50,000 "sexual predators"?

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In Albert Gonzales's anti-child-porn speech today he claimed:
Of course, the National Center and law enforcement have been focused on identifying, investigating, and prosecuting these offenders for some time. But I welcome the media's recent focus. It's important that the public learns how serious and widespread this threat actually is in America today because of the ease and anonymity of communication over the Internet.

According to one study, one child in every five is solicited online. The television program "Dateline" estimated that, at any given time, 50,000 predators are on the Internet prowling for children. It is simply astonishing how many predators there are, and how aggressively they act.

The "one in five" claim comes from the Youth Internet Safety Survey. I've blogged about this survey before, but the bottom line is that the one-in-five statistic is fairly misleading in a number of respects. The great majority of solicitations were of teenagers 14-17, technically children I suppose, but not really the image that the statistic conveys. Moreover, only 4% of the solicitation was by adults over 25, so this more looks like come-ons across the 18 barrier than like dirty old men. Oh, I should also mention that according to this study: "None of the solicitations led to an actual sexual contact or assault."

I haven't heard the 50,000 statistic before, but a little bit of searching seems to indicate that it's one of those statistics that gets thrown around as "has been estimated" without any real support. The first public appearance seems to be a Dateline program entitled "Catching potential Internet sex predators" aired November 10, 2005. Unfortunately, no primary source is cited. I can't find any actual study that's the source of this estimate--but would be very interested to see how it was derived.


I reached the point several years ago of just assuming any quoted statistic of this kind from an activist group (including the government, when it's in save-them-from-themselves mode) is bogus.Of course, the really fun statistics are the ones where, when you think about them, they're impossible or would lead to a radically different world than the one we live in.

I think the general process by which these statistics are developed is pretty obvious. The news story needs a sensational number. They ask a bunch of respectable sources, each of whom says something like "that's a really good question, someone should do some research on that" or "boy, I tried to answer that last year, and you wouldn't believe how hard it was to tease any kind of meaningful answer at all out of the lousy data that exists." They keep going till they find someone who gives them some nice soundbite.

A similar process leads to Pat Robertson and Jerry Fallwell getting on TV once every six months or so. "The 9/11 attacks are a terrible tragedy, and we'll pray for all the victims" doesn't get you onto the national news, but "This is God's punishment for not having a pogrom against gays" does. Said televangelists understand this, and respond accordingly.

God is a loving God not vengeful like people think on judgement day he will be the judge true christians should love every one even gays how will you lead them to salvation by putting them down

In 1967, early in my law practice, I first discovered, in another privileged and confidential part of my life, the horrible lasting damage done by the sexual abuse of young children, most of it incest, and a lot of it by perpetrators with big corner offices. The most unforgettable part was the nice young lady standing up, after finally getting up courage to talk about this, dropping her head, shifting down into a little Child voice I have since come to know all too well in others, and saying "I'll leave now. You won't want me here. I'm so dirty!" Furious, we talked her into staying.

Unexpectedly, much of my 35 year law practice, especially the last 13 years of it, found me drowning in survivors of very real child sexual abuse, mostly incest, across the socio-economic, racial and ethnic, and political spectrum, including daughters, sisters, and nieces of elected and high appointed officials. I originally met most of these by court appointmentw in diverse matters.

Anyone who tries to tell you that the amount of child sexual abuse in this country is over-reported or over-estimated is dead wrong.

While there are more false reports now than earlier, including some generated by spectacular errors in interview technique by people who should have known better in high-profile cases, and those suborned by adults, including one case in which an eight year old kid conned me out of thousands of dollars worth of work and convince a judge before the truth came out of his own mouth and an expert investigation, those who try to sell the idea that a large part of such reports actually originating with the child, as distinguished from those originating with parents in custody fights, etc., are false and that these reports, and the testimony of children generally, should not be taken at face value, and claim any manner of real expertise and knowledge to support these assertions, are liars, and their children and others under their authority should be inerviewed and investigations of their safety or abuse initiated immediately.

