Category Archives: sex crimes

Feds to consider changing archaic definition of rape

Scottish author Andrew Lang once said of a man: “He uses statistics like a drunk uses lamp-posts, more for support than illumination.”

Currently, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is supporting its annual rape statistics with a rather archaic, 80-year-old definition critics have long argued needed to catch up with the times. Rape is defined as “the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will,” reports the New York Times.

That definition may soon be updated by the FBI, which will take up discussion on it this month, the Times reported Sept. 28.

Why does it matter?

It’s a matter of honesty. The FBI’s report is known as one of the best indicators of crime in the United States (and its latest report shows crime dropping in America again). If the police jurisdictions report rape to the FBI using a more modern definition, they won’t include those cases.

The Times sums up the what the FBI leaves out (Blogger’s warning: some readers might find this terminology disturbing):

(The FBI’s definition) … critics say, does not take into account sexual-assault cases that involve anal or oral penetration or penetration with an object, cases where the victims were drugged or under the influence of alcohol or cases with male victims. As a result, many sexual assaults are not counted as rapes in the yearly federal accounting.

I invited Claire Bradley, a chief deputy of the Kitsap County Prosecutor’s Office — and the current chair of Kitsap SAIVS (Special Assault Investigations and Victim’s Services) — to share her thoughts about updating the language. Bradley was also deputy prosecutor in the county’s special assault unit for eight years.

“I think, across the board, anyone who deals with sexual assault crimes would agree this is a good thing. Locally, our law enforcement, prosecutors and victim advocates already do a great job of responding to all types of sexual assault, not just the ones that would be classified as “rape” by these federal statistics. But, to the community as a whole, the classification of what is “rape” by federal statistical standards is absolutely misleading.

And, to me, the most important factor in this reclassification is that our victim advocacy programs rely on statistical data for grant funding. Our victim advocates serve so many more victims than the statistics would suggest, and so their funding is based on false numbers. I would love to see them be able to report actual, true numbers and receive more funding, that is actually representative of how many people they serve.”

Perhaps with an updated definition, the statistics provided by the FBI will become more illuminating for all of us.

The ‘Registry’ Phenomenon: How Far Should it Go?

In December, we wrote about the limits of sex offender registries. Basically, where should policy makers draw the line when deciding which offenders should be tracked years after they’ve served their prison sentences?

Currently in Washington, we have only a registry for sex and kidnapping offenders. But other states have proposed setting up registries for various crimes. That means that after they’ve done their time, certain offenders must disclose their addresses to authorities and can be monitored more closely.

Federally, there has been talk of an arson registry. In Nevada, felons are registered. In Suffolk County, N.Y, animal cruelty convicts are.

And just this month, Connecticut lawmakers started looking at a registry for gun offenders, according to the Hartford Courant.

At the crime in America symposium I attended in New York, Ohio State University Professor Douglas Berman posited that sex offenders are the “canary in the coal mine,” with regard to registering. They were the first required to do so — and it appears that they won’t be the last.

Child Porn Prosecutions Skyrocket

An interesting, if creepy trend in criminal justice these days is the growing number of (mostly) men prosecuted for having child pornography.

There was a time when child porn was exchanged on polaroids in back alleys around the nation, one local detective told me recently. But these days, the internet has made it possible to move millions of pictures and videos instantaneously, and law enforcement is struggling to keep up.

In the words of AP writer Paul Elias:

The number of federal child porn cases has exploded during the last 15 years as Congress passed mandatory five-year minimum sentences and federal authorities have declared such investigations a priority.

The FBI has made more than 10,000 arrests since 1996 and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency reports a similar number of arrests since its creation in 2003. The U.S. Department of Justice says prosecutions are up 40 percent since 2006 resulting in roughly 9,000 cases. In 2009, 2,315 suspects were indicted.

No crime’s prosecution has exploded similarly, Elias points out: a 2,500 percent rate increase by the FBI.

We are not immune to child porn prosecution here locally either: some examples can be found here and here.


As a reporter, you can never truly know how a story will impact those who read it. For one local woman who read Tuesday’s story about a man being sentenced to prison for child molestation, it hit all too close to home.

Donna, a victim of sexual abuse, told me she wanted to convey to the victims of the man that they are not alone and that she’s been able to find a way to move on.

I’ll let her words speak for themselves:

“Hello, my name is Donna. After reading your story about the ‘Kingston man gets more than 5 years in prison for molestation,’ I felt the need to write to you.

