Many people - in fact almost everyone except the News of the World - think that this is a Bad Thing. The recent naming and shaming of paedophiles in this somewhat downmarket publication has caused a man who resembled one of the people whose picture was published to be targetted and sent threatening letters by vigilantes, and has also caused several riots. A Sarah's Law has been rushed through the House of Commons (there is an equivalent in the US, called Megan's Law), but was stopped dead by the House of Lords.

The debate therefore continues, with neither side yet playing the Civil Rights card. One side is ignoring the civil rights of the children who are attacked, and the other side is ignoring the civil rights of people who have served their sentences to be left alone. It seems that both sides are ignoring the fact that children are many times more likely to be attacked by someone they know than by a stranger. Once again the facts have been left behind in the heat of argument, and everyone has forgotten what the argument started about.

Zulu One said: "It seems that both sides are ignoring the fact that children are many times more likely to be attacked by someone they know than by a stranger."

Exactly. Someone they know, like their next-door-neighbor, or their scoutmaster, or someone from church -- all those people who would be kept out of those positions of authority, or not given a chance to be alone with children, if the fact that they had been convicted of child sexual abuse was made public.

As a survivor of sexual abuse (see A Letter to My Grandfather) I have mixed feelings about public knowledge of names/locations of pedophiles. I know my grandfather has been accused of molesting at least one child outside of the family (though I don't know details). I remember when he was volunteering to tutor recent immigrants in English, he talked about the sweet little children of the families, who picked up the language so much faster than their parents, in a way that made me suspicious. I would like to be able to keep every child away from that bastard; I don't even like my younger siblings encountering him in a room full of other people.

On the other hand, I used to know a guy who had molested a six-year-old when he was fifteen. By the age of 20 when he told me what he'd done, he was completely repentant and I'd trust him with children. How could you tell the difference between my grandfather and my friend? (How could I know if I am right about which one of them can be trusted?) So I've never been able to wholeheartedly support or oppose "naming and shaming."

Later addendum: lj tells me that "In Britain the sex offenders register (which existed prior to sarah payne and all the debate about naming and shaming) already makes known the identites of convicted sex offenders to people responsible for groups of children (headteachers, ministers, the boy scouts organization, etc.). To most people this is an acceptable compromise between human rights and child protection, but Sara Payne and the news of the world campaigns that it should be made available to the general public. The debate in Britain was not about a list of paedorasts and using it to protect children from them, but whether the general public should have access to it." Frankly, my reaction to that is: Aren't parents responsible for children? My examples are "someone from church" -- not necessarily a Sunday-school teacher (who would be kept out of such a position by the minister's knowledge under the system lj describes) but just someone in the congregation who seems nice to the whole family. Or my grandfather, who was tutoring adults and just happened to come in contact with their children as well. Children do not only come in contact with adults in circumstances where some other adult can filter out molesters.

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