What’s Wrong with the Sex Offender Registry — According to Jacob Wetterling’s Mom

Readers: This article is one of the best things I’ve ever read about our increasingly cruel, counter-productive sex offender laws — laws in place because of excess fear and excess pandering when it comes to our kids.

It appears in City Pages, a Twin Cities alternative newsweekly, and focuses on Patty Wetterling, whose 11-year-old son Jacob was abducted by a stranger in a small Minnesota town in 1989 and never found. Wetterling went on to lobby successfully for the first national sex offender legislation, but two decades of learning the facts about child safety and sexual abuse has changed her views profoundly. The author of this piece, Jennifer Bleyer, is available for interviews. Contact her through her website, here. Below is a much-shortened version of her piece. – L

PATTY WETTERLING QUESTIONS SEX OFFENDER LAWS

by Jennifer Bleyer

Virtually all the major laws regarding sex offenders have been passed in the wake of grisly, high profile crimes against kids and, like Megan’s Law, they bear victims’ names as somber memorials. The laws tend to fuel the impression that sex offenders are a uniform class of creepy strangers lurking in the shadows who are bound to attack children over and over again.

That’s what Patty Wetterling used to believe about sex offenders, too. Yet over the course of two decades immersed in the issue, she found her assumptions slowly chipped away.  Contrary to the widely held fear of predator strangers, she learned that abductions like Jacob’s are extremely rare, and that 90 percent of sexual offenses against children are committed by family members or acquaintances. While sex offenders are stereotyped as incurable serial abusers, a 2002 Bureau of Justice study found that they in fact have distinctly low recidivism rate of just 5.3 percent for other sex crimes within three years of being released from prison.

Though the term “sex offender” itself seems to reflexively imply child rapist, a broadening number of so-called victimless crimes are forcing people onto the rolls. According to Human Rights Watch, at least 28 states require registration for consensual sex between teenagers, 13 for public urination, 32 for exposing genitals in public, and five for soliciting adult prostitutes. And many sex offenders are really children themselves: Juveniles make up more than a third of those convicted of sex offenses against children, and their high amenability to treatment suggests that their youthful mistakes don’t predict a lifetime of abuse to come.

Wetterling, a 63-year-old grandmother with a warm smile, soft blue eyes and a folksy manner, has quietly emerged as perhaps the most unlikely voice questioning sex offender laws. Although she remains a prominent advocate for child safety, she has expressed gnawing doubts over the past several years about how we deal with sex offenders, a striking stance for someone who has been personally affected in such a devastating way.

“We have an intolerance for sexual violence, which I agree with,” she said recently. “The solution that’s been sold over the years is lock ‘em up and throw away the key. But we’ve cast such a broad net that we’re catching a lot of juveniles who did something stupid or different types of offenders who just screwed up. Should they never be given a chance to turn their lives around?”

She has kept coming back to the same nagging feeling: These men are not the same as the man who abducted Jacob. They’re not all serial child abusers who have no capacity to change.

“We’ve caught a lot of people in the net who could have been helped,” she says. “We’ve been elevating sex offender registration and community notification and punishment for 20-some years, and a wise and prudent thing would be to take a look at what’s working. Instead we let our anger drive us.”

 

97 Responses to What’s Wrong with the Sex Offender Registry — According to Jacob Wetterling’s Mom

  1. Sarah March 22, 2013 at 12:15 pm #

    A recidivism rate of 5.3% can actually translate to allot of victims. All of the figures that I looked up indicated that there are about 60,000 to 70,000 people arrested for sex crimes each year- so a recid rate of 5.3% translates to about 3,180-3,710 victims of repeat sex offenders after their first 3 years of release. And that’s only for the crimes that they are actually caught and convicted of! To me that’s quite a few. Of course that does not mean that I agree with minors being places on a sex offender registry unless they are convicted of an actual violent crime, but other than the exception of minors aren’t all criminal convictions a matter of public record? I now that all of my employers have done a criminal background check, and I am sure that I would have been rejected for employment if I had a DUI conviction or any white collar conviction. To me the bigger problem than the sex offender registry is that they average conviction for rape is only 7 years. I am I the only one that would prefer a person convicted of rape be looked up until they are old and wrinkly? And yes, I understand that if 60,000 people are arrested for a sex crime only a small fraction are actually rapists, but my gut instinct tells me that they are 5.3% of repeat offenders.

