My hometown has been getting some significant media attention for its decision to keep Kraigen Grooms from prison after being found guilty of committing sexual acts against a one-year-old in 2014, when Grooms was sixteen.
Looking at the mug shot of a stranger can emit immediate feelings of hatred, but my own feelings upon recognizing a boy that I attended elementary school alongside were far different from hatred. Frustration and pure shock entered my body. My brain flashed back to the summer days he would show up on my front porch and insist to come in and play Tony Hawk videogames with me. He wasn’t known to be a great student, and I don’t remember him being kind during school. However, I do remember how out of touch he seemed with reality, and especially the concept of family and friends. He always seemed like a kid on the run. From what? I have no clue. I’ll probably never know, and I am not trying to make it seem as if we were especially close by any means—we were not—just giving insight into my own view of the situation, and the confusion it caused.
The Wapello County Attorney’s statement on the ending result of Grooms’ case covers some necessary facts and explanations on behalf of those who made the decision. He will be on probation for five years, and will be supervised on parole for life as a registered sex offender. Unlike most of the headlines going around, he had no idea he was being filmed at the time of the incident—he was catfished by two men (one in Ireland, one in New Orleans) involved in child pornography that posed as a female the same age as Grooms, who then talked him into performing the act and filmed it via Skype.
Up until his official ruling, Grooms spent eight hundred sixty days in jail. This means that more than likely, parole would have been granted to him without much difficulty after going back in. His position as a minor at the time of the offense was also taken into consideration.
After reading the statement, it is made clear how strongly the victim’s family felt about keeping Grooms out of prison. Instead, they hoped he would be sent to receive treatment—which he is, according to the statement itself. He must complete the Sex Offender Treatment Program. I read over the guidelines of this program, and agree with most of their standards. It is an individualized process that attempts to correct the deviant behavior of sex offenders through a series of exams to determine the levels of deviance and then works to figure out why there is a deviance to begin with.
One point at which I became frustrated with Wapello County’s statement was at #6, which describes the incident and claims the child was not injured, that there was no pain involved, and that the child was too young to remember the incident. Also mentioned is that it was not Grooms’ idea to commit the act, and pinned the sole blame on the two pornographers who talked him into it. Was it not Grooms who still made the decision to assault the child? And does the age of the child even matter in this situation?
I am extremely disheartened by this entire story, start to finish. Do I disagree with the ruling? Yes, for the most part. What he did was incomprehensibly disgusting, and not okay. Do I understand why it was handled in the way it was? I’d have to answer yes to that as well. The mind-boggling concept of once knowing a child who grew up to sexually assault a defenseless child has been on my mind all week. Kraigen Grooms has a story none of us know. His horrible decision will now follow him around for the rest of his life, and I believe he deserves that. I also believe the public should wait for answers before jumping to conclusions. I am as guilty of this as anyone; I trusted articles with inaccurate information, and shared them to my personal social media pages. Perhaps in the wake of Brock Turner’s sentence (or lack thereof), we as a country are becoming more aware of the rape culture that exists in America. Not that Grooms’ case should be comparable to Turner’s in any way—they are two completely different scenarios whose only similar basis is taking sexual advantage of another human being. A mixture of importance and sadness, this necessary realization will hopefully bring more change to what is an unfortunate state of idleness in the law when handling rape and sexual abuse. And on the other side of that, the mental health counselling to get to the bottom of why it is so common and how to prevent it, if at all possible.
At the end of this heavy week, I find light in the hope that the coverage of Kraigen’s story will open the eyes of many to try and make a change in their own communities to correct the injustices done towards victims of abuse across the country.
To read the full statement, click here: