What Is It About the Penn State Victims That Makes Child Rape Less Urgent?

Categories: Get Off My Lawn

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I wasn't going to write about Penn State, because I'm some guy in Dallas and who cares what I think? But Dallas Morning News columnist Jacquielynn Floyd has written about it in today's paper, so in my book that gives me permission.

Most of the people writing interesting things about the rape-of-boys scandal at Penn State are coming at it with some expertise, some erudition or at least a unique perspective. For example, David Brooks has a column today in The New York Times comparing the way people at Penn State averted their eyes for years to the way the world ignored the Holocaust and Rwanda. Brooks has got the bones to pull that off. Not me.

I confess I look at all crime stories from the jaundiced and probably skewed perspective of a reporter who spent too many years on the police beat. Most people find the idea of ranking atrocities against each other repulsive. Unfortunately for the reporter assigned to the police beat, that's pretty much the job.

The fact is that not all crimes are equal as news stories, because not all crimes are equally urgent to readers. Maybe the fine points of how police reporters make those distinctions would make a good topic for another rainy day.

But here is what has been bugging me the entire last week about the Jerry Sandusky-Joe Paterno matter at Penn State.

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I hear people standing up for Paterno by saying he's old-school and old-school guys aren't whistle-blowers. Maybe. Maybe not. Depends on the urgency of the crime.

There's a scale. And there are hash-marks on that scale. Let's say the spectrum runs from zero to 100. Zero is: Joe Paterno's neighbor's inspection sticker on his car has expired. Does he call the cops?

No.

At 100 on the scale, it's this: Joe Paterno's neighbor is barricaded in his house with a stack of automatic weapons, and he has already shot and killed two passersby. Does Joe Paterno call the cops?

Yes, obviously he calls the cops.

Now let's do some interim hash-marks on the scale. Imagine a scenario like this: Some guy comes to Paterno and says, "Oh my God, I just saw Jerry Sandusky murder somebody in the shower. He didn't know I could see, but I saw the whole thing. The victim is definitely dead. What should I do?"

I think that particular hash-mark goes pretty high up on the urgency scale, nipping up toward where the barricaded neighbor would go.

We must assume Paterno says something to his informant like, "Why are you telling me this instead of calling 911? Now I'm involved too. Get in the car with me, you moron, and we're headed down to the police station right now."

Imagine the guy says, "But, Coach, shouldn't we notify the hierarchy here at the university first?"

I assume Paterno says, "No, you idiot, we're not going to notify anybody until the cops say we can. This is a murder investigation now, and we're not going to do anything to screw it up."

All right, now we can do the hash-mark on what really happened. Then guy tells the coach he saw Sandusky raping a child in the university's shower room. The reaction is to handle it all in-house, notify the hierarchy, fire Sandusky with knowledge that the university will give him a replacement job and then stay quiet about it.

No 911 call. No trip to the station.

That's way far down my urgency scale from the murder scenario. Way far down the scale. The question is why.

Why is the alleged rape of children so far down the scale from murder? I'm not saying it should be in the same place. The children were raped, not killed. They were left with their lives. The hash-mark should fall somewhere down the scale toward the less urgent end.

But putting it so far down the scale that it falls with other in-house matters? Isn't that too far down the scale toward less urgency? And why is that?

I can guarantee you one thing. There are reasons. There are factors. It's wasn't an oversight. But what were the factors? Is it the nature of the crime? Is child rape that much less serious a crime than murder? That much? Or what about this: Is it the identity of the victims?

We haven't heard much about the identities of the victims, other than that they were poor kids. Was there any other shared trait that would have tended to devalue them a little on the urgency scale? We devalue people for all sorts of reasons in this society.

Maybe that's not it. But there's something there. There are reasons. And in the months ahead, those reasons are going to come into focus.

People who do not often look closely at really bad crime tend to lump it all together in one big psychological and moral ball of horror. But when we are obligated to look more closely, we find there are patterns, distinctions, almost a logic in the way we react to crime. As there should be and must be.

But what is the pattern here? What are the factors and the distinctions? Why was the rape of boys so far down the urgency scale for Paterno, the university, the students at Penn State who have rallied to Paterno's support? Perhaps we should include all of us in the question. Why is the rape of children so much less urgent than murder?

