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An American Travesty: Legal Responses to Adolescent Sexual Offending.
By Franklin E. Zimring, University of Chicago Press, 2004, 216 pages.
ISBN 0-226-98357-9, $29.00 Cloth

An American Travesty is a much-needed indictment of the legal system's ability to make appropriate decisions concerning young sexual offenders, and a call for specific reforms. Zimring shows that current policy toward young sex offenders is rarely based on facts and is often the result of fearful haste following a highly publicized crime. Assumptions about juvenile sex offenders in current legislation and debate are often based only on presumed motives and inclinations of adult offenders. But seventy-five years of empirical data show that such assumptions are wrong. After surveying the facts and outlining the additional information needed for rational policy, An American Travesty proposes a series of reforms in juvenile and criminal court as well as sex offender registration laws.
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Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children from Sex.
Judith Levine, University of Minnesota Press, 2002, 296 pages.
ISBN 0-8166-4006-8, $25.95 Cloth

In this important and controversial book, Judith Levine asserts that America's attempts to protect children from sex are worse than ineffectual. It is the assumption of danger and the exclusive focus on protection--what Levine terms "the sexual politics of fear"--that are themselves harmful to minors. She debunks some of the dominant myths of our society, and examines and challenges widespread anxieties related to youth sexuality. Her third chapter addresses therapy imposed on children who misbehave sexually, showing clearly how experts define behaviors as pathological and abusive based on moral judgments rather than scientific understanding or the presence of harm. She gives an in-depth case study of one child who received therapy, as well as descriptions of several treatment programs, and demonstrates that the trauma inflicted by the “cure” may be far worse than the “disease” itself.
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Adolescence, Sexuality, and the Criminal Law: Multidisciplinary Perspectives
Edited by Helmut Graupnerr and Vern L. Bullough, Haworth Press, 2005, 184 pages.
ISBN 0-7890-2781-X. $29.95 Soft cover

Gain an understanding of the threat to freedom that is posed by state regulation of adolescent sexual behavior. The authors write that sexual autonomy and human dignity encompasses both the right to engage in wanted sexual activity and the right to be free and protected from unwanted sexual aggression. Experts from several disciplines use case studies, legal analysis, empirical examinations, and tables and figures to present an insightful contribution to the debate surrounding child sexual abuse. Chapter 1 provides an analysis of the background, the legislative process, and the content of recent EU  legislation that goes far beyond combating child pornography and child prostitution by making a wide variety of previously legal adolescent sexual behavior serious crimes. It notes that this massive criminalization and the equation of adolescents with children caused heavy criticisms among experts, but these criticisms could not prevent the new legislation from becoming law.
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Moral Panic: Changing Concepts of the Child Molester in Modern America
By Philip Jenkins, Yale Univeristy Press, 1998, 320 pages.
ISBN 0-3000-7387-9, $29.95 Hardcover

Alarm over threats of child sexual abuse has not always been as widespread as it is today. Periods of heightened concern have been followed by troughs of neglect, as in the 1920s and 1960s. Jenkins discusses the social, political, and ideological factors that have influenced public opinion about sexual crimes, both real and imagined. Denying that any particular view of sex offenders reflects a static, objective reality, he concludes that "Pedophiles represent a very minor component of the real sexual issues faced by children." Observing the panicked responses to specific cases, such as the murders of Polly Klaas and Megan Kanka and the McMartin Preschool prosecution, Jenkins posits the paradox that children statistically have more to fear from family and neighbors than from strangers. His well-researched study of a controversial subject is recommended for scholarly collections on child abuse and sex offenders.
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The Stop Child Molestation Book.
By Gene G. Abel and Nora Harlow, Xlibris, 2001, 364 pages.
ISBN 1-4010-3481-0, $19.54 Paper

This book is included here not to endorse its point of view, but rather to illustrate the kind of thinking that is common among therapists who attempt to control children's sexual behavior through coersion. The authors start with a laudable goal--to drastically reduce the occurrence of child molestation--but their proposed methods target the children themselves--as offenders.  Claiming that one out of every twenty boys will develop pedophilia in childhood or puberty, they recommend that all parents question their sons in sixth grade about their sexual fantasies.  Any boy who is suspected of having sexual thoughts involving younger children, or who has been molested by an older child or adult, is to be referred to a sex-specific therapist who will test him using Abel's own sexual interest test, lie detectors, or a plethysmograph connected to his genitals.  If the boy tests positive, treatment would include isolation from other children, constant monitoring of sexual feelings and behavior (sometimes by plethysmograph), high doses of sex drive reducing drugs, covert sensitization, and aversion therapy with ammonia.  These methods could be imposed on the boy indefinitely regardless of parents' or his own objections. Abel and Harlow show no concern for the emotional trauma and intense stigma these methods would inflict on boys, or the new class of lepers they would create--consisting, presumably, of 5% of all boys. Instead, they rationalize such abuse with the claim that protection of normal children takes precedence over the welfare of those who are deviant.
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