  2. LisaS March 22, 2013 at 12:42 pm #

    The 28 states (including my own) who now make consensual Sex between minors a registerable offense is the biggest problem in my view. Most of the sex offenders living in my neighborhood fall into this category. Knowing otherwise reasonable parents (including the father of my son’s crush) who say they will prosecute any boy who has sex with their daughters has a very tangible result on my parenting: I stress abstinence with my son, and birth control/disease prevention with my daughter. I know this is for naught because it’s normal teenage behavior to have sex before 18 … What’s a parent to do? Besides move someplace with a lower age of consent?

  3. Puzzled March 22, 2013 at 12:49 pm #

    As far as I’m concerned, the penalty for a crime ought to be the sentence. So, when people have served their time, that ought to be it.

  4. Sarah March 22, 2013 at 1:20 pm #

    LisaS- If consensual sex between minors is a registrable offense in your state (which I agree is completely ridiculous) wouldn’t that mean that both the boy and girl involved would be subject to criminal conviction? I don’t live in one of those states so I don’t know that law, but wouldn’t that kind of discrimination be unconstitutional?

  5. Donna March 22, 2013 at 1:27 pm #

    @Sarah – All criminal convictions are a matter of public record to the extent that the public can sit in the courtroom to view court proceedings and the press has free access to the information. You can’t go to the police station and run a criminal background check on all your neighbors. Only law enforcement has a right to run criminal background checks without your consent. Schools, employers, etc. need your permission.

    Further the sex offender registry has requirements that far exceed just a name on a website. It dictates where you can live, where you can work, and where you can socialize and how you socialize. They often make it impossible to find a residence that fits within the laws and then criminalize homelessness so they can lock you back up. A substantial number of sex offenders end up living in tent cities. My town has one. Creating a situation where large numbers of sex offenders live in tents together and wander the streets all day because they can’t work doesn’t sound remotely positive to me.

    The issue is not how many victims there are. The sex offender registry does absolutely nothing whatsoever to stop a sex offender who wishes to reoffend. It may make it very slightly more difficult but it stops nothing. Unfortunately those victims will exist with or without the registry.

    The issue is that 57,000 – 66,000 people a year (according to your numbers) are added to the registry who will not reoffend. That not only subjects them to punishment they won’t deserve but makes it impossible to ferret out the 3,000 – 4,000 who will.

  6. Donna March 22, 2013 at 1:39 pm #

    @ Sarah – No. Stat rape laws set a specific age of consent. Anyone over that age who has sex with anyone under that age can be convicted. The underage person can be convicted of nothing. So in a state where the age of consent is 16, a 17 year old boy can be convicted of stat rape for having sex with his 15 year old girlfriend. In 28 states, that boy would end up on the registry.

    My state has a Romeo and Juliet law which means it is a misdemeanor Stat rape charge if 3 or less years separate the two parties and the above 17 year old would not have to register. However, as you said, moat jobs run background checks. Try to even get in the door to explain if you have a stat rape conviction on your record. Just one of many reasons that I adamantly oppose stat rape laws in principle.

  7. marie March 22, 2013 at 2:03 pm #

    The sex offender registry is a great place to find names and addresses of people who aren’t going to commit sex crimes.

  8. hineata March 22, 2013 at 2:11 pm #

    We are lucky down here regarding such offences as consensual sex not hanging over peoples’ heads, because an MP in recent times pointed out the unfairness of such nonsense. As a 17 year old army recruit fresh from a background of foster homes he had consensual sex with a fifteen year old girl, and ended up in borstal and with a conviction as a result. So now he’s had the law changed, with little opposition from anyone else in Parliament. It’s so wonderful when politicians display glimmers of common sense, LOL!

    What was always crazy about our particular laws is that it was an offence for a boy to have sex with an underage girl, but not the other way around. So boys were unfairly targeted.That has also changed now, according to a lawyer friend of mine. Are there any females on the sex offender registries you’re talking about here?