I should have mentioned at the top that I don't have the answer. Sorry. You want answers, read David Brooks. Me, I'm just asking.


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90 comments
Sanders Kaufman
Sanders Kaufman

This just shows once again, that pedophilia, while not openly talked about, is a tremendously significant part of conservative, and especially Republican, culture.Even in conservative households where it is not practiced, it is tolerated.

trudat
trudat

Good  question(s)...The hopelessness of the situation gives some hint as to why child molesters are often tortured or killed in prison...

primi_timpano
primi_timpano

Too much hubris.  Just take a look at Stephen Swann and the parents at ESD.

letsbefrank
letsbefrank

Reputations and money were at stake. People operated in a system where the sole concern was perpetuating the system at any cost and by whatever means necessary. Only time will tell what cost was paid by the victims.

Edgar
Edgar

In describing public perception of crime as "one big psychological and moral ball of horror," it appears that Jim may have borrowed language from a forthcoming write-up on the Cattle Baron's Ball.

halldecker
halldecker

I hesitate to ask,  no way this isn't going to be misunderstood:

is there a racial element in this?

Were the boys Anglo?

This is a Bishop Eddie Long (prosperity preacher from Atlanta who did the same kind of mentoring, taking on trips,  giving lavish gifts, grooming) situation,   his victims were African American.

SteveT
SteveT

I agree with those who place child rape as just barely below murder; they are both inexusable abuses of power.  One other factor about Joe Paterno:  He reported the incident to his superiors, but they were his superiors in name only.  He was the king of Penn State and the buck should have stopped with him.  He should have told his superiors, and then demanded they all go to the police, or if they refused, he should have goen anyway; there's no way he would have been fired for that.  He then should have fired Sandusky and banned him from all contact and association with the university.

DaVe
DaVe

Your column is far superior to Brooks' which was, in my opinion, a steaming pile.  Abstracting the situation as a hashmark on a scale of urgency strips away irrelevant factors that seem to be clouding people's reaction to this story.

BTW, typo in graf 21 - "It's wasn't an oversight."

PLFarmer
PLFarmer

There will always be pedophiles and pederasts. 7b/.0001=700,000

 Penn St., like,mother church, the corporate offense was the criminal neglect by the hierarchy.Lack of supervision, reassignment of known offenders, protection of theinstitution.

cooperātus thinkingwas to protect the institution what we love, the thinking was to leave it tothe authority to make the correct decisions. The thinking was, look at all thegood we do, if we can be wrong in our judgment on how to deal with these wrongs,what else will they say we are wrong about?

People of good will can quote the settlement of Fr. Kosto the Diocese of Dallas, but not the number of his victims, nor the numbers ofhis perpetrations..

We have an auxiliary Bishop of Dallas, a good man, a manthat gave a kidney to a parishioner that patterned his Episcopal symbols afterthe bishop that let Rudy Kos loose in Dallas.

Does the banality of Rowling’s, ‘the choicewas between what is right and what is easy.’- really assent over’ ‘do on too others?’

orare they the same?

Joe Tone
Joe Tone

Nate Jackson, who is a friend and whose writing I will admittedly promote at any opportunity, took a swipe at answering this question today for Esquire:

"I wondered, on Monday night, while the Packers were destroying the Vikings, what would have happened if it was a woman who witnessed that crime in progress at Penn State. Would it have taken ten years to come to light? What if it was a female athletic director? Would she have put a lid on things, too? And while we're at it, would the outrage we're witnessing now be quite so passionate if they were little girls being raped at a dance school instead of little boys in a football locker room?

It is too late and too sad for hypotheticals in the Jerry Sandusky case, but what you need to know is that there is always a choice — humanity or football, football or humanity — and they all choose football, every time."

http://www.esquire.com/the-sid...

Diane Birdwell
Diane Birdwell

The part that bugs me the most is that the coach who actually witnessed it did not pull the child away from the situation. He says he reported it. A person REPORTS a car dent, REPORTS a bad credit score, you PULL AWAY a child from a rapist.

I say shut down the whole football program there. Jim S-Is there NO NCAA rule on this at all? If not, there should be. I cannot believe the NCAA would pull a college from games if they pay a college kid for a summer job with an alumni's company, but child rape is beyond their scope?

