What if a perpetrator is getting out of jail?

S/he has served his or her time. Now what?

For victims, it can be sheer horror

There is both relief and joy for a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and their families when a convicted perpetrator goes to jail.  The perpetrator can no longer gain access to a child. But that relief can be short-lived.

The typical felony child abuse sentence is a 2-3 years, unless there are special circumstances.Why? The economics of prison overcrowding and state constitutional rules regarding civil commitment.

The situation of Oblate priest James Rapp OSFS is different. Rapp is a Roman Catholic priest convicted to 40 years for child abuse, reduced to 16 years. He will be free in 2015. But his case is the exception, not the norm.

Recent Changes

The cases Bishop Finn in Kansas City and the conviction of Monsignor Lynn in Philadelphia have changed how criminally charged clerics plead. The last four priest perpetrators on 288 (a) child abuse in California (Father Denis Lyons in Orange; Rafael Venegas and Luis Jose Cuevas in Los Angeles and Uriel Ojeda in Sacramento) all pled guilty to reduced sentences. Why plead guilty? To keep the bishop or archbishop from testifying at trial.

But what is the perpetrator is still a threat?

If a state has a Sexual Predator Act, victims can suggest that the District Attorney charge the perpetrator as a Sexually Violent Predator (SVP). From a lay person’s viewpoint, SVP is a hybrid of criminal and mental health law, forcing an inmate to go before a mental health board before release is granted.

The public then can intervene and argue against the release for public safety reasons. They can show the perpetrator is still a danger, or that the paraphilia that he/she suffers from is a permanent psychic infirmity for which there is no guaranteed treatment.

Does SVP work? You bet! 

Every state needs a Sexual Predator Act to protect Children. The key is to act early and affirmatively. If your state has such a law, ensure your police report and criminal complaint plead all the violent acts with specificity. It will make the SVP determination.

It is hard and takes courage to make a police report. But do it for you—and the kids of today and tomorrow. If you know other survivors, encourage them to also come forward and make a report to law enforcement.

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