  9. Donna March 22, 2013 at 2:37 pm #

    Hineata – The laws are equal (except in some States where rape is still defined as vaginal penetration), but the reality is that teenage girls are rarely arrested for having sex with younger teenage boys. I’ve never had such a case. Parents of teenage boys tend to be less concerned with those things and boys can’t get pregnant making the sex known to mandatory reporters such as doctors. Girls also are less known for urinating in public, it being somewhat more difficult for them, picking up prostitutes and even foolishly exposing their genitals in public.

    But, yes, there are women on the registry for child molestation and other types of sexual assaults but the numbers are extremely low compared to the number of males. I don’t think that this is because men are hugely more likely to be sex offenders (although it looks that way) but because the laws are so stacked against them.

  10. John March 22, 2013 at 2:45 pm #

    Donna — I don’t think there even has to be sex for charges to be filed. From my local paper today (I know zero details beyond these):

    “Vincent Grimaldo, 19, Mount Vernon, [Ohio] was convicted of attempted endangering children. He was sentenced to a three year term of community control supervision, including drug and alcohol use monitoring and mental health counseling. Grimaldo will serve a 17 month prison term, if he violates the conditions of his supervision. Thatcher said on December 25, 2011, Grimaldo had contact with two girls, ages 14 year and 15, without their parents’ permission and in a situation that created a potential risk to their safety. Detective Tom Bumpus, KCSO, investigated the case.”

  11. acm March 22, 2013 at 2:47 pm #

    Better late than never, I guess.

  12. hineata March 22, 2013 at 2:54 pm #

    @Donna – how did I miss that? You can get on the roll for urinating in public? Gosh, am glad that didn’t happen in Malaysia, where my boy and his friend had a great time peeing in the big open drains! A little harder for girls, agreed – here in Godzone we used to duck behind bushes, so I suppose we weren’t so exposed :-)

    Still, ridiculous to consider it any kind of sexual deviancy…

  13. Rae March 22, 2013 at 2:58 pm #

    I think there is some misunderstanding between something being on your criminal record and being a registered sex offender. Here’s a really awful example: My friend has a 19 year old daughter and a 9 year old son. When her daughter was a younger, my friend dated a man who assaulted the daughter between the ages of 12-14. The abuse was discovered when the girl reenacted something that had been done to her on her then preschool aged brother. Her brother told his mom (my friend) and this family’s world disintegrated. They were unable to convict boyfriend, daughter went to inpatient treatment but was also charged her and she admitted to molesting her little brother. So now she is on the registry. Forever. Everytime she moves her nieghbors get a postcard with her picture and her address and the age of her victim. She can’t get a job because of the restrictions on her, I offered to let her clean for me but since I have kids (who she has known their whole life) she can not. I believe she is recovering and I do not think that she would ever offend again, there are so many extenuating circumstances… of course ex-boyfriend can live and work where ever he wants. It’s possible that at some point some of these restrictions will be lifted, but she will always be on the registry. I get postcards nearly every month, and they are almost always young people who offended when they were teens, typically with victims close with in thier age range.

    Also, urinating in public? I don’t see that as a sex crime, I see a lack of prior planning and being disinclined to pee my pants.

  14. Donna March 22, 2013 at 3:09 pm #

    John – I’m going to guess that that involved more than a teenage boy feeling up his girlfriend. It seems to involve someone with substance abuse and mental health problems so could be perfectly legitimate (or not).

    But, yes, you can get nailed, and end up on the registry, for consensual behavior less than sex with a person under the age of consent. But it is really unlikely to be prosecuted between teenage couples. Now a 30 year old man feeling up a consenting 15 year old girl? Quite possible.

  15. Warren March 22, 2013 at 3:18 pm #

    Registry of sex offenders is no differenst than painting a red A on the forehead of an adulterer. It is for public embarassment only.

    I have heard horror stories of men being treated like lepers, because they are on the list. They got lonely, and in a moment of weakness paid for a hooker, and got busted. Then bam on the list for life.

    I am not saying I am for or against prostitution, I am saying that a man that goes to a pro, is not someone I worry about molesting kids, or women.

    I think this is all for nothing anyway. We a quickly moving towards a point where no matter who you are, or what you did, there will be a registry for it.

    The trend in opinions is that no matter what the crime, you should not ever be allowed to move on. You should pay for the rest of your life.