WashHater
WashHater

Two things here while grunching the rest of the comments:

1. In my opinion, child rape doesn't go very far below murder, if at all. Is the victim technically alive? Yes. But is their life destroyed? Yes. Is virtually every relationship they will ever have compromised? Yes. This is a distinction I only understand by having met child abuse victims, though, so I can realize others may not feel as strongly as I do. I can't say where it fell on my "report this shit to the cops" scale before I met these people, though, so my judgement may be lacking.

2. "the students at Penn State who have rallied to Paterno's support?" - I grew up in the area and am a life long Penn State fan. Outsiders seem to have a hard time grasping the dynamic here. This is about mourning and denial as much as anything else. The life long fans, we all felt that one day we would be doing a "Hey this is JoePa's last year/season/game, let's send him off with rousing cheers!" celebration someday, or at least a funeral celebrating his greatness. That's all been stolen from us, now, by forces far beyond any thing any of us could have known or controlled. The desire to still celebrate the good is strong though, and these fans need to express it before sinking into shock, rage, and despair. For long time Dallas citizens, imagine if Landry had gone out like this in the early 90's. It's more than one man's poor choices, it is the destruction  of an institution that has existed for a long time. The people of Penn State have had one of the few worthy things in their lives shattered, we need(ed?) a little time to process the good we've known one last time before looking at the broken visage on the floor. It's not defending the innocence of a single man showing though, it's the despair at seeing one of the few virtuous things left be annihilated forever, expressed as best they can. We will all join you in the despair pit soon enough. The crimes are horrible, but letting go of 50-plus years of memories cannot happen overnight.

Travis Rex
Travis Rex

Eh..Why don't you just come out and say that the Penn State football program is and was more important than reporting child rape to the cops?  That's all it boils down to. 

JimS
JimS

Somebody here raises the question: why didn't somebody go to the media? I may lose some friends, but I'm not sure I can recommend that strategy in these times. If you come to us with an allegation of pedophilia, we've got to prove it up from zero before we can write anything. If there is an ongoing police investigaton or even a formal institutional inquiry, we can hang our hat on that and write about the inquiry and maybe do some gumshoeing of our own. In the old days, a daily newspaper could take it on without an official inquiry to write about. It would take a team effort and half a year to do. You could put a price tag on that story of well into six figures. I don't know too many daily newspapers that still have that kind of money to spend, and nobody on-line ever had it. My advice? Go to the cops.  (Of course, I saw three distraught women on TV last night who said they had gone to McKinney PD on multiple occasions with information about a chiropracter they believed was a sexual predator, and they said McKinney PD blew them off. What was the lesson for those ladies vis a vis my urgency scale?)

Metroplexual
Metroplexual

Really Mr. Schutze, me thinks when you pussyfoot around asking what is it about the victims you want one of us to bring up the race of the victims.  The fact is that at least on kid involved is black and the youth program was serving primarily black children so there could possibly be others also.Are you intimating or speculating that the cover up or non vigorous action is because the victimswere not middle class white kids?What about Sandusky playing hardball with his knowledge of cheating at PSU and other problems as a trade for not pursuing charges against him.  I wonder how much these kids' families are being offered to not cooperate with prosecutors.Just some thoughts.... 

Sam
Sam

Whatever the reason it had to have gone beyond Paterno and Penn State, Sandisky was an award winning coach with a bright future who quit suddenly and never got hieed again. People outside of Penn must have known or someone would have hired him.

Jddenison
Jddenison

Your article is very good and brings up some interesing points that must be addressed.  Part of the problem we wrestle with is that there is no indication that a crime has been committed.  It becomes "he said, he said" and it is sometimes hard to sort through the truth.  We could learn that coach was only guilty of very bad judgement. 

Grumpy Demo
Grumpy Demo

Also, the Catholic church has gotten a pass, until recently (thank you evil trial lawyers for holding them accountable) on child rape too.

Power, money and misogyny. The holy trinity of America.

Just another day in America, Glen Greenwald is right we have a two tiered legal system, that the elites a exempt from:

http://www.amazon.com/Liberty-...

Grumpy Demo
Grumpy Demo

Q: "What Is It About the Penn State Victims That Makes Child Rape Less Urgent?"

A: Football, it has a higher priority than animal abuse, whore-monging, raping drunk adult women, academics, criminal activities and ethics. Come on Jim, you lived here long enough to know that.

