When Will the Punishment Fit the Crime of Child Sexual Abuse?

A recent case in Ottowa, Ontario, has gone virtually unnoticed in American press, but serves as a stark reminder of the lack of progress in prosecuting child sexual abuse. In this instance, a now-teenage girl revealed that her stepfather had sexually abused her beginning at the age of eight, and continued until last year, when she was 14.

By the time she was 10 years old, he was photographing her in her mother's lingerie and had introduced her to pornography, which he made her watch while he molested her. In the past year, the girl has tried killing herself three times and has turned to cutting as a way of coping with her pain.

One would expect a harsh sentence for six years of sexual abuse, particularly considering that he admitted to the ongoing molestation. He was found guilty on two counts of "sexual interference," and it's difficult for me to determine which is most disturbing – the defense case presented, or the light sentence handed down. His attorney argued that the issue was not one of pedophilia, but rather one of alcoholism. A psychiatrist who examined the offender said he was at "low risk" to re-offend because he had stopped drinking. However, it should be noted that some of the abuse occured when the stepfather was sober. The unidentified man's defense attorney also said that the perpetrator was seeking sex offender treatment at his own expense. 

Because of these conclusions, the man was sentenced to just 20 months, plus three years of probation. His children and mother are standing behind him, calling him "trustworthy" and "giving." 

But what about the life sentence he has inflcted upon his victim? For six years, this girl has been sexually abused "two or three times a week." She is suffering in extreme but not uncommon ways, and the slap on the wrist given to her molester is a slap in the face to every sexual abuse victim out there. 

What is the value of a child's life? This man has stolen her innocence, trust and childhood. It is unthinkable that a mere 20 months behind bars is somehow seen as "justice."

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