Monday, July 25, 2005

A “Note” To The Misled Public
By Susan M.

I would like to begin this letter to my fellow citizens with a question: What are the first thoughts that pop into your minds when you hear the words “Sex Offender”? Child molester/predator, freak, outcast, monster? Someone who is incapable of ever changing, of rising above this label, and is someone always to be feared and watched with extreme prejudice? Ever heard the term, “Once an offender, always an offender”? These are people, who in the words of a particular politician in a recent news report, belong only in a place like Gitmo, far away from our “civilized” society. Separating them from our mainstream is the only way to keep our children and ourselves safe from these depraved and sick individuals. And in the wake of recent tragic events, the deaths of these precious children in our own backyards, has sent all of us into a frenzy of fear and panic. I understand this all to well, being the mother of two wonderful children. I would go to the most extreme measures to see to it that they are always safe, as would any parent. There is no greater grief than the loss of a child, especially under such horrible circumstances. I pray every day to God that I am cold and dead in my grave long before my children are.

Following recent tragic events, we cheer and support our government officials in toughening up the old sex offender laws, and create new ones, all in the name of the safety of our children. All parents know that when it comes to your children being in any kind of danger, we react on instinct and little thought goes into our actions.. So we question nothing when our politicians start writing new laws. We just assume that everything they do is for the benefit of all the voting public, and supported them wholeheartedly. They offer us a seemingly simple and easy solution to this problem, and you know there is nothing we like better than simple and easy. They tell us that all sex offenders are a danger to society, they lurk and plot and look for victims-your children-always looking for an opportunity to do them harm in the most horrible depraved ways, the real bogeymen of your worst nightmares. They need to be controlled, ostracized, and completely excluded from society. They have given us tools (the Sex Offender Registry) to monitor if any are living near our homes, schools, and parks, and want to pass legislation that would prevent them from living anywhere near where children congregate or live. Sounds like a good idea. After all, we don’t want these violent, vicious criminals anywhere near our kids. As a parent, I have to agree. As the child victim of one of these predators, I have to agree.

The common belief is that indeed, all sex offenders are predators; monsters and freaks that do not deserve the right to live a normal life like the rest of us. That is the only description we seem to be getting from the politicians and the media. And you have to believe that, don’t you? It is after all, the politicians and the media…they are never known to lie or mislead the American public by omitting facts that go contrary to what they are trying to inform you of on the news and during election time, are they? They never over-react to situations or out right lie (Weapons of mass destruction are in Iraq, we have to go to war with them; I never had sexual relations with that woman; All sex offenders are predators, etc. You get the point, don’t you?). What is being left out of this picture?

My name is Susan. I am the mother of 2 children, the child victim of a child molester, and the wife of a registered sex offender. I hear the collective gasp. I can’t blame you. I watch the news, and I know the only information about these people is what you hear from your TV. They feed on your fear and panic to further their own agenda-re-election. That’s their job, so I cant blame them either. I blame the violent, predatory sex criminals who prey upon defenseless children. I blame whatever is causing this country to forget its values and the constitution itself, and here is something that is sure to get me in trouble with the majority of the population at this time in our history: I blame the ignorant, uneducated public who by either the poor state of our system of justice, politics, education, and morals, or by their own choice, throw themselves gleefully into the realm of the “sheep mentality” which is becoming so prevalent in our society today. It sickens and saddens me to see that most of you are unable or unwilling to see what is truly going on behind the scenes here. I will try to enlighten you to the other side of this story. But I have to start from the beginning.

