Predators - Stranger Danger.docx

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Steven Hayle

Predators: The Social Construction of “Stranger-Danger” -author argues that the social construction of predators as sick strangers is an ideological construct, that diverts attention from the fact that male intra-familial violence is by far the greatest threat to the safety of women + children Sexual Psychopathy Legislation -emergence of such laws from late 30s was heavily influenced by the media + psychiatric community  manipulated public opinion via sensationalizing -represented a shift from punishment to medical treatment of sex offenders -statutes fell into disuse with the growing realization that sex offenders did not suffer from any mental illness Heinous Acts Legislation -prior to 1990, Washington incarcerated all its sex offenders with the general prison population -increasing calls for more drastic solution to sex offender threat -triggers: -Gene Raymond Kane  rape + murder of woman -Earl Shriner  rape, assault, + attempted murder of 7yo boy -earlier triggers  Ted Bundy, Green River Killer Draconian Legislation -Washington State‟s Community Protection Act (1990)  “Predator Law” -mainly for coping with those who served their full term but still posed a threat -Three strategies -after committing necessary act + serving full term, the sex offender could be subject to indefinite civil commitment to a mental health facility for control/care/treatment -registration of sex offenders in communities which they lived -notification of the community that a sex offender moved in the area -predator = any person convicted/charged with sexual violence crime + suffers from mental abnormality/personality disorder which makes them likely to offend again -intra-familial sex violence not covered though  most cases sex violent predator is rapist known to victim or extra-familial child molester -issue is not the act, it is the political context within which the act occurs  under the law predators are primarily strangers (husbands can‟t be); if victim knows offender then can‟t be convicted as a predator -legislators felt that to make husbands subject to indefinite civil commitment would have had the effect of discouraging victims within families of reporting the abuse -main objections/why predator law is unconstitutional -authorizes lifetime preventive detention -doesn‟t meet constitutional requirements for involuntary civil commitment -doesn‟t require constitutionally adequate proof of dangerousness -too vague + doesn‟t specify constitutionally adequate commitment criteria The Gendered Nature of the Predator Law -skewed analysis of sexual violence against women who in reality face greater danger from men they know – counteracts feminist progress -obfuscation effect  hiding of the intended/true meaning -prevalence of wife rape is compounded by the fact that wives may be raped more than once -I argue these phenomena are best understood as part of the power relations of gender (author) -incest is striking in its capacity to be ordinary -made sense of their behaviour in terms of their family positions -men  paternal rights -girls  filial duty -displacement effect  the more concern is expressed about the threat of strangers, the less close relatives could be brought into the frame -link between intra-familial sexual violence toward women and children is that both are an expression of male power within a patriarchal system of families (patriarchal ideology) -wife/children economic dependence on male used as rationale for disqualifying large numbers of sexually violent men from being predators -media presentation of predation is best seen as an integral part of patriarchal ideology (unintentional, yet part of the problem) -law sees and treats women the way men see and treat women  institutionalizes male power -rooted in the nature of the patriarchal family and the historic rights ofa husband over his wife + children -there is an ebb and flow in the area of gender legislation -it is the argument of this article that the predator law constitutes androcentric legislation which, under the guise of protecting women and children, effectively upholds the historical separation of public and private spheres Examining the Predator Law, its Enforcement, and the Emerging Media Discourse -central question: “what ideological positions benefitted from the particular orientation of the predator law?” + “how did media support the orientation of the law?” -90% of all articles on sexual predators came from Seattle Times Newspaper Panicking About Sexually Violent Predators -moral panic  first used to refer to a societal overreaction to vandalism and the general disorderly behaviour of youth during the 60s in England -Claims-makers important in construction of folk devils (predator has become one) -serve as a form of societal control  produce overreaction on the part of authorities + some kind of crackdown ---The Initial Construction of Sexually Violent Predators: 3 themes -The Magnification of Danger -initial reporting of Shriner incident was an „atrocity tale‟, stressing physical mutilation + fail of criminal justice system -impression conveyed was there were large numbers of innocent children under threat from omnipresence of predators -mentioned groups (e.g. SAVUS) fighting the cause -aim was to seek legislative changes against offenders released but still a danger -failed entirely to contextualize these rare acts of stranger danger violence against the wider backdrop of intra-familial violence -constructed the threat posed by sexual predators to be more pervasive than it was -unspoken assumption that adult men safer  predators go for defenceless -Predicting Future Acts of Predation -moral panics assume that deviant acts/atrocities will recur -“We‟ve got to wait for him to offend when everybody knows he will again” -word „everybody‟ implies readers agree -simultaneously constructs the predator as outsider -“Absolutely no credible evidence we can predict dangerousness” (psychiatrist) -Symbolic Language and Sexually Violent Predation -most powerful imagery was of sex predator/fiend who stalked innocent children -media discovered someone that the criminal justice system could not cope with -when danger set alongside carefree childhood, predation becomes more sinister -hanging of sneakers on trees  symbol of freedom of child to roam, evokes memories of how same freedom can bring child into clutches of the predator - don‟t mention freedom/adventure always more readily available to boys -hidden implication is the presumptive safety in patriarchal home -stigma is forming through this imagery  attribute that is deeply discrediting -stigmatized person seen to be less than human ---The Rise of the Decontextualized Predator -construction of sexually violent predators disconnects predators from patriarchal culture -this process took its lead from patriarchal ideology embedded in the predator law -must now examine the way initial ideological positions were consolidated + discuss way atrocities were autopsied -Refining and Consolidating Initial Ideological Positions -intensity of stigma was continually reinforced by atrocity tale -defenceless theme repeated a lot -according to journalist, society mistakenly allows predators to be released upon completion
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