). If such a monitoring system were implemented in all states, then law enforcement would be able to enforce the court orders. It might also be possible that victims and their families could temporarily be moved to safe houses that were constantly monitored, thus ensuring the safety of the victim. Alternately, alleged or known offenders could be moved to temporary residents so that the victims could remain with their nonoffending guardians within their own homes.

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