As far as I am concerned, anyone convicted of sexual indecency with a child should forever be known as a sexual offender regardless of whether they have paid their “debt” to society. This issue came up this weekend on a Facebook exchange in a group discussion about Carlos Rosas. I do not know all of the particulars about the case and I am completely relying on the information posted by Debbie Nathan, a journalist. At this point, I have no doubt that the factual information about the case she posted is accurate. As such, I am basing my comments on them because I believe the notion of having “paid their debt to society” is important to discuss, especially when it involves children.
The discussion on Facebook was started by Richard Barron on the Facebook group ChucoPedia and it quickly spread into two major points of view. Barron commented about the ongoing discussion Carlos Rosas’ mural and its possible removal. Personally I have not given much thought to the issue of the mural itself and whether it merits saving or not. I do not plan to take a position on that issue. What caught my attention and what I want to comment on is the position taken by some that they consider it to be an ad hominem attack to label someone a “sexual predator” after being convicted of sexual indecency with a child.
As I read through the comments I had two issues stand out for me. The first issue is about the best way to control an online conversation without interfering with the conversation while at the same time not allowing the vocal minority to hijack the conversation. There are individuals that online community administrators label “trolls” because they tend to hijack online conversations by distracting or drowning out the conversation. It is a difficult job the administrator has between balancing the right to free expression while not allowing a minority to silence discussion through distraction or by drowning out the conversation.
It is a battle waged on a regular basis and all of us make mistakes on how we handle it on a regular basis. There is no easy happy medium and invariably the discussion is affected by the actions of the administrator. I was therefore interested in seeing how the group’s administrators handled the heated discussion.
Interestingly the issue eventually came down to the notion that an individual “convicted on charges of sexual indecency with two girls,” minors to be sure could not be “attacked” based on their “CURRENT person.” Evidently, the issue Debbie Nathan, the group’s administrator, had was that she felt it was an ad hominem attack to post that “Carlos Rosas is: ‘He is a sexual predator. No punishment will change this, no rehabilitation will transform him ~ it’s indisputable fact.’” Nathan posted that Rosas “has paid his debt to society as we, that society, have defined the debt through the law.” Nathan added, “He has returned to society and currently we have no information that he continues to be a sexual predator.”
My problem with Nathan’s position is that it is my opinion journalists spend too much time playing with language that by the time the news is distributed to the readers or viewers it is so diluted that the complete context has been lost or distorted. Almost every newscast I see or every newspaper I read about an arrest is preceded with the word “alleged” crime. The problem is that an arrest is not an “alleged” arrest because it is in fact an arrest. Likewise, a criminal charge is not an “alleged charge” but rather the crime is alleged until adjudicated by the courts. But the criminal charge is a fact.
I understand that US society is litigious and therefore it is necessary to protect oneself from lawsuits. I get that. I also understand and comprehend that news about a crime is detrimental to the status of anyone especially when it is broadcast to a wide audience. However, the fact that someone was arrested based on criminal charges is a fact and the word “alleged” is just plain stupid. Let’s get back to the issue of whether Carlos Rosas is a sexual predator or not.
On the surface, Debbie Nathan’s stance is that Carlos Rosas is not a sexual predator because he has paid his debt to society and there is no indication that he is currently committing the crime. I believe this misses the whole point of personal responsibility.
Carlos Rosas served time for a sexual crime that the court system determined he perpetuated upon children. This is a fact. The question now becomes, is he a sexual predator?
Of course he is, because the courts made that determination. The fact that he has paid his debt to society does not erase or negate the fact that he committed the crime. As such, he is a convicted criminal that sexually abused two children. What about the two girls? How has their lives been affected by Rosas’ payment of his debt to society? Have their lives been normal since he took advantage of them?
The fact is we don’t know but we know that the “debt” that Carlos Rosas paid was to “society” and not to his victims. This now leads us to the question of whether a convicted criminal can shed the facts of their crimes once they have paid their debt to society. Should sexual predators be required to register as such and carry the “scarlet letter” on them the rest of their lives?
It is a difficult question that has no easy answer. However, to label a convicted sexual predator after they have paid their debt to society is not an ad hominem attack because the fact of the matter there are consequences to the actions one takes every day.
This is even truer when an adult abuses a child. By all accounts, Carlos Rosas is a sexual predator because he made choices with his life that affected the lives of many others. A murderer is a murderer even after paying their “debt” to society and therefore a sexual predator does not get to pretend they are not a sexual predator after “paying their debt to society.”
There are consequences to every decision we make in life. It is as simple as that.