Monday, October 21, 2013

No Real Surprise: Virginia Politifact Determines Senator Obenshain’s Campaign Brochure on Sex Offender Legislation and Senator Herring is Mostly False. Fear and Myth About Sexual Predators is Still a Campaign Go-To in 2013

I previously posted about Senator Obenshain’s (who is running for Virginia Attorney General this November) Campaign Commercial where he falsely leads the viewers to believe/assume his opponent Senator Herring is a “sex offender sympathizer”. Obenshain is desperately grasping at straws with the old tried-and-true, never-fails, sexual-predator fear and myth platform to win an election. 

Well Senator Obenshain has stooped even lower. 

The Richmond Times Dispatch Politifact has ruled Senator Obenshain’s latest Sex Offender claim against Senator Herring from a new campaign brochure as Mostly False (see below). 

I have not only observed Senator Obenshain during the last 5 Virginia General Assembly sessions but I have stood on the other side of the podium opposing his bills and opposing other lawmaker’s bills to the Senate Courts of Justice Committee on which he sits.  

We’ve had a few encounters over the years including back in 2010 or 2011 Senator Obenshain attempted to embarrass me as I entered a full elevator in the General Assembly building in Richmond. Senator Obenshain was standing against the back wall of the elevator with another Legislator; there were 4-5 other citizens, lobbyists or staffers and one Virginia State Police official in full uniform. I stepped into the elevator next to the VSP representative and after the doors closed Senator Obenshain announced to the entire elevator but speaking to the VSP executive member that I was the woman who killed their “good” bill against sex offenders. The Senator did this to embarrass me,  but I was not the least bit embarrassed and I took the opportunity that the Senator created to introduce myself and my platform to the member of the VSP and handed him my card. The elevator doors opened and the member of the VSP left as quickly as he could, I turned around, smiled at Senator Obenshain and exited the elevator. 

So it was no surprise to me when Senator Obenshain attempted in two commercials and now a brochure to paint his opponent Senator Herring a member of the Virginia Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Advisory Board and sponsor of a 2013 bill (that I opposed at the September 3 VSCC meeting) to allow past sexual convictions to be entered into evidence of a new conviction as someone who doesn’t care about the safety of women or children in the Commonwealth. 

Manufacturing Fear: Halloween Laws for Sex Offenders by Emily Horowitz Associate Professor of Sociology

Excellent article!
Similar points to my earlier October 6 Posting  plus I posted about that ridiculous “Doctors” segment she mentions.

Thank you Emily Horowitz! 

Manufacturing Fear: Halloween Laws for Sex Offenders, October 21, 2013
by Emily Horowitz

In North Carolina, a sheriff tells parents to check the online sex offender registry before allowing children to trick-or-treat. In Montana, a town offers a "trunk-or-treat" event where kids can get Halloween candy from trunks of cars in a parking lot to avoid potential danger. In New York, "Operation Halloween: Zero Tolerance" prohibits sex offenders from wearing masks or costumes or answering their doors on Halloween, and, as a parole source says, "There is certainly nothing more frightening than the thought of one of these men opening their door to innocent children." In Oklahoma, a city council is considering an ordinance forbidding sex offenders from decorating their homes or passing out candy on Halloween. In Orange, California, sex offenders can't answer their door or have outside lighting on Halloween, but an additional ordinance requiring window signs saying, "No candy or treats at this residence" was recently revoked after attorneys argued it was a form of cruel and unusual punishment. 

Why worry about sex offenders on Halloween? Research shows no evidence of increased child sex abuse on Halloween and no evidence that a child was ever a victim of sexual abuse by a stranger while out trick-or-treating. This makes perfect sense, because government data shows the vast majority (about 93%) of sex crimes against children are not committed by strangers but by family members or acquaintances. Recently, the afternoon talk show The Doctors examined the debate over the "No candy" signs, and the physicians agreed that the existing laws that barring sex offenders from decorating their homes, having their lights on, and answering the door are probably enough to keep kids safe without the additional signs. Nevertheless, the message to the audience was clear: special sex offender laws are especially important on Halloween.  

These laws are the direct product of a culture marked by decades of irrational fears about children and safety on Halloween. Sociologists, such as Joel Best, have tried to understand the urban myths surrounding poisoned candy on Halloween. Media reports warning of potential dangers, such as razor blades in apples, first appeared in the early 1970s, and then spread via word-of-mouth. Best has never found a death or injury of a child on Halloween related to candy based on his decades of research -- and the only substantiated case involves a child deliberately harmed by his own father. 

These myths rely on the premise that evil adults are waiting to harm innocent children on Halloween. The poisoned candy myths emerged during a time of increasing fear of crime was increasing and growing awareness about child abuse and child safety. Today, even the Center for Disease Control warns children to only eat pre-wrapped candy and to avoid all homemade treats. The implication is not just that there is a legitimate and genuine risk for poisoning -- after all, the Centers for Disease Control is a federal agency solely concerned with preventing disease and injury, and they are telling children unwrapped, poisoned treats are a real hazard -- but that buying pre-wrapped candy for children is a more caring and neighborly act than baking homemade cookies or giving out fresh fruit. In other words, the sterility of consumerism can keep us safe and sound.