NEWS BLOG (WSAU) – I’m not suggesting for a moment that we de-criminalize statutory rape or date rape. Both are crimes. Both are damaging for their victims. Punishment is certainly appropriate.
But there is a difference between a boy who has sex with his 15-year-old girlfriend, or a man who forces himself on his girlfriend, and a violent rapist who lurks in an alleyway at night looking for a victim to walk by. Our laws have done a lousy job differentiating between the different types of rape. In some cases, the punishment is too severe. In far too many, the punishment is too lenient.
Consider the 18-year-old who has consensual sex with his 15-year-old girlfriend. Her father finds out about the relationship and goes to the police. Make no mistake, I absolutely believe a crime has been committed. But should the young man be branded as a sex offender for life? He’ll have to explain himself on his college application, at every job he applies for, and his address and face will be on the state’s sex offender web site forever. Too severe.
But there are far too many other cases where we hear about a rapist who’s been paroled for violent sex crimes who are being released into the community. About once a month you’ll hear in our newscasts about a sex offender who’s done their time and is about to be freed. And when we do reporting on their crime and how long their sentence was, we inevitably have the reaction ‘that was too lenient.’. There are times when police will tell us about sex offenders who have done their maximum jail time, are not rehabilitated, and now walk among us. Whenever possible, we post their mug shots on wsau.com.
The two latest cases of our system too soft are 53-year-old Christopher Sayers of Rhinelander and 21-year-old James Begay of Wausau. Sayers served 20-years for the rape and murder of an elderly neighbor. Before committing that heinous act, he’d sexually assaulted two teenagers. 20-years in jail seems much too light. He’s done his time, and now he lives in a home in a residential neighborhood. People who live nearby are terrified. Can you blame them for picketing his house? Begay was convicted of sexually assaulting a 10-year-old girl in 2005. It defies logic that he was not incarcerated. Last week he cut off his monitoring bracelet and attacked a woman who was walking her dog late at night.
Clearly there are some rapists who cannot control their sexual urges. They are prone to violence. They attack randomly. They look for targets of opportunity. They are unlikely to be rehabilitated. Too many strike again when given the chance. And our laws are not nearly tough enough for these types of sex crimes. I’m willing to entertain lifetime jail terms for these types sex offenders.
Operations Manager, Midwest Communications-Wausau