A Crooked Picture: Re-Framing the Problem of Child Sexual Abuse

27 Pages Posted: 10 Jan 2011

See all articles by Eric S. Janus

Eric S. Janus

Mitchell Hamline School of Law

Emily A. Polachek

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: 2009


This article discusses the problem of ending child sexual abuse using an allegory explaining that certain types of punitive solutions as solving the river "downstream", or in problem-solving mode, as opposed to "upstream", or in prospective problem avoidance. The thesis of this brief article is that our public policy is focused too far downstream. We rightly condemn child sexual abuse, but our public discourse frames the issue in a way that misdirects our public policy towards downstream solutions. If we truly want to protect our children from sexual abuse and end the cycle of violence, we need to reframe the way we seek solutions so that more of our resources and creative problem-solving are at the upstream end of the problem. We need to find out where the the problem is dropped into the river - and why - so that we can address it before it harms children. This article encourages a reframing of the issue of child sexual abuse to address the problem more comprehensively and systematically. Part I is an introduction explaining the allegory and indicating how our current paradigm of child sexual abuse leads us astray in directing resources intended prevent child sexual abuse. Part II of this article delves into the origins of contemporary sexual predator laws, briefly tracing their roots in the feminist and conservative movements at the end of the twentieth century. Part III outlines the resulting legislation. Part IV examines the disconnect between the policy underlying sexual predator laws and the realities of child sexual abuse. Finally, Part V offers an alternative frame for addressing the issue of child sexual abuse.

Keywords: Child sexual abuse, sexual predator laws, recidivism, sexual offenders, child molesters, child abuse, preventative legislation, rape myths, sexual violence, rape law, moral panic, civil commitment, registration laws, notification laws, residential restrictions, Jacob Wetterling Act, Megan's Law

Suggested Citation

Janus, Eric S. and Polachek, Emily A., A Crooked Picture: Re-Framing the Problem of Child Sexual Abuse (2009). William Mitchell Law Review, Vol. 36, No. 1, 2009, William Mitchell Legal Studies Research Paper , Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1736698

Eric S. Janus (Contact Author)

Mitchell Hamline School of Law ( email )

875 Summit Ave
St. Paul, MN Minnesota 55105-3076
United States
6126954928 (Phone)
6126954928 (Fax)

Emily A. Polachek

affiliation not provided to SSRN

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