Too many people have been conned into believing that most of these allegations are lies or fantasies. I just read a long posting on another site to that effect by an "expert" whose degree and professional experience are in math and computers, not children, the dynamics of interviewing children, or the recongized symptoms of survivors of these horrors as children, and whose cited source was a magazine published by a cult with a financial interest in negating such reports and a history of dishonesty and not a peer-reviewed journal recognized in any respectable scientific or medical discipline. Some people, including some otherwise smart people, may be conned about this, given natural reluctance to believe that family members from "good" families, your church or other group, etc., would molest their own children or close relatives, but they're wrong and obviously have not actually done real work in this field, or spent much really close time with any number of children, survivors of suicide attempts, CPS workers, school teachers and counselors, mental health professionals, legal secretaries and trainees, etc. Ask yourself one question: Since Texas has never recognized a cause of action, even the right of a child to sue a parent for damages for incestuous rape, why would a child or adult former child tell her teacher, her boyfriend, her new employer, or her lawy4er in an entirely different kind of legal matter about having been raped as a child if it wasn't true? The Mexican consul and her lawyer told me "Mexicans don't do that," but the medical evidence at trial proved beyond doubt that my client, the Mexican defendant, did, and the best scientific and crime statistics evidence I've seen proves this is pretty constant across different groups. The three yer old child I was cuddling when she suddenly anounced, with some obvious surprise, "You're a nice man and don't bite me" turned out to have bite marks in her genital area, but she's not in the statistics because our call to the Texas Child Abuse Hot Line was ignored. I have seen too many cases, including one where I was appointed to handle the convicted defendant's appeal, in which judge's neighbors and other prominent people get on the witness stand and swear that a well-connected defendnt didn't commit sex crimes against two family members about which they couldn't possibly have had any personal knowledge or testimonial competence. The well-connected good friend of a client's mother was actually trying to tell me what wonderful people my client's parents were and didn't realize that she had not only contradicted her father on a major point of fact and proved him a liar, but described a textbook case of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in my client as a young child years before her father said she had any problems. Start investigating a defendant's claim of fabrication and frame-up in these cases and what you usually find is additional credible victims who can often provide corroborating details of anatomy, modus operendi, etc., without even knowning the real name of the other victim. I've had children beg me to get them INTO juvenile detention or the hospital, and have been asked by a child to kill her, to escape abusive situations. I've been appointed to represent and dealt with many, many clients as young as 6, 8, 9, 11, 13, 15, and 17 who had made one or more really medically sreious suicide attempts, and know of suicides as young as 8. It takes pretty awful abuse to make a child of such young ages choose death over life and do things like trying to get run over, hanging, cutting, ripping the stitches out of their prior slit throat, etc.

I've represented some con men who made the front page of The Wall Street Journal, and child sex offenders, especially incestuous child sex offenders from "good" white-collar families, are far and away the best liars I've ever met, but their stories don't hold water under investigation.

Once the word gets around that you are willing to stand up for a child and you might be amazed at who, and how many, people disclose histories of abuse. Husbands reveal their wives screaming "No, Daddy, No!" before they fully wake up when they awaken them with amorous intentions. Teachers and hospital personnel call about what they know and about which the authorities won't act. Two girls in Juvenile Detention who told me of being molested by a guard weren't there at the same time and didn't know each other, but both knew things only his wife or urologist should have known. A judge told me he was appointing me to represent the children in one case because a family member had long been reputed to "go after young girls" during his several terms in elective office but nobody had ever investigated this. Where do you rhink kindergarten and eleven year old, etc., boys observed attempting rape of babies and younger children learned that behavior? Can you conceive of one plausible, non-criminal way in which a profoundly retarded ten year old child could catch an STD, much less the same ones her stepfather defendant was found to have?

Th3 first time I picked a jury on an allegation of incestous child abuse by a father in a divorce and child custody case, which the top expert I got appointed as attorney for the allegedly moelsted children, the court, and I all found were lies, not one member of a 160 member jury panel, including the Chief Probation Officer of this county who had been and was supervising sex offenders on probation, would admit, openly or privately, ever even having heard of a case of child abuse. The person one of those prospective jurors later told me had molested him as a child, but that he was too afraid ot admit having been victimized, was later convicted of anohter such crime against another young child as an older person. I have my own theories about why the Chief Probation Officer, a trained psychologist, handling such probationers, lied about that.

