"Having Same Name As Sex Offender Complicates Sweet Home Man's Life
Between fictional shows and actual news coverage, sex crimes are constantly being thrown at us through the media. Many think that this is a good thing because it is bringing people's attention to a serious problem in our society, but is the way the information presented more harmful than helpful? Shows such as Law and Order Special Victims Unit having their entire plot line deal with nothing but sex crimes. Other's like the clip from Veronica Mars add a sex crime into the plot for dramatical purposes. Then there are shows such as "To Catch a Predator" that lure men into houses under the false pretenses that they are going to have sex with minors. And of course, there is the news. The news loves to address issues that are high profile, provocative, and that will cause a rise from the viewers; like the story about Catholic priests sodomizing young alter boys.
With recent technological developments on the Internet, it is now possible to get online and search your neighborhood to see if there are any registered sex offenders living near by and get an entire profile of their offenses: picture, physical description, when they were convicted, their type of children they target, methods of offending, conditions and restrictions, and of course, where they live. (Check out kgw.com/crimetracker) While this can be helpful to some degree, it can also be damaging. Take artifact 2: the story of the mistaken identity of the man from Sweet Home, Oregon who's neighbors spread rumors throughout the community that he was a sex offender (http://www.katu.com/news/25465059.html).
The show "To Catch a Predator": While I have never seen the show myself, I have conflicting feelings about it. I think that there is not enough being done on law enforcement's behalf on trying to catch these people and therefore am glad that someone is putting some energy into this. But at the same time, is it really necessary to have a reality tv show about it? A few clips that I looked at online did not block the man's face to hide his identity, which I feel is a potential legal violation because it could be argued as a violation of privacy, or possible slander or entrapment or something. I would like to make a side note about the influence of the media and the idea discussed in class about culture influencing the media and vice versa: I am a fan of the show "Without a Trace" and within the last month there was an episode about a man who was involved in a similar operation of catching predators went missing and how the Dateline show may have influenced the writers for that episode of "Without a Trace."
I think that it is important to address serious issues such as sex crimes, however I do not feel that we are doing our society any favors by just prosecuting these people and then releasing them into the world again (after they have served their time). Granted, they are required to register as sex offenders, but that isn't going to help the offender from having urges. We are only identifying a problem, and not really taking action to help prevent future problems. In fact, recent polling reflects that majority of Americans would like law makers in Washington to address the matter of rehabilitating these people, and are even willing to see an increase in taxes to help fund it (Mears et al., 2008). I also feel that while the media may mean well, and may just be trying to raise our awareness of the harsh reality of sex crimes, I don't believe we have found a balance between informing people and scaring people.