You hear about it all the time, and if you are a female, especially, you are made well aware of the risk from a very early age. Yet like with most tragedies, you never truly expect it to happen to you.
No matter how aware and careful you are, it only takes that one walk in solitude where you are lost deep in thought and forget to take your headphones out and not realise in time before your life changes forever. Many victims never recover from the psychological trauma of being violated against their will, and those who do take years to move on from it to some extent.
As a woman, it is an unfortunate truth that it can happen at any time, and as a man, you know the same can happen to your wife, mother, sister or daughter.
Some crimes have mitigating factors. If you dig deep enough, you can find some justifiable reasons like a thief who steals out of desperation and starvation, but rape and paedophilia are vile and destructive acts that entered and stayed in our society for too long. That’s why many countries have turned to the extreme measure of castration as a form of punishment and deterrent for those responsible for these heinous crimes.
Though controversial, could this method finally lead to a significant reduction in rape and sexual assault?
"In the last five years, we have seen literally hundreds of convicted rapists who have come out of prison commit another sexual offence." - Boris Johnson, UK Prime Minister (2019). If this highlights anything, it is that the current judicial system – specifically in regards to rapists and paedophiles – is far too lenient and ineffective.
The impact that befalls the victims is one which only they know of and must live with. Unless of course, they fall pregnant and have to decide between either aborting the product of rape or raising a child as one.
What happens then?
Studies have proven that females who are victims of rape have shown significantly more suicidal tendencies than those of their non sexually abused counterparts. Reports also show that sexual abuse of children is strongly linked to suicidal thoughts and attempts, and increased levels of depression. As despicable as the rape of an adult is, to sexually abuse a child is unforgivable.
The rest of that child’s life is defined by the evil actions of a paedophile and there should be no second chances for that.
Castration is a definitive way of ensuring that those guilty of these crimes can never commit them again. For crimes of such repulsive nature, prevention and justice for the victims should be the only priority.
Sexual offenders are well aware of the consequences of their actions. The shattering impact it has on the lives of their victims, the incarceration, and the lifelong title of rapist/paedophile clearly is not enough to stop them.
So why should innocent victims continue to be at risk?
What can castration do?
Though castration may not discourage all sexual offenders, it will, at the very least, force the majority to think long and hard about the consequences as it is the defining part of the male human body and is linked directly with how men approach their masculinity in today’s society.
Chemical castration has also proved to be effective in helping to turn down the sexual volume of the mind, according to Dr Renee Sorrentino for individuals who cannot control their violent sexual urges and actions.
A successful judicial system should have a balanced approach that includes tolerance and understanding for certain crimes and situations, as well as tough and severe measures.
However successful and strong a country's judicial system can be, thousands of verdicts are overturned every year in countries all around the world. From eyewitness misidentifications, false forensic evidence, and government misconduct, there are a number of reasons which lead to false criminal convictions.
Darryl Hunt and Kirk Bloodsworth are just two examples of men who were wrongly convicted for rape and murder spending 19 and 9 years in jail respectively. In Kirk’s case, he was even sent to death row for the sexual assault and murder of a 9-year-old child, however, was later exonerated due to DNA evidence.
Knowing we will make mistakes, should we hand out punishments of such severity?
Though it’s something that we strive for, to expect mistakes to be completely eradicated is unrealistic – human error has to be accounted for. Being imprisoned can change a person's life, being falsely imprisoned can ruin a person’s life. For those who have had the misfortune to experience that, if you were to add castration to their punishment, it would turn injustice into cruelty.
A growing number of societies have, and are trying to, move towards viewing judicial punishments from an alternative lens, by handing out less harsh punishments to those who have made mistakes and committed crimes in a bid to focus on rehabilitation.
The “simple and unpalatable truth” about prisons in the UK, said the chief inspector, is that they have become “unacceptably violent and dangerous places.”
Life for prisoners whilst incarcerated often breeds a criminal state of mind due to their living conditions and treatment. Upon release, those without a strong support system on the outside revert back to what they know and get caught in a vicious cycle that they struggle to ever get out of.
So, is there an alternative approach that works?
Scandinavian countries have been pioneers in reverting to a new, more humane approach of treating prisoners with more respect and have started to show great signs of success.
They have implemented a model, aiming to normalise the environment which helps to create a ‘rehabilitation culture.’ This includes referring to those inside as ‘men’ as opposed to ‘prisoners,' and allowing them views of the countryside and landscapes through windows in their rooms amongst a plethora of changes big and small. This shift has seen Norway achieve one of the lowest recidivism (reoffending) rates in the world at almost 20%.
To live in a more peaceful and empathetic world, we must practise what we preach and lead by example.
Is castration regressive, cruel punishment that no longer has a place in our empathetic, forward-thinking society? Or are we finally doing what is necessary to put an end to a scourge that has embedded itself into our communities with no intention of leaving?
Whether we like to believe it or not, the reality is rape, paedophilia and sexual abuse are prevalent in our society and we have looked the other way knowing full well that the framework currently in place is nowhere near good enough.
Social and moral issues have a funny way of changing as soon as a situation directly affects you. So before answering, put yourself in the shoes of the victim, or by the side of the sufferer as a spouse, sibling, parent or friend.
If you were given the option to vote for a change in the law that would castrate rapists and paedophiles, which ballot would your say fall in?