You're welcome.

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

Public school teachers don't have the luxury of hand-wringing.We will lose our licenses if we don't report SUSPECTED child abuse.

Imagine the judgment calls we have to make:-Are the bruises too frequent?-Did the otherwise fed/clean/normal child mean "spanks" when he said my dad "beats" me for bad grades?-Is "my mom is going to whoop my ass" a common exaggeration or the truth?-Will the parent come after me and my children?

Seeing child rape and NOT calling the police?I can understand the self-interest thoughts that would flash through your mind, but the call would simply have to be made.

It seems to me all adults should share the same responsibility public school teachers bear when it comes to minors and abuse. Either that or lessen the consequences for teachers.

RTGolden
RTGolden

There is no more repugnant crime than the sexual molestation or rape of a child.  An adult who is raped at least knows or can comprehend the "why?" of a rapist.  A murder victim is dead, and doesn't have to deal with anything (The families do, but that is another thing altogether).  A child who is raped must live with the betrayal, the shame, the pain and the not knowing why for the rest of their lives.  This puts it way up there on the atrocity scale.

Good article Jim, however, might not society's putting less importance on child molestation  have something to do with journalists who don't make the distinctions you are mentioning in your article?  We always read stories where the journalist's offense du jour is compared, either directly or indirectly, to horrible crimes.  For instance:

http://blogs.dallasobserver.co...

Anon
Anon

I still can't get past Brooks and his nod to communal culpability. The bedrock of conservative thought rests on a foundation of personal responsibility for actions (or inactions, in this case).

As to the topic at hand? You're talking about kids from disadvantaged backgrounds. Subtract 10 points on your scale. You're talking accusations against a prominent figure within his community. Subtract 10 more points. You're talking about tarnishing the image of a university's cash cow? Subtract 50 points. Even if they had immediately acted to stop Sandusky, the program's brand would be reduced by the mere affiliation.

The reality is that at-risk kids are targeted by pedophiles for the very reason society discounts their pain and suffering. The parents are often the targets of blame, but they are really just doing the best that they can. If the kids had a great home life, they wouldn't be part of this program. In the minds of these parents, the more time they spend w/ these "positive" influences, the less violence and depravity they see at home. It actually works until sickos figure out how to game the system. Put me in the camp of people who think there is more dirty laundry to be aired at PSU with regards to the football program (money, cheating, recruiting violations, who knows). Dirty laundry Sandusky knew he could exploit to keep his transgressions under wraps unless some pesky kid told a more responsible person whose 7 figure payday wasn't tied up in PSU football.

Eastdallasgirl
Eastdallasgirl

I think the old school gets "dont ask, dont tell" confused with pedifile activity. This coach is preying on underaged boys. This is Not gay behavior between consenting adults.

The fact is, once they begin processing these rapes, most likely Coach will get felony convictions, and those privey /hiding that information may also be charged.

Montemalone
Montemalone

Hell, man, ir's FOOTBALL for chrissakes.Nothing could be more important!Can't let anything so trivial as CHILD RAPE interfere.

Phelps
Phelps

I guarantee you it was the perceived value of the victims.  The (unconfirmed to protect the victim's identity) rumors are that the victims were overwhelmingly kids from Sandusky's charity.  That means they were poor kids being "treated" to a visit to the athletic facility.  

And if raping a prepubescent child is below murder (I'm honestly not sure it is) then it's a damned sliver lower.  That's about as close to the fate-worse-than-death line as you can get, especially when you consider how many abuse victims go on to become child predators themselves.

RTGolden
RTGolden

That is absolutely asinine.  Pedophilia is a blight on all mankind.  Please tell me how this is a 'conservative' problem.  Most of the conservatives I know, like most of the liberals I know, demand severe punishment of crimes against children, and most conservatives I know would rather have the parents of abused children execute that punishment in the most painful way possible.

WashHater
WashHater

While we don't KNOW the identity of any of the victims yet, since many are known to have come through the troubled youth charity Sandusky founded, it is being presumed that at least some of them were non-white. The presumptions about it not being reported and race playing a role are being made. And while I am personally loathe to hear people constantly make everything tie into racial relations, I do think one would be foolish not to assume it played a role in this situation.

Just another terrible element to a horrible tale.