The experts I know, who include one Ph.D. used by Big Brothers to designed their screening program and by the Air Force in child sexual abuse issues from whom I have taken courses. professors of medicine, psychiatry, etc., of high national repute, pediatricians, child psychiatrists, experts in suicide dynamics and prevention, trained CPS and law enforement experts, some of whom had volunteered their own histories of child sexual abuse to me, prosecutors, child advocay attorneys, criminal and insurance defense counsel in such cases, and professional experts each or sometimes both sides, as well as courts, regularly use in such cases, educational psychology professors and the student clinic at the local state university, an oral surgeon who told me of being struck by how many of his TMJ sugery patients he had been told by their regular doctors had such histories, are almost universally convinced that child sexual abuse, especially incest which is far more of it than stranger danger althoguh the strangers mkill more often, are convinced, as I am, that the statistics and many of the estimates of the prevalance of child sex abuse are significantly low rahter than high. Any of the people who publish claims that 95% of such reports are false, a figure I have seen many times in print and heard from non-experts who should know better, are so patently unfounded themselves as to qualify as outright lies on the part of those promoting them, many of whom turn out to have financial liability concerns and other motives to misrepresent.

Experts have taught me some non-leading, non-suggestive, open-ended questions to use that don't even mention sex or child abuse which often surface the truth.

I know exactly where the smartest dog I ever met learned about child sexual abuse and its lasting symptoms, but no dog trainer I know, nor those who train dogs to work with war vets and torture survivors and discovered they were also very helpful with sexual assault victims, chld and adult, who I don't know personally but have asked, has been able to tell me how you could train a dog to recognize a survivor of child sexual abuse with the amazing accuracy he demonstrated if you tried to duplicate this behavior. I'm convinced he learened to read behavioral and voice cues like good human experts. Of course, I've seen some supposedly expert psychiatrists, etc., whose determinations in individual cases, especially those that the abuse did not happen, later proven clearly and spectacularly wrong by additioanl evidence the expert had needed but not obtained, or later admissions by the perpetrators and other such convincing evidence. You're going to see more accurate results with new DNA evidence, etc., but all the real experts say that there is no physical evidence in 80% of sustained cases of sexual abuse of young children.

Oh, I know about chi-square and other statistical techniques and significance tests, confidence levels, populations, universes, and a lot of other such stuff, thoug I barely got through the course. If you had all the data, including being 100% or even 95% sure whoever actually did the interviews got them right which is impossible, and if there were not powerful biases against disclosure and reporting, and if you could ever decide on how to put cases in one column or the other as established, unable to be sure beyond reasonable doubt, unfounded, etc., which is about as mathematically precise as the location of the wesern boundary of the LImberlost Swamp, from which, so help me, some land boundaries I worked with in my law practice were measured to five decimal places of an inch without regard for hot or cold, dry or rainy weather, etc., or the fact that thee swamp was drained and hasn't existed since 1905, or rankings in my law school class based on four decimal place scorings of essay exams. How many math whizzes work as CPS nvestigators, detectives, psychologists, or lawyers? The bottom line is that no statistical number will tell you the answer in an individual case. Of course, you're talking to a judge who went to law school because he hated or couldn't do math any more than the lawyers trying to present this stuff can, and a jury most of whom, including a lot of the school teachers who all wind up on the panel in the summer, couldn't balance a checkbook if their lives depended on it. One of the best jury consultants in Texas taught me to take an intuitive psychologiy or sociology student, not a math major, to jury selection.

If, and only if, the court lets the jury hear enough from all sides, including letting witnesses have enough rope to make fools and liars of themselves, jurors have a pretty good chance of getting child sex abuse cases, like others, right. I've had a client convince their probation officers, and me, that they were innocent of sex offenses until, as the jury forfeman explained afterward, after the two alleged rape victims, students who, by the time of trial, wer a police officer and a probation officer, had convinced the jury that they were both liars,the defendant decided to take the stand and convinced the jury that he was a bigger liar than they were. I never have figured out why one female juror held out for probation for two days in one of the worse child rape cases I ever heard of, where the defendant conceded that the crime had happened, denied doing it, and told the jury himself that the real culprit should get a long sentence, before the others, who had all voted for life, got her up to fifty years, but later the truth of his guilt, explained to me by one juror, was further confirmed by additional evidence. Unfortunately, courts too often exclude novel scientific evidence outright instead of letting the jury test it for themselves. If you know what to look and listen for, even judging the credibility of a really psychologically messed up abuse survivor or alleged victim, or expert, respectively, is not all that different from deciding who is telling the truth about whether the light was red or green.