From the age of 5 until 8, I was the victim of molestation, not by some faceless monster lurking around the corner of the playground I frequented with my friends, but by a family member. When I was 8, I finally told a police officer who came to my school during one of those community sponsored events that help teach young people to never talk to strangers, stop drop and roll, and always tell an adult you trust if someone has touched you in a way that was ‘Inappropriate.” I didn’t know until then that what had been happening to me was bad and wrong. When I told the “secret,” the results were he was brought in for questioning, charges were filed, and the judge sentenced him to…counseling. He never again touched me in “inappropriate” ways. He was deemed cured after finishing the court ordered counseling, and nothing happened after that point. The case was closed, I was sent to counseling of my own, where I was forced over and over again to recount every small detail of the abuse I suffered. I didn’t feel truly traumatized until I began counseling with the court’s psychologists and physicians. But he was off Scot free, and many years later, was discovered molesting his own sons. Even then, he received 30 days in jail and a 20 year suspended sentence. Many years after that, one of his victims was convicted of molestation of another family member, and he served several years in a juvenile facility. Neither of the victims ever received any serious therapy for their trauma as children. The therapy he received in detention was in some minimal way, quite helpful in dealing with his own trauma and his own actions, and now he is free and trying to rebuild his. I cannot say that what he did was not his own fault, and the punishment he received was just, but he doesn’t have much to look forward to since he is a convicted sex offender, even though he served his time, was released with good reports, and paid his debt to society and his family many times over.

I know you are saying, considering what my family and I have been through, I should be at the forefront of this battle to pass and support these new laws. I’m crazy to be married to a registered sex offender and have children in his presence. I should be taken out and shot along with them, or have my children taken away because of my husband’s status. Because as we all know, all sex offenders are child molesters, and by living with one, I am willingly and knowingly placing my own children in danger. Look these people up on the registry; the crimes they listed are in plain sight, in black and white. Anyone can look them up and know exactly what their neighbor did to deserve being there.

But have you ever really read the descriptions of the categories they list people in on this registry? The definitions vary from state to state, and I strongly recommend that you take the time to read them over if you really care about your children’s safety, as you claim to. The descriptions are broad and all encompassing for the people convicted and forced to register. All Offenders are lumped into two basic categories: Habitual and Aggravated. Now I have to admit, I am very interested in who is listed as being a habitual offender, as those are the predators to be on the lookout for. They have already been convicted at least once already for a sex related offense, and obviously their time behind bars did not deter them from going out and repeating a sex crime upon their release. I definitely want to know if one of them is living next door to my kids’ school or me. Everyone needs to be vigilant (not vigilante, mind you) for the safety of their family and themselves, as not all of these offenders have chosen only children as their victims. The other class of sex offenders covers everyone else, and makes up the highest percentage of registered S.O.’s. Aggravated sex offenders have more classifications than I can count ranging from serious one-time offences such as sexual relations with a minor to urinating in public. Sexual relations with a minor, even if consensual, is a sex crime based upon the belief that people under a certain age are incapable of making the decision to participate in a sexual act.

For as long as history has been history, teenagers assert their independence from parents and push for the rank of adulthood. If you did a good job and set a good example for your children, their decision-making abilities during the teen years should be excellent. And, yes, Teenagers are perfectly capable of making decisions, and facing the consequences. If they are not capable of making life decisions by the time they reach their teen years, I feel sorry for them when they turn 18. By stating in law that they are not capable of making their own decisions, we are basically telling them that they are incompetent to do anything, and being so close to adulthood, that will carry over. We are dooming our children to failure by holding this belief. Just look at the numbers of children now who fail miserably when the strike out on their own, and end up either back home with Mom and Dad, or worse, in jail or the graveyard. You should start early in their lives educating them on the TRUTH about sex, whatever your individual truth might be, not let the TV educate them. If you cultivate high morals in them while they are young, the likelihood of them falling to the temptations of sex or drugs as a teenager are greatly reduced, and quite honestly I would have to say, the numbers of people on the sex offender registries would drop. It is a fact that a high percentage of Aggravated sex offenders on the registries was people who participated in consensual sex with an underager. Some dumb Joe Shmoe who fell for the line “Yeah, sure, I’m 18” perpetrated most of those “crimes”! Even those who knowingly participated in a sexual act with someone they knew was under 18 (and the under 18’r was an active participant and even the parents knew of the relationship and allowed it) is branded for life in the same category as other, more violent sex criminals. And the listing of the type of crime they were convicted of is vague in its description and leaves much to the imagination, and face it, in the harsh reality of the latest events, our imaginations are running wild.

