The Child Protection Bill aims to reduce sexual reoffending against child victims, and the risk posed by serious child sex offenders in New Zealand. This is going to be done mainly in the form of a sex offenders register. Submissions on the Bill have now closed and the report by the Social Services Committee is due March 2016.
29th October 2015 – The New Zealand Law Society (NZLS) submits their submission on the Bill. The NZLS submission proposes a more administratively demanding risk-based assessment system and suggests removing or reducing many of the requirements placed on offenders.
7th December 2015 – I write a reply to the NZLS submission pointing out many of the false assumptions, invalid points and lack of evidence to support the claims made within their submission.
Is Naming of Victims Really an Issue?
Following my reply to the NZLS being released I was interviewed by someone from the media and they asked me a question which flummoxed me somewhat. Of all the arguments against a sex offender register I’d previously read about or encountered, I’d never heard this argument before. The argument went something like this; “have you considered the fact that victims with the same surname as the the offender may be publicly shamed if a public register were implemented?”
My initial response was poor as I didn’t quite comprehend what was being asked and it was my first ever interview. However, on reflection I can tell you exactly why I’d never encountered this argument before, because it’s not really a issue, and here’s 4 compelling reasons why.
1. Victims names are not published on the register – This is a no-brainer. The victims are not named on any register so any relationship or connection is only inferred. No definite link can ever be made from a register alone. Anyway the proposed register isn’t even going to be publicly accessible (even though SST strongly wants this).
2. Other ways of finding out – these things don’t happen in a vacuum. There are many more definitive ways people can discover this info other than a hunch from a similar name. Word of mouth, the court case, media and news coverage are all other ways people find out what is happening in their community. Inferring a link from a similar name on a database is the least reliable and is by far the least pervasive means of disseminating this information, especially when compared to the other methods mentioned.
3. Do victims of sexual abuse really care if people know? Has anyone actually asked any victims if they think this is an issue?It’s not for us to say this is an issue. It’s up to them. The only ones who should feel shame here are the offenders. These poor young children have been traumatized. With all that they’ve gone through, do you really think these victims care if a few people think they know what happened to them? Really? At SST, we know that they don’t. What is more important to the victims is justice and making sure that these offenders don’t ruin any more lives.
4. So what if people do know – What’s the big deal? This issue implies a negative reaction. Think names on billboards and people pointing in the street and throwing rotten tomatoes. What kind of reaction do you really think people will have? The small minority of people that actually do know these people have been abused actually show only sympathy and support. There is no evidence of victim stigmatization, if even such a thing exists.
So now that I’ve addressed that issue, it’s time to get back the serious work of turning our legal system into a justice system and making sure the rights of victims and society are paramount.
I always like to have open dialogue regarding anything that interests me. The good thing about it, as in this case, is that these barriers can be broken down quickly before given a chance to strengthen. I thank the interviewer for giving me the chance to put this one back in the box early.