I have a request if you could please (I’m hoping your able). Is there a way you could get a message to all three of these children? My message to them is they don’t have to be a victim, but be a survivor of molestation. See, I am 36, a wife, and mother of 5 growing wonderful children. I am also a survivor of child molestation. Not by one man but by 7 men … Only one was ever charged. Please don’t get me wrong, my life wasn’t the best. In April ’89, I tried to commit suicide. I was in foster care from the age of 14 to16 1/2. I have had struggled with relationships with my mother, my step mother, men, employers. I have battled with depression and sometimes still do. I was promiscuous, for a time I drank.

But I DID graduate high school, met a wonderful man, married him and five years ago found God again. Jeremiah 29:11 states “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” I will never understand why I went through the things I did BUT I know God has had a plan all along. The things that happen made me who I am. In the state of mind I am in now looking back I wouldn’t change what happen. I am STRONGER. I am a SURVIVOR NOT A VICTIM.

So in closing Mr. Farley, is there a way to let these children know 1) they are not alone. 2) God has a plan, let God guide you, and 3) Choose to be a Survivor, not a victim.”

Supreme Court: Sex Offenders Can Be Held Indefinitely

The US Supreme Court has upheld a 2006 law that allows for the federal government to imprison sex offenders beyond their sentences if they’re deemed “sexually dangerous.

Sound familiar? That’s because Washington was the vanguard in sex offender confinement with its passage of the Community Protection Act of 1990. That state law, along with creating a registration and community notification system for sex offenders, also set the stage for the state’s Special Confinement Center on McNeil Island — a place that holds those deemed “sexual violent predators,” indefinitely after they serve their prison time.

From what I’ve read, there isn’t that much different about the federal Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act and Washington state’s law. The federal Walsh Act allows a judge to determine if a person should be held past their sentence; our state law allows for a kind of jury trial to determine if they should be confined indefinitely.

But I think the US Supreme Court’s overwhelming 7-2 decision puts more weight behind the Washington state law.

Here’s part of the decision, courtesy of the Christian Science Monitor:

“The statute is a ‘necessary and proper’ means of exercising the federal authority that permits Congress to create federal criminal laws, to punish their violation, to imprison violators, to provide appropriately for those imprisoned, and to maintain the security of those who are not imprisoned but who may be affected by the federal imprisonment of others,” Justice (Stephen) Breyer wrote.

But here’s what I see as the most important aspect. Like Washington state’s law, it seemed Breyer — and U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan, a supreme court nominee who argued the government’s position — believe sex offenders are as great a risk to public health as a disease outbreak.

From the Washington Post:

Kagan in January compared the government’s power to commit sexual predators to its power to quarantine federal inmates whose sentences have expired but have a highly contagious and deadly disease.

“Would anybody say that the federal government would not have Article I power to effect that kind of public safety measure? And the exact same thing is true here. This is exactly what Congress is doing here,” she said.

But not so fast, wrote Clarence Thomas, whose overarching fear seemed to be the idea of a national police force — an overreach by the federal government in his mind. From the Monitor:

“Protecting society from violent sexual offenders is certainly an important end,” Thomas wrote. “But the Constitution does not vest in Congress the authority to protect society from every bad act that might befall it.”

Next Session, Lawmakers Will Look at Sex Offender Clusters

Last week, local residents aired their concerns about a clustering of sex offenders at a few properties on the 900 block of Washington Avenue. Most weren’t worried about an offender moving to the street; it seemed to be the fact that there were eight on the block — a “concentration,” many called it.

Well, the state legislature may just tackle such an issue in two planned bills — house bill 1430 and senate bill 5648 — when lawmakers meet in Olympia next year.

Here’s the text, as given to me by Bremerton police’s community resource specialist Andrew Oakley:

“(The Bill) Requires the department of corrections to, prior to approving a residence location and in addition to any other factors considered by it in exercising its discretion regarding release plans for and supervision of sex offenders,consider the number of registered sex offenders currently residing within one mile of the proposed address.”

The bills will be heard in committees in early February. I’ll keep an eye on the discussion.

Port Orchard Molestation Suspect Arrested, 16 Years After Warrant Issued


You could give all kinds of reasons law enforcement keeps a national database of warrant suspects. Well, here’s another, provided by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

A week ago at Sea-TacAirport, Nestor Domingo, 55, of Port Orchard, was arrested by customs and border protection officers upon his return to the country from The Phillipines.

Domingo had a Kitsap County Superior Court warrant for child molestation. From 1993.

The 55-year-old’s name was run through the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database, which surfaced the warrant. He was taken into custody by the Port of Seattle Police Department, and is now in the Kitsap County jail on $10,000 bail.

Here’s a little more on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection:

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