Today In Good News vs. Bad News

July 24, 2010 § 12 Comments

by KATIE E.

Bad news: A Merseyside woman was caught with child pornography that included pictures of children being abused.

Good news: She was not detained because she is a transwoman, and the judge understood what danger that would put her in, especially since it was required that she be put in a men’s prison.

Don’t get me wrong, I think child pornagraphy is despicable, particularly the kind that Voyce was looking at. The article mentions that she is facing 100 unpaid work hours, supervision, and being put on a sex offender registry, which I think is appropriate, and I hope she recognizes what she did wrong and changes her ways, and that the children victimized are receiving help and compensation.

However, trans* people in prisons, particularly prisons that misgender them, are often subject to horrific treatment. No one — not a possessor of child porn, not a rapist, not a murderer — deserves that kind of treatment. All people deserve some basic human rights, which should include the ability to identify as whatever gender they choose, receive treatment and/or surgery to make that happen, and not to be victimized because of that.

I do believe that broadcasting this in a national newspaper wasn’t the best approach. I am glad that I was able to find out about one judge that was doing it right in a corrupt system of justice, but I wish the woman in question had not had her name and picture published.  Outing a transwoman and associating her with something almost universally considered evil is going to open her up to transphobic attacks, though they hopefully won’t be as bad as what she would have faced in jail.

I also think it is worth noting that the woman in question stating in the article that she looked at pictures of the children to “come to terms with her troubled childhood.” Again, I firmly believe anyone caught with abusive child porn should face legal punishment, but I don’t believe that this woman is evil. I believe this woman, as a transwoman, had an extraordinarily rough childhood (and it hasn’t had a long time to recover from it — she’s only 20), and is trying to deal with it in ways that are, yes, harmful to children, but are the best she can do. I don’t condone her continuing to look at the images, but I really hope she is receiving sincere, non-judgemental support and help.

§ 12 Responses to Today In Good News vs. Bad News

  • Ew. I draw the line at child pornography, child abuse, child rape…I don’t care what sex/gender someone is, I don’t discriminate…it’s all sick. Children are among the most defenseless members of society, and the people who prey on them, sexualize them, and consume the products of this sexualization don’t get my sympathy.

    Now, there was that woman a few years back that wrote erotic fiction involving children based on abuse she experienced as a child. There were no pictures or graphics included with her stories, and she forbid the posting of them on her website. She was almost a total recluse and used her website to support herself. She was prosecuted for distributing obscene materials, or something. Her, I have sympathy for. I may hate the content of her stories, but no children were actually being harmed to create them, she was just exorcising some of her personal demons and trying to make a living the best she could.

    This woman? Not so much. She wouldn’t get sympathy no matter what her gender identification, because there is a line you don’t cross, and that’s the line that involves real children being abused and sexualized, and people watching it happen and not reporting it, whether it’s the neighbor who knows something is wrong, the mother who doesn’t protect her child from an abusive husband/boyfriend, or the person viewing child porn behind closed doors.

  • Coco says:

    Katie, I am a long time reader and lurker, but today I had to comment. I vehemently disagree with your opinion that the perpetrator does not deserve imprisonment due to the treatment she might receive in jail.

    Her means of dealing with a troubled childhood are not “the best she could do” – they are a crime, and have resulted in additional victims. Children, sexually exploited and abused children, who have even less of a voice than she does. As an adult, she could seek counseling, assistance, surgery, outreach. These kids have no such options.

    Basic human rights? Dignity? So she deserves this, but her young victims do not (I can’t make the distinction that they are not “her” victims because she did not take the pictures herself; she is part of the demand that fuels this sickening industry regardless)? She is excused with basically a slap on the wrist because she is a member of a marginalized group? She had a rotten childhood? No. I can’t get on board with that. There are thousands and thousands of people, in all walks of life, who were abused sexually, physically and emotionally who did not turn to such methods to “heal” themselves. My husband is one of them. I am another.