Take for example this story of a man whose live-in girlfriend’s daughter would walk into the bathroom without knocking while he was showering or using the toilet. He told the girlfriend, and she laughed it off. After a painful back injury and subsequent surgery and on pain medication, she came into him room and put her hand down his pants. Again he told the girlfriend who did nothing about her child’s behavior. Her biological father had sexually molested her daughter as a child, and in my opinion, her promiscuity and inappropriate behavior with men was a direct result of not receiving proper care after her trauma. There was a lot of psychological history to her problem. But the mother seemed unconcerned. The man felt that this was not a normal or healthy environment to be a part of, so he left, and took the credit cards with him. Over a year later in the city he moved to, police came to his home and arrested him for sexual abuse of a child, stating he had been on a wanted list of alleged sexual abusers, reported by his ex-girlfriend. He was honest and open with the officials at his questioning about all the events that happened in the household. Unfortunately, this honest man was taught a very painful lesson that honesty is not always the best policy, especially in this arena. Since she was underage, she was not responsible for her actions, and since he was there, he was actually the one guilty of abuse. Her history was irrelevant due to her age. No definitive proof is needed in cases such as this, all that is needed to convict is the allegation. He was given a public defender who advised him to plead guilty to lesser charges in order to avoid a more serious sentence. Since he was not in the financial situation to pursue further legal action, he was convicted and sentenced to a prison term of 3 years and required to go through all the prison counseling for sex offenders. Upon release, at his own expense, he continued counseling and registered with the local authorities his status as a sex offender. He served his time, complied with all the demands of the court and even was released from parole/probation and would have no longer been required to register once a year for 10 years after September of 2011.

Last year, he received a form letter from the state of his residence informing him that under new sex offender laws, he would now be required to register every 90 days for the rest of his life as a result of his status as an aggravated sex offender. This came as quite a shock to the man, who had just started to put his life back together. He had managed to get an average job, doing
something he enjoyed (fixing cars), in spite of the fact that it is nearly impossible to get decent work when you have your name on the sex offender registry (The sites that publish the registry plainly state that just because someone is listed there does not give anyone the
right to deny employment or discriminate against them. It is in the fine print and unfortunately, there is nothing that can be done when this happens, and it did to this man. He has little hope of ever getting anything more than a minimum wage job, if he is lucky, and he was. He cannot receive any public assistance to help him offset the cost of living on such a small paycheck. Housing options are limited as well). He met someone and got married and had a family to support now. He was honest and up front with everyone about his situation, including his wife, before they even began a relationship, as she had children from a former relationship and didn’t want to get her in trouble. Things had been going as well as they possibly could considering his status as a registered sex offender. But it was a constant worry that someone, in the name of “justice” and in the interest of public safety, would turn vigilante and use the registry as a kind of hit list. Since his address and other information were listed there, his fear for the safety of his wife and children from these kinds of people was always on his mind. Not to mention, his fear of losing his job and being unable to get another one. They were already living paycheck to paycheck; always worrying about how to pay next months bills.

But now, he is faced with the indefinite sentence of paying for his “crime.”. He still has problems with his back, but is not eligible to collect disability due to his conviction and registry. He cannot vote, he cannot choose where he and his family can live without prior approval, and he cannot apply for assistance if they fall upon hard times. The Dept. of Corrections in his state, which sent him the letter stating the rules had changed, still lists him on the registry as being released from the registry in Sept. of 2011. No one there can

give him a straight answer on which is correct. He leaves messages, and gets no responses. He is given no certainty as to what
is required of him, and as the laws are, even if the mistake is on the bureaucratic side of the line, he would be penalized for the mistake. And there are countless many who are in the same hopeless situation. A new underclass with no chance of success in life, because of one mistake, or alleged mistake, that will haunt them forever, whether they deserve it or not. But you don’t hear about these people, who make up the majority of the “monsters” that you hear sex offenders are as described on TV. But the common mentality of today is, “ You have to break a few eggs…”

He is a kind decent man. His biggest mistake was staying in that situation for as long as he did. He is not a child-molesting monster, even if he is obscurely listed in the registers as a sex offender. He is not the boogeyman of your nightmares. He is a good husband and father and law abiding, tax paying citizen. The next time you read your local registry, try to take the opportunity to actually meet these people before you judge that they are dangerous. Even the Registry has a disclaimer that basically says that most of the people listed here are not deemed a major threat to society and specifics of their crimes are not listed in detail. You might just find out some surprising information about that individual if you just took the time to educate yourself beyond what you read on a poorly maintained Internet site.

