15 years ago an innocent 12 year old boy got a computer for Christmas.
He put it in his bedroom, because it was his, and he could do what he
wanted. Soon enough the young boy learned about chat rooms and found online
friends. He met interesting friends - he thought. Those friends talked
about things he didn't know about, like sex, and pornography. He was
being groomed. Soon he would secretly meet one of the men he was talking
to online. Suprisingly the man was in his 50's. The boy suffered a
childhood of sexual abuse.
A few weeks ago the police showed up at that boys home. They weren't
there because they found out about the abuse and wanted his help to punish
the man for what he had done. They were there to arrest the boy. The police
say that twice in the past eighteen months he had clicked on child pornography.
He faces state or federal charges for child pornography. He could face
state or federal prison
Federal Crimes , registration as a sex offender
Sex Crimes , probation and a permanent criminal record.
There is little doubt that mistreatment leads to a higher risk that the
victim will commit crimes in the future. Neglect, physical abuse and sexual
abuse all lead to increased likelihood of criminal activity in the future.
There have been several terms given to the findings like "cycle of
violence" and "intergenerational transmission of violence".
The question that is repeatedly presented to lawyers is: should a defendant
be treated differently if they were the victim of a crime themselves?
Is it fair for two people to commit the same crime and be treated differently
because of their background? Some people would say the background is irrelevant
- the criminal act is the same and punishment must always be the same
- anything else is unjust. They would say that being lenient on victims
authorizes illegal behavior. They may say that if prior victims are treated
more leniently it unfairly punishes those who were not victims in the
past. I agree that violence against others is never justified by a defendant's
I think past victimization is a relevant consideration. No two criminal
cases are the same and they should all be treated individually. The potential
outcome in a criminal case affected by the jurisdiction and judge assigned
to a particular case (see
How do Judges sentence?). Trying to treat each person accused of a crime "the same' is
not only impossible, it is a disservice to the criminal justice system.
To me, everything is relevant. The reason that a crime is committed central
to the issue of fairness. I think most people agree.
In my opinion past victims are more likely to be good candidates for alternative
sentences like probation. Self awareness that can be provided by counseling
is more likely to be palatable for all involved when there is documented
proof of victimization and/or the crime in question is relatively minor.
It is difficult to argue that society is not served by treating the root
of the problem for the abused, instead of simply punishing the action
and leaving them to commit another crime in the future.