Sex crimes have lasting impact on victims and offenders
SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - Some Sex offenders spend a life time being monitored by law enforcement. Their victims are impacted for life. Advocates see firsthand what happens after a person is sexually assaulted. There are specific laws in place to protect people from sexual predators. But not all are in agreement that the laws apply to every person convicted of a sex crime.
Sex crimes affect everyone involved. Victim's lives are changed forever. Even the offenders are impacted dramatically because their offenses are public knowledge. For victims it could mean enduring painful memories plus a number of psychological issues.
"Hyper vigilance, suicidal, scared of people in general scared of new relationships," said Stephanie Piper the Gulf Coast Women's Center for Nonviolence Sexual Assault Victim's Advocate.
Last year, the Gulf Coast Women's Center for Nonviolence helped 271 sexual assault victims.
"People feel really safe once their perpetrator's been arrested because they can't come back and hurt them," said Piper.
To keep people safe from sex offenders after they're released, depending on the severity of the sex offense, those convicted are required to spend a minimum of 15 years on the registry with the worst cases registering for the rest of their lives.
Sex crime convictions impact where offenders can live, work and how the public views them. Law enforcement officials say a common stigma associated with sex offenders is that they are all pedophiles, but that's not always the case. Criminal defense attorney Michael Crosby handles between four to eight sex crime cases every year. He worries that the law on registering may be excessive for certain cases.
"I think that in a consensual situation, I think that the jury should be able to consider the honest mistake issue, with respect to whether or not it truly was, should merit a crime under the laws or merit a conviction," said Attorney Michael Crosby.
Crosby also says it's not uncommon for clients to say they thought the person they were having sex with was over the age of 18.
He says the State of Mississippi should be able to consider an honest mistake as a defense if the defendant had consensual sex with someone they thought was over the age of 18.
"I believe that there should be more discretion to allow a jury to make a decision if that man or woman in the case, whoever the defendant is, if they made an honest mistake, legitimate mistake about the age of the child," said Crosby.
But not everyone agrees.
"It's going to be harder to prove what somebody believed then what actually was. So if there is a child that's 10-years-old and her offender thinks or believes that she's 18 he can say, "I believe that she's 18' and get off on raping her," said Piper.
Piper says the point of the registry is to protect the victims, most of who are under the age of 30 especially since so few sexual assault cases ever make it to trial because victims either refuse to pursue a charge or there isn't enough evidence.
"I want more people on that registry. I want more people to be convicted, so they can go on the registry. We don't have enough," Piper said.
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