Fact: The majority of the people you really need to worry about do not keep up with their registry requirements. How else do you explain why so many states are in an uproar about the lack of follow up on keeping tabs on RSO’s? They give false addresses, or move and not notify the proper authorities. Those are the ones to be scared of, because they are obviously not following the rules for a very good reason, and are the most likely to re-commit a sex crime. So how is the registry keeping you and your children safe? The sex offenders listed on the roles are either one time, non habitual, totally not dangerous, law abiding citizens who do follow the rules, some of whom really did commit a sex crime but are re-habilitated and no longer pose a threat (Yes, it is possible to re-habilitate even a sex offender, contrary to popular belief), and most of whom didn’t do anything truly sick or even wrong, but were punished anyway because they did not have the money or the power to defend themselves in a court of law against false accusations or ridiculous trumped up charges. Then you have the truly sick people, as I mentioned above, who register falsely, and because of lack of funding, the ones in charge of keeping up with the registry cannot possibly begin to keep track of them. So when truly tragic events happen, like what has happened in Florida, the panic and mob mentality takes over. Instead of fixing the problem that caused this awful tragedy, we seek to pass more laws that do nothing to improve the system itself.

Fact: The percentage rate of recidivism of sex offenders is not as high as you are led to believe. What I am about to say may seem harsh and heartless, but it is true; the acts of a few sick people resulting in the deaths of a few children, does not reflect the majority of sex offenders nationwide. The media and Politicians all over the country have steered the public opinion into a belief that “once a sex offender, always a sex offender” “it is not possible to re-habilitate these people” “They are ALL dangerous” “They are ALL sick pedophiles who prey on children.” This is blatantly untrue.

The recidivism rates amongst released inmates convicted of ANY sex crime are 5-7%, nationally. They do not yet have definite numbers on how many of these people were returned to incarceration for another sex crime. Recidivism rates among S.O.’s, do not take into consideration how many were returned for non-sex offenses. They are released into a situation where most are doomed to fail. They have to register an address within 24-48 hours after release with the local authorities. The place of residence has to be approved by the parole officer. If the address is within anywhere from 1000ft to 2500ft (depending on local regulations) of anywhere children congregate, they cannot live there. Try to think of anywhere now days where anything is that distance from where children congregate. That leaves options very limited. That’s why so many are left homeless. If you do not have a registerable address, you can
be considered unwilling to meet the requirements of probation, and go back to prison. Most shelters now do not even allow S.O.’s
to seek shelter when homeless. They cannot apply for housing assistance, or food stamps, or federal aide of any kind. Getting a job is very difficult. Most employers (even though it is against the law to discriminate) discriminate against this new under class of our society. So where are they to live, how are they to eat, pay bills, become a contributing member of society? Considering this scenario, it would not surprise me in the least that of those offenders returned to incarceration, most are there for petty crimes like thievery. How else can they get what they need to survive? We have effectively prevented them from being able to do it in the usual and legal ways, and an individual’s instinct to live can sometimes override their ability to be law abiding. These people must have been released for a reason.

If they were such an imminent threat, why would ANY sex offender ever be allowed to walk free? What kind of government would knowingly release an individual that is an obvious danger to public safety, the same government that is now crying out on every news program on TV that their highest concern is for the safety and well being of their constituents. Aside from the monsters who committed these atrocities, could anyone else be responsible for what has happened? What of the people in charge of writing up the budget for the agencies in charge of keeping tabs on S.O.’s when they are released, who cant afford the time or manpower to do this mountainous task.

Fact: The majority of sexual predators that prey on children ARE NOT the stereotypical stranger lurking around the corner waiting to pounce. They are family members or close friends of the family. Always let your children know that you are available to them if they have ANY problem.. Educate them from a young age that some touching is good, and some is bad, and make sure that they know the difference. Reassure them that they will never get in trouble or hurt if they do tell someone that they have been abused. Many abusers use threats to keep their victims quiet. I speak from experience there. And the best way to protect your children from those “lurking strangers” you are being warned about is to always WATCH YOUR CHILDREN. Be involved in everything they do. Keep your doors and windows locked at night, and check the locks twice, three or four times or more, whatever is necessary to be sure no one can get in from outside. Yes, it is a shame we have to live life in lockdown. It shouldn’t be that way, but it is. It’s a fact, and not to sound heartless, but how many of the latest crimes involving sex offenders killing children happened because of an unlocked door/ window or unsupervised child? These criminals only look for the easy way to commit their crime. Very few want to go to too much trouble. So don’t make it easy for them, use your locks, common sense, and your gut feelings!