    While I agree she should not be placed in general population, I do not agree that she deserves to escape imprisonment solely based on her gender indentification. In my opinion, yes, treatment should be made available to her, but concurrent to a term in a secure mental health facility.

  • Dana says:

    Well said, other commentors. I felt very compelled to jump on here and freak out about how the original poster was putting the human rights of one individual (the perpetrator) over the other (the victim). However, I acknowledge that the main issue here is the treatment of the perpetrator in jail. A trans person should be afforded the same protection that a non-trans person is, even while in jail, but I do not think that a trans person should not be detained simply because they are trans and definitely should not be afforded special treatment because of their childhood issues/trauma. In that case, many people of all genders should receive special considerations.

    I think this issue is especially contentious due to the crime that was committed. Child sexualization/pornography/sexual abuse is in a realm of it’s own, as far was crimes go. It’s the sickest, most inhuman, disgusting crime and 100 unpaid work hours, supervision, and being put on a sex offender registry is NOT enough of a punishment. period. Had the crime been shoplifting or drug dealing, I would feel more of the “good news” vibes that the OP was feeling.

  • katiee93 says:

    I get where you all are coming from, but I think all of you need to do a serious cis privilege check.

    As stated in the post, I abhor child porn and abuse. The children involved should not have been victimized, and I hope they are receiving the help they need.

    I can see how the last paragraph may have made me seem like an abuse apologist. That was not my intention in the least bit, and I apologize and may edit it/add some stuff to make my point clearer. “The best way she can” was a poor word choice. The point I intended to present was that, yes, the woman in question did contribute to the victimization of children, but probably had a rougher childhood than we can imagine and I have *some* sympathy for her and hope she is receiving help and support.

    However, the privileged, cis-supremacist idea that she NEEDS to go to jail is wrong. She needs legal repurcussions, but if you condone her going to jail, you are condoning her being mis-gendered and risking her life. There is no way this woman could go to jail safely in the society we currently live in.

    • Coco says:

      Katie, I fully acknowledge that I am viewing this through the lens of my own privilege, but I still think your stance swings too far the other way.

      This is not a person who is being persecuted for being a trans woman, in my opinion. She committed a very serious crime. We’re not talking about shoplifting here. If jail time risks her life, that is a separate issue from whether she should go to jail for her crime. That is an issue which could be dealt with in other ways than an almost non-punishment for contributing to the abuse of children; for example, she could be held in a women’s prison in isolation. She could be committed to a mental health facility.

      There are people in prison doing hard time for drug possession right now; a crime which is less serious than the one she committed. I see what you’re saying about why she could be in more danger than the average person, but regardless, I still think it is a miscarriage of justice that she was let off so lightly because of her gender identificiation.

  • QuantumTuba says:

    The comments thus far not only show serious cisgenderd privilege, but also show the vengeance based mentality that has led us to this horrific point in our criminal justice system. Rather than taking their justifiable disgust at the exploitation of children and trying to determine a way to provide restitution to the victims, they focus on hurting and constraining the perpetrator, regardless of whether this would result in her being misgendered, raped, and faced with assorted other human rights violations.

    This mindset is a major cause of the problems with our criminal justice system. It stops people from seeing the overly broad and hysterical nature of modern sex offender laws (And how this overly broad approach actually makes it harder to help victims), it allows us to avoid critiquing the prison industrial complex, the death penalty, etc., because we get sidetracked from justice with fantasies of vengeance.

  • So, we afford this woman special treatment because of her gender identification? I don’t think that’s progressive, I think that’s discriminatory. She does not deserve special treatment simply because she is a transwoman. She deserves the same punishment as any person of any other gender who commits this crime. Certainly, precautions need to be taken for her humane treatment in jail, but I have to say I don’t think it’s that any of us in the comments have privilege blinders on. We acknowledge the danger and acknowledge that she deserves to be treated like a human being and protected from those who would treat her as less in prison, but we don’t give prefernce to her gender over the fact of her crime. She was an adult who made a choice, and that choice negatively affects children who don’t have the same freedom to choose that she did.

