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English 212

2002 Third Paper

On Serendip


Elisa Espiritu

My praxis site is at a law office in center city Philadelphia, working under a female lawyer who prosecutes child sex offenders. The office space we work out of is small in size and often very cramped by the overflow of paper work and people. The pace of the workers is fast and the cases the department has to prosecute is often depressing and for me, at times, sickening.

Before I arrived, I wondered how someone could be around such subject matter everyday. How does one deal with such severe issues in their daily work? Do the details eventually become matter of fact? Does the feeling of severity upon hearing some of the things that happen to these children ever wear off? I can understand now, how from my distance, I had these questions in anticipation of my own emotional response.

I have been going now, once a week for an entire day, for a month. I am both awed and appalled by the number of cases there are. As I sit in the office, surrounded by four-foot high piles of files, the scariest realization I have is that these overwhelming numbers of cases are only the ones that are reported. How many more are there?

It is an understatement to say that the work being done is admirable. Advocating for these children and attempting to protect them and other children from these perpetrators seems like a never-ending task. But regardless of how many guilty or non-guilty verdicts that are given, these lawyers stick with their work because they believe in its necessity.

The biggest problem I face at my praxis site is the language used by the victims in relation to their young age. Reading most of their testimonies and the details of the police reports, I have come to realize that I am trying to develop a sex ed curriculum for children that have sexual experience (very violent sexual experience) but do not possess the knowledge of sexual terminology to describe what happened to them. For example, many of the children have never said the word penis, but have referred to the male genital organ as a "ding dong."

The barriers of language and my own emotional response to what I see and hear about while I am there have made this a very challenging site, but nevertheless, it has expanded my interpretations of everything we have been discussing in our classroom, from issues of consent, to the controversy surrounding pornography.


Allison, Julie and Wrightsman, Lawrence S. Rape: The Misunderstood Crime. Newbury Park, California: Sage Publications, 1993.

Anger, Billie and Todd Ellner, Marge Heyden and Tiel Jackson. Fighting Back Works: The case for advocating and teaching self-defense against rape. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance, May/June 1999.

Holmes, Stephen T. and Holmes Ronald M. Sex Crimes: Patterns and Behavior. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications, 2002.

Lamb, Sharon. The Trouble With Blame: Victims, Perpetrators, and Responsibility. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1996.

McEvoy, Alan W. and Brookings, Jeff B. If She is Raped : A Book for Husbands, Fathers, and Male Friends. Holmes Beach, FL: Learning Publications, 1991.

Roiphe, Katie. The Morning After: Sex, Fear, and Feminism on Campus. Boston, Mass: Little, Brown and Co., 1993.

Chapter 31, Sexual Offenses, Crime Codes of PA. (Obtained from Philadelphia District Attorney's Office).

Web Resources:

Also, see Lesson Plans.

Then click on Kids Speak Out (left frame).

Then click on Abuse and Trauma (right frame).

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