Remember the voice shift I mentioned having observed when I first heard an accont of child sexual abuse from a survivor? If you have never seen anyone you knew well actually dissociate, much less regress to a small chld and not recognize you but be able to recognize people and events from childhood with amazing detail, split into multiple personalities, etc., as the result of early childhood seuxal abuse, you, or a judge or jury similarly situated, might be very hard to convince that this is real, but I know experts and patients dealing with this well and have actually personally seen it, and confirmed the accuracy of some such recovered recollections, myself, in one case yers after a leading neurologist, after eight days of continuous testing and monitoring, had put Dissociaitive Identity (Multiple Personality) Disorder atthe top of his "rule out" list. It blew my mind and I starting singing "I saw the witch doctor, woo, woo woo," too when I first heard that, and I knew the people well and saw the regressions, splits, and recovery in that and other cases personally, in therapy, and in my law practice over time. I've seen this portrayed on televison, well and badly, but no actress on earth could fake it without a script for the recollections, etc. if she wanted to.

Have you ever been FALSELY accused of a sex crime? I have, more than once. It sort of oges with this terrotory. It's an awful expreience.
Trust me, I sympathize with anyone falsely accused.

In the first of these, as a teenager, the girl and I both knew and said it had never happened, to either of us, by anyone, but it was fifty (50) years before we found each other again on line, exchanged information, and figured out the awful truth about what lies each of us, and others, had been told, and some people who should have known better had chosen to believe.

My favorite example, one of the risks of a life many of the best parts of which have been devoted to children even when my bread and butter practice was real estate, involved a little six yeasr old girl I love whose mother discovered physical evidence, freaked out, and didn't handle the matter right. Pressured for an answer with the family, others, and me present, the desperate child looked around and said "Pete." I have faced imminent death many times starting about six, and fully expected to be shot on the spot before this could be cleared up, but was more afraid of being branded a child molester than of dying. Fortunately, another child knew the truth, too, and piped up ". . . you know it wasn't Pete, it was" at which point the terrified victim claped her hand over her friend's mouth and said "He'll kill us!" It turned out that the real culprit, who had threatened them with death if they told on him, was in the room. The next big shock was that the real perpetrator was too young to qualify as a juvenile delinquent. I wanted whoever taught him prosecuted, but, even after I went to a peace officer with experience in this awful field the next morning and reported these events, and she said "Pete, that was a great honor. She trusted you," nohting was ever done. How do you open a case on a perpetrator below the age of accountability? I shudder at the future of this child, whoever taught him such behaviors, and their future victims. The dear little girl later too the initiative, introduced me to some other children, and told them what a nice, safe man I was adn how much I love children. My wife doesn't like me to tell that story but I'm proud of it.

I got listed as a fact witness in one civil suit over child sexual abuse, and to this day I never have been able to find or figure out why because I still don't know who the actual or alleged victim or victims were and, of course, certainly didn't witness the alleged offense.

I got cut from a jury venire in a case of aggravated sexual asault with a firearm against a "good Samaritam" who had given the stranger vicitm a ride recently after being asked, by the prosecutor, if I could consider a minimum probation in the case and I replied that I would follow the law but that I had just heard aggrabvated, sexual assault, deadly weapon, firearm, etc. though I hadf not heard about any defense or mitigation, if any, the defendant's lawyer might try to raise, nor heard any evidence. I also mentioned that which side might want or not want me on that jury might well depend upon whether the defendant was really factually guilty or innocent. Without knowing that nobody would go to a jury, as permitted in Texas, for punishment in such a case, right after that jury had convicted the defendant, an election that has to be made berore tiral, unless the defendant could not possibly legally get probation form the court, the jury seated sentenced him to 90 years, about where I suspect I would have come out if that case were proven. Having walked into a jury room a bit late and slipped into the back of the panel of prospective jurors in a highly publicized murder of a parent by a teenager in Dallas just in time to discover the panel voting on whether to give the sixteen year old defendant life or death after they convicted her as they were all sure they would, soe things aobut juroes do scare me, but they usually get it right somehow. I think all the prospective jurors in North Carolina have already decided how they will vote in a highly publicized controversial pending rape case, which, like too many other cases, both sides have already tried in the media.

i hate you all

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