One thing I do agree with the majority on is that the laws are not good enough. They need to be changed. People need to be educated on the long-term effects of short-term solutions. I do believe that the registry was a good idea, that it was created with the intentions of keeping us safe. But in our haste, we have created a tragedy waiting to happen. The fact is, we are no safer now than we were before. First of all, very few of the people you see on your registry are of any threat to you or your children.. You have to sort through hundreds of S.O.’s and maybe one or two may be dangerous. I believe that only the most dangerous people should be listed there, and then I believe that if they are so dangerous, they should not be walking our streets or living in our communities. If they were kept locked away, there would be no need for a registry that encourages fear and panic with little information to back it up. If it hasn’t happened already and the media just didn’t report it, mark my words; someone is going to get hurt, or worse. When the self appointed judge and jury, armed with the vague descriptions of an RSO’s crime and a very detailed description of the address now so easily accessible by everyone with access to a computer, decides to go out and “cleanse” our society of the “unwanted element” and ends up firebombing the home of that RSO, killing the RSO and any family that may live there with him/her, what will we do then? Even worse, this same person with list in hand, goes to the address listed as the offender’s residence, burn is down, killing all the occupants, only to find out later that due to lack of budget, or the sneakiness of the offender, the address was never actually confirmed to be the residence of the offender, and innocent people were killed. What will we say? “You have to break a few eggs?’

If things are to remain status quo, or escalate further in this blatant disregard of constitutional rights of all Americans, I say go ahead and take it a step further. Be fair. If all Sex Offenders are dangerous criminals, keep the registry. But I want more. I want a registry for anyone convicted of theft, for they are a danger to property that law-abiding citizens worked hard to procure. If a thief lives in my neighborhood, I want easy access to a list so I can make sure I take proper precautions. I also want to know if anyone convicted of murder of any degree lives near me. Murder, after all, has a higher recidivism rate for the SAME OFFENSE than sex offenses do. I want to know if anyone living near me has ever been convicted of domestic violence. If I were single and wanted to date, or when my daughter is old enough to date, I would want easy access to a registry to see if the perspective date had ever hit someone, because it is common knowledge that these types of people are violent and usually continue to be an abuser. I want to know if any people of Arabic descent or people of the Islamic faith live near me, because they could be potential terrorists. They are a definite danger to society. Why stop there? I want to know everything about everyone. Every filthy detail of everything they have ever done or are likely to do in the future. What’s so bad about giving up all rights of privacy and liberty if my government tells me that that will make me safer? Small price to pay, don’t you think?
I don’t ask that you “come over to my side,” I only ask that you please educate yourselves on all the details and all the possible consequences of the legislation that our government is trying to pass, before it is passed, then make your decision based on the FACTS, not what the media and politicians tell you is fact. Before you vote on anything, or let your representatives’ vote on anything, take the time to read about what you or they are voting for. Read every sentence, every line of fine print. Study it for loopholes and discrepancies, and if it is truly in accordance with the Constitution. Think for yourself; think of how it will affect EVERYONE on the long term. Ask yourself if you really need the government to tell you what you need to do to be safe. You do have something called common sense, right? Then you should know that the only person who can keep you safe is YOU. Not the government or the draconian, big brother laws they are passing right under your nose with the excuse it is for your own good. If you don’t open your eyes to it now, it is more than likely you will be leaving your children a country where democracy and freedom, and everything we stand for and what many have died for, will no longer exist. And I’m not just talking about Sex Offender Rights; I’m talking about all rights. We are at the beginning of a process that if not put in check, could mean the end of freedom. And those who would give up their freedoms in return for the “promise” of safety, deserves neither. Wake up America, you have been misled.


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