Barbara
Barbara

I read the article, Joe and it was very interesting and fair.  I think that many women do see this from a different perspective and would have behaved differently had they been a decision-maker along the way the past 10 years.  We would have been as concerned about the children who were potentially violated as the perps (including all involved in the cover-ups).

Women are mostly the ones who have founded, funded and staffed integrated rape crisis centers for abused children where police, social workers,  psychologists, nurses and forensics specialists work under one roof to treat the whole child who has made an outcry or is suspected of being sexually violated and their families.  

To prevent this, you may need ethical women on all men's sports boards since male sports are such cults everywhere.

Sam
Sam

Apparently the original reporting was wrong, they're saying now that he did stop the rape, but the rest about him going to his dad and Paterno instead of tge police is still correct.

hot chocolate liberal
hot chocolate liberal

"That's all been stolen from us, now, by forces far beyond any thing any of us could have known or controlled. The desire to still celebrate the good is strong though, and these fans need to express it before sinking into shock, rage, and despair. For long time Dallas citizens, imagine if Landry had gone out like this in the early 90's. It's more than one man's poor choices, it is the destruction  of an institution that has existed for a long time. The people of Penn State have had one of the few worthy things in their lives shattered, we need(ed?) a little time to process the good we've known one last time before looking at the broken visage on the floor. It's not defending the innocence of a single man showing though, it's the despair at seeing one of the few virtuous things left be annihilated forever, expressed as best they can. We will all join you in the despair pit soon enough. The crimes are horrible, but letting go of 50-plus years of memories cannot happen overnight."

That was honestly revolting to read. You psychos need professional help; this crap, btw, is WHY sane folks are advocating for the death penalty for PSU football. You people clearly need to reorganize your lives and priorities. And by that I mean, to acquire some of both.

mynameisURL
mynameisURL

If that dream was **stolen** from you, it was Joe Pa that committed the crime and buried his own legacy in a stinking pile of shit.

I love the game of football as much as the next guy, but what is perpetrated in the name of that "sacred institution" is often breathtaking, and in this case, also sickening.

Phelps
Phelps

Because the fact is that none of the ones covering it up thought that it would be a problem to find someone to listen.  It was an active coverup.

halldecker
halldecker

I didn't see this post before I did mine.

Yes,  I fear that's exactly what happened. 

On the theory their lives are more expendable than that of a 10 year old blond,  blue-haired child whose parents vote,   have a lawyer,  would be dangerous if it were their child.

AFAIK,  the media hasn't touched the Q of where were the parents.

God,  what a mess!

We only know a fraction of what actually happened,  and that may be a blessing.

Phelps
Phelps

I'm pretty sure that walking in on a 10 year old being raped vigorously enough that he could hear the rhythmic slapping from outside the shower is a pretty strong indication.

Don't let the soft-pedal from the Establishment Media fool you.  Read the grand jury report.  This wasn't a questionable glimpse.  He saw a full on, violent raping of a child, by his own admission.

Dallas Diner
Dallas Diner

Yes, there are "indications that a crime has been committed."  No, it isn't just a swearing contest; there were eyewitnesses, there are victims who will testify.  Even if what happened is all that Sandusky has admitted to so far--I took a ten year old to the empty Penn State locker room shower, took his clothes off, took my clothes off and "horsed around naked," that is more than just "bad judgment."

Anon
Anon

It honestly just boggles my mind how teachers paid $40k a year with very little job security would be held to higher standards than the guy running this football program, making millions. My wife was always uncomfortable turning in parents on suspicions or based on an off the cuff remark. The students came in after getting contacted and treated her differently. They were often upset with her. Sometimes they told their classmates and the dynamic of the class was changed for the rest of the year because they were all mad. That's the reason we are adults and they are children. They don't understand that their discomfort in a misunderstood abuse circumstance is worth finding the ones that are real, where no one else in the world would have ever brought it to light.There are no adults at Penn State involved in this case. There aren't even any humans, as far as I'm concerned, and I'm not just using hyperbole. How does basic human curiosity keep you from following up with the athletic director? Even if you think it's best for someone else to handle the calling of the police, how do you not just wonder the next time he shows up at the field with a young boy?

Spote
Spote

I personally will be thrilled when the "old-school" generation runs it's course and gives way to the newer generation of independent thinkers. (Not that the pedophiles, bigots, and fear driven fundamentalism won't still exist but I think it will no longer be the norm.)  I am tired of hearing "That was how I was raised" as an excuse for so many injustices!