    I also think it’s pretty, er, privileged of you to assume privilege on the part of your readers. I’m sorry. I guess as someone who was physically and sexually abused as a child myself, all my sympathy is taken up with those children, who no doubt will grow up–assuming they survive the physical and sexual abuse they are subjected to now–to be told by people who know nothing about them that they are privileged, too.

  • Elena says:

    I think the problem here is our justice system. Prison rape (or at least the assumption that prison rape is commonplace) is seen as an acceptable aspect of prison life, and that is really fucked up. If we say that no one deserves sexual assault, that includes those that are incarcerated, regardless of their crimes. Putting this woman in a prison, where she would be misgendered, and highly vulnerable to abuse would not suddenly heal the children who had been abused. Yes, this woman does have to answer for her crimes, but there is no justice in doing so in a way that would cause her to be harmed/assaulted.

  • katiee93 says:

    If “special treatment” means that this woman should not be placed in a facility where she could easily be RAPED AND KILLED, then yes, by all means, let’s give her “special treatment.”

    And being abused or assaulted does not make you void of all privilege. If you’re cisgender, no matter how much trauma you’ve been through, you cannot and will not ever fully understand the experiences of trans* people, and you will not have the same life experience.

  • She should not be placed in a facility where she could easily be raped and killed. But she shouldn’t get off with unpaid labor, supervision, and getting her name on a sex offender registry. Her gender should not excuse her from the punishment that is given to cisgendered people. Both myself and several of the other commentors have acknowledged that she should by no means be placed in general population, but she should also not get to skip the jail time simply because of her gender. Arrangements should be made for her to both serve the sentence that would be given to anyone else who committed this crime, and be safe from inmates who would persecute, abuse, or harm her. A secure mental health facility seems like a pretty good suggestion to me.

    And I fully agree. By many people I would be considered cisgendered. I am also white, and college educated. I have tons of privilege. Or do I? I suppose if I were to look at child porn, I would get the prison sentence because to all appearances I ascribe to a socially normative gender identification. So really, between me and the transwoman in question, which of us is being treated with privilege?

    I am not arguing that this woman does not deserve protection and humane treatment. I would never argue that. However, I do think that you are far too ready to take preference for the perpetrator over the victims. Like you, I don’t necessarily think that this woman is “evil” or inhuman. But I do think that she broke a law, and she deserves the same punishment as anyone else who breaks this law. How many times do I have to repeat myself? Take precautions to keep the woman safe, as many as necessary. But don’t give her special treatment or a lighter sentence because of her gender. What part of this makes it sound like I’m insensitive to the danger she would face serving a prison sentence in a conventional facility?

  • [...] Trans woman not sent to a man’s jail. [...]

  • Danny says:

    I know I’m all kinds of late here but I think when you compare this woman’s situation with that of others who have been there (caught with child porn) there is one thing worth noting. If this had been a man with child porn many (if not most) would be actively hoping that he would get sent to prison so the same things were talking about here would happen to him. Acting like those various forms of prison abuse are a sanctioned part of the punishment.

    Now while I most certainly agree that this women should not be intentionally subjected to such abuse I also agree that she should not be given a lighter punishment.

    And I fully agree. By many people I would be considered cisgendered. I am also white, and college educated. I have tons of privilege. Or do I? I suppose if I were to look at child porn, I would get the prison sentence because to all appearances I ascribe to a socially normative gender identification. So really, between me and the transwoman in question, which of us is being treated with privilege?
    I was thinking the same thing. As a cis-gendered male if I were to be convicted on child porn charges people would be on tv, blogs, and everywhere openly saying that I deserve to be raped, assaulted, and killed (and not necessarily in that order).

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