By receiving a 145-year prison sentence, a 29-year-old Carroll County man has the dubious honor of facing the longest sentence for child sexual abuse of anyone now in the Maryland prison system. We should take comfort from the fact that he will be behind bars for decades but also realize that this century-plus sentence won't deter others from committing the same crime.
Adults who sexually exploit children are psychologically twisted people. They have problems maintaining normal adult relationships. Many feel inadequate around adults. Using children to satisfy their sexual urges gives them a sense of control they don't have with adults. Others are driven by strange compulsions. They will admit that sexually abusing children is wrong, but they can't stop themselves.
Society needs to protect itself from such people. They prey on defenseless children and leave badly psychologically damaged individuals in their wake. These children are often depressed, act out in school and engage in their own sexual promiscuity as well as in other self-destructive acts. Many times, the victims of sex abusers grow up to become victimizers themselves. Keeping child molesters away from children is in our best interests.
Two years ago, Carroll County State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman formed a special unit to address this ill. Since its formation, the unit has investigated about 80 child sexual abuse cases a year. About 30 cases a year are brought to trial, with most of those resulting in convictions.
Carroll has witnessed some of the highest profile child-abuse cases in the state. In 1990, a Taneytown farmer received 50 years for abusing his daughter.
Is child sex abuse more prevalent in Carroll than elsewhere? Probably not. Rather, the county has made a strong commitment to investigate and prosecute these crimes. Also, crimes against children loom larger in Carroll than they do in jurisdictions that count murders by the dozens and robberies by the hundreds.
Despite the best efforts of police and prosecutors, the scourge of child sexual abuse will continue. But Carroll residents can take comfort in the knowledge that if it happens, there is a good likelihood the perpetrators will be caught, prosecuted and imprisoned.