Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Fifty-Cent Gas

Last September Gordon Moon was indicted for failure to report sexual abuse of a child. It looks like he is going to trial, and he faces five years in prison.

Sexual abuse of children is probably one of those things where if there were good ways of gathering statistics about it then there should be good ways of making those data zero. To compare severities and frequency one has to compare reports and news stories. For instance, at the same time the 43-year-old Gordon was being indicted a 40-year-old man from Vernal Utah (a VERY small, VERY rural, town near where I live) was sentenced to five-years-to-life in Salt Lake County for repeatedly raping his teenage daughter on a farm in that county. The story got very little news attention.

Gordon Moon is a prominent member of a small community in Duchene country. Duchene County is famous for oil shale. Gordon was on the school board,  a bishop, and a smiling star in a sage-brush dynastic family. It is actually in his role as a bishop that he ran afoul of the law.

It is strange to compare severities because doing so appears to diminish one event over another. The case Gordon failed to report was that of one teenager having sex with another. This sounds so much less severe than the Salt Lake Farm Incest (SLFI) case. However, the girl in the Gordon case felt “terrorized” by her abuser, and his family. One of the things we must keep in mind is the effect on society the criminal act has. Follow-on abuse and terror are certainly aggravating factors in any case.
Gordon had allegedly counseled the victim to: “think about what (the boy) is going through, and I don't need to start telling the cops or anything because he's already going to have to go through a bunch of repentance and all that stuff”.
Sentencing is also a poor way of judging severity. There are often disclosures and plea bargains that can reduce both sentences and charges. In the SLFI case it came to light that the defendant was re-creating a family dynamic he had learned as a child. When the SLFI defendant was 22 his father stopped raping his sister; his father had been at it since the SLFI defendant was 15.

The way I read the story, and stories in the local paper sometimes have to be translated from clusterspeak, the SLFI defendant father (SLFI-Dad) had raped SLFI's sister continually from the time she was 11 until she was 18. At 18 SLFI-Mom found out about it and she went to the local bishop (I think there are only something like 20 families in Vernal, but I’ll have to look that up) who then called in SLFI-Dad who fessed up. SLFI-Dad was then excommunicated from the LDS church.

So, you see how severity can be a difficult thing to determine? To me the whole SLFI thing sounds like a rejected script for a “The Hills Have Eyes” sequel. I will admit to not only having watched “The Hills Have Eyes 2”, but owning it on DVD; the SLFI script sounds like it might even have worked better than what they settled for.

Gordon attempted to silence the victim that came to him for support. Instead of listening to their bishop the victim and her family went to law enforcement. Vernal (Which is a small city in Duchene County) may be almost 1,000-times larger than Vernon, but it is still a small enough town where everyone knows the identities of its accusers. The stress the already-abused Gordon-accusing family is experiencing is unimaginable to most big-city folks.

The story comments the internet has washed up are undoubtedly only a taste of the humid vitriol dripping from the foul breath of local accusers; many of them may not be literate enough to stoke internet flames. What needs to happen before healing can really begin in that brave family? In the SLFI-Dad case the abused girl was simply sent home to silently handle her situation. According to Gary Searle, chief deputy attorney for the Tooele County Attorney’s Office that resulted in a whole lot of healing.
“There have been things that have happened in the family — healing, those kinds of things — which have gone on and they were looking for a result that would allow them to move forward rather than in a typical sex abuse case where the family’s looking for some serious punishment,” Gary Searle, chief deputy attorney for the Tooele County Attorney’s Office.
Perhaps Gordon was only thinking of the healing process for the girl that came to him. Perhaps he knew that silence is a better salve for injury than justice, or at least it sounds that way.

SLFI-Dad was sentenced this week to 15 years in prison, and given $30,000.00 in fines. That is only about two years in jail and $4,000.00 in fines per year that the SLFI-Dad abused his daughter; sounds lenient to me. All but 180 days and $1,500 were suspended. That is less than a month per year, and a little over fifty cents per day for the abuse. I don’t think that would cover the gas money required to even attempt a seven-year stint of most misdeeds.

No charges are even being considered for the SLFI-Bishop.

So Gordon’s real crime may have been in simply being unsuccessful. If the girl had just gone home and shut her mouth then eventually his problem would have gone away.

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