There is nothing more offensive or harmful to a victim than a sexual crime. It steals away the very essence of a person and is one of the hardest experiences for anyone to overcome. Those who perpetrate sex crimes should be held to a certain standard of punishment, but to date, there are no real standards about how to penalize them. Judges are given free range to hand out sentencing as they see fit, and not everyone does so in an equal manner.
Many in the justice system are calling for more mandatory or equal ways to deal with sex offenders, instead of being left at the discretion of the judge presiding over the case. High-profile cases have left many communities aghast at the leniency with which judges sometimes hand out punishment.
They want to ensure that sexual offenders aren’t just given a slap on the wrist and released so they can perpetrate more crimes. Partially due to public outcry over the Brock Turner case, California is just one of the many states slated to overhaul sex crime laws to make them stricter. California’s citizens demand action be taken. When former Stanford student Brock Turner received just three months in prison, due to some loophole, for sexually assaulting a classmate while she was unconscious, the community cried foul. Not only was the judge allowed to make whatever sentence he wanted, but he was also bound by current laws to make the judgment call he made. A new law waits in the wings for the signature of Governor Jerry Brown to ensure that it won’t happen again. A new mandatory minimum sentencing law would have stopped Turner from getting away unscathed.
Those who advocate for fixing the laws pertaining to sex crimes believe that many of the current laws are outdated, sexist, and archaic. Written decades or even a hundred or more years ago, they have no relation to modern times or to the rights that women and children have in society. The problem is that it often takes blasphemy in the court system to bring about change, and many sex offenders go into court every day and receive very little punishment for their crimes.
Oklahoma had a similar incident recently, in which a boy who forcibly made a drunken girl give him oral sex was not punished because the statute only allowed for guilt if the victim was mentally ill or threatened in some way. Since the girl was completely unaware of any threat at the time, the “forcible sodomy” law could not apply to him. It took an entire community to call for action for things to change in the wording of Oklahoma’s statute, as well.
Other laws that have recently come to light are ones in New York which require child sex victims to testify against whoever perpetrated sexual crimes upon them before they turn the age of twenty-four. This is ridiculous since most young children can’t make sense of what happened to them, nor do they often have the courage to stand up until they are well into adulthood. There should be no time limitation when it comes to sexual crimes. Unfortunately, even with lobbying and high-pressure, no change has been enacted, yet.
Mississippi gives the appearance of having very strict and stringent punishment laws when it comes to sex crimes, such as rape. There, the punishment for rape is life in prison. The problems are that the definition of rape only concerns girls and it also uses outdated language, such as “chaste character.” That type of ancient wording leaves the door open for anyone accused to use a woman’s past as an excuse. It also negates sex crimes against men as a severe offense.
Many states have laws that are not only outdated, but that are also riddled with language that leaves the perpetrator with loopholes they should never have. Not every law can be changed; otherwise criminal lawyers Seattle would spend their time updating the law books daily. When it comes to sex crimes, however, there has to be some standard of care that doesn’t blame the victim, allow a sexual predator to get away with a heinous crime due to wording or definitions, or put dangerous individuals back on the streets because a judge’s hands are tied.
The matter of punishment should not be left to the discretion of a judge without any guidelines that are fair and standard. Maybe mandatory laws are not the answer, but modifying them for the twenty-first century definitely is.