Perry Moore
Perry Moore

Your last observation--that many abused children become predators themselves--is interesting on several levels. For purposes of ranking along the Schutze Scale, would it alter the hashmark if we found that Coach Sandusky was a victim of such abuse?

It also occurs to me that we are relegating all sexually abused children to the ash heap with the tone of our comments. Fortunately, not all sexually abused children turn into useless, abusive adults. Not nearly all of them. 

Dallas Diner
Dallas Diner

I just finished reading a book called "The Sins of Brother Curtis" about a serial pedophile in the Mormon Church.  Those boys lives were destroyed, many having a history of alcohol, drug abuse and crime as a result of being molested.  A large part of those boys did die.  My guess is the same thing has happened to Sandusky's victims.  What did they think when for years they saw his picture in the paper being honored for his "civic contributions?"

halldecker
halldecker

My fear all along,   if race is credibly alleged to have had any part of the crimes not being reported ...

It's time to Death Penalty the Penn State football program,  forever.

midwestmomof2
midwestmomof2

Great point Joe Tone, and good solution, Barbara! 

Since a woman wouldn't be near a male locker room, it would be unlikely that a woman would intervene in this particular situation. However, I like to think that I would have found something heavy to hit the guy over the head with if I couldn't find another person immediately to help me intervene.

Dallas Diner
Dallas Diner

What McQueary is saying now is not what he testified to under oath.  From pp. 6-7 of the grand jury transcript, "As the graduate assistant entered the locker room doors, he was surprised to find the lights and showers on.  He then heard rhythmic slapping sounds.  He believed the sounds to be those of sexual activity.  As the graduate assistant put the sneakers in his locker, he looked into the shower.  He saw a naked boy, Victim 2, whose age he estimated to be ten years old, with his hands up against the wall, being subjected to anal intercourse by a naked Sandusky.  The graduate assistant was shocked but noticed that both Victim 2 and Sandusky saw him.  The graduate assistant left immediately, distraught.  The graduate assistant went to his office and called his father, reporting to him what he had seen.  His father told the graduate assistant to leave the building and come home."

McQueary "stopped" the assault by walking in on it, and then ran out, leaving the child alone with Sandusky.  Nice guy.

chad
chad

"He saw a full on, violent raping of a child, by his own admission."

and freaking closed the door and walked out! that is what blows me away, how could he sleep at night after that? After just walking out, making a phone call, and going about his day. I just can't comprehend turning around, walking away, and doing nothing to stop the rape of that poor kid. Even if it meant getting your ass handed to you, still, at least that kid isn't getting raped anymore. It's criminally negligent to do nothing in that case.

JimS
JimS

Good point. If that's your best defense, the truth canot be good at all.

Deep_Sigh
Deep_Sigh

Excellent point on this " teachers paid $40k a year with very little job security would be held to higher standards than the guy running this football program"

Phelps
Phelps

The observation on the victims is fair enough.  They are still the captains of their own souls, but they've through the actions of a predator, they've been thrown into a maelstrom they don't deserve.  

Sandusky has no place in society.  There is no place that society would be safe from him unless he is locked up or under the dirt.  What brought him to that point is of no consequence when it comes to protecting the children of today.

TimCov
TimCov

You hit on one of the reasons I chose not to be a police officer. I know that, if I am confronted with a child molester, I am very likely to do that scum serious harm.

Dallas Diner
Dallas Diner

Jim, I spent ten years as a criminal investigator and worked a number of child molestation cases, and by "child," I mean children under ten.  I recall having to physically restrain a Sheriff who was about to beat the crap out of a guy who had just explained that his six year old daughter liked having sex with him (he got caught because he'd given his daughter an STD and her school sent her to the doctor).  I admit I go a little crazy about this stuff--in my mind there is no grey area, there is no nuance, there is no excuse; it is real simple:  KEEP YOUR FUCKING HANDS OFF OF CHILDREN YOU PEDOPHILE ASSHOLES!

Perry Moore
Perry Moore

Like most people, I'm inclined to see black and white more readily than grey; therefore, I'm inclined to agree that a criminal's life is worth far less than that of the victim. I just can't get past the irony that one person might be both.

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