    I have friends that have records, and but for the grace of god, go I. I think that back in the day, I had my share of scraps, and if my opponent had fallen the wrong way, or a punch hit a vital spot…………………..

    Most of those screaming in favour of the list, and wanting access to all backgrounds live in glass houses, and cannot see that despite all their belief, that they are perfect, shit happens.

  16. marie March 22, 2013 at 3:33 pm #

    Rae, your story is heartbreaking and it is a good example of the harm done by the registry. For your friend’s daughter, the registry actively prevents her from moving on, from healing. You don’t mention this, but her little brother could also be adversely affected with this regular reminder that his sister did something to him. What good do those reminders do? Tearing off the scab again and again–hey, remember that awful thing you try so hard to forget? nudge nudge–just can’t be good.

    I believe she is recovering and I do not think that she would ever offend again

    Of course she won’t “offend” again! She was young and acting out something an adult led her to believe was acceptable behavior. That isn’t an OFFENSE; that is all kinds of wrong but it was not an “offense” and should never have been considered a crime.

    The prosecutor who made sure the daughter was labeled for life? That is where the real evil happened in her case. Yes, the ex-boyfriend, too, but he isn’t the one who labeled her. Does she suffer more from the label or from the memories of the abuse?

  17. Andy March 22, 2013 at 3:49 pm #

    This is what I see in the S.O. Registry.
    1. The sex laws in this country were set up mainly the protect females. For the most part I agree with that.
    2. When an accusation is made, every one assumes that the person making the accusation is telling the truth. No one makes an effort to find out if the accuser is telling the truth. If the accuser is found to be making a false accusation, there is little chance that he or she will be prosecuted.
    3. Many people in the registry are on it for non-sexual crimes.
    4. like most registries, It’s very easy to get on it, but takes an act of God to get off of it.(i.e. 2 year olds on the no-fly list, people found not guilty after conviction because of recantations or new evidence showing innocence, but still must register.
    5. When parents find that their children are having sex, the parents who make a complaint the the police first, their children are the victims, the ones who don’t, their kids are the accused.
    6. Many people are in the registry because of the hysteria about child abuse. For example, the man convicted of possession of child porn because he had photos of himself,at the age of 9, at a nudist colony in the late 1960s. Or the 70 year old grand mother charged with distributing child porn when she sent photos of her kids (that were taken in the 80s ), in the bathtub to her sister. And most recently, there was a story involving Walmart’s photo lab and the same sort of photos.
    The sex offender registry was a good idea when when it started, but now it’s a joke that no sane person would take seriously.
    just my thoughts.

  18. M March 22, 2013 at 4:02 pm #

    I know a college student who was arrested for peeing behind a alley dumpster after the bars closed. The police arrested him for indecent exposure. He was fortunate the judge reduced the charge, otherwise he would have been on the offender registry. He was about to graduate from college with a teaching degree, which would have been useless if the judge hadn’t reduced the charge.

    Have you ever gone camping or hiking and peed in the woods? Yep, that could put you on the sex offenders list.

    Have you ever mooned anyone? Yep, that could put you on the sex offenders list.

    Ever gone skinny dipping? Yep, that could put you on the sex offenders list.

    Does peeing behind a bush, mooning your buddy, or skinny dipping make you a danger to children or society? NOPE.

  19. SadButMadLad March 22, 2013 at 4:14 pm #

    The use of the term sex offender to encompass just about every act that could be conceivably have the smallest amount of sexual element is something that is used by campaigning groups. It’s a deliberate act to make their campaign bigger than it would normally be so that they can get even more money/publicity/fame/whatever. You will see it in just about any walk of life.

  20. Donna March 22, 2013 at 4:20 pm #

    Not to mention in some states many people are ending up on the registry for crimes that have nothing to do with sex or even genitalia.

    In Georgia all kidnappings and false imprisonment convictions involving a minor who is not your own require sex offender registry. So we have people on the registry for:

    A drug deal gone bad because the DRUG DEALER was under 18.

    A man whose friend came to his house with her child for whom (without his knowledge) her rights had been terminated. When the police came to get the child, he, being the militia sort, refused to let them in without a warrant and refused to allow the woman and her child to turn themselves in during the 3 hours it took to get a warrant.

    The mother and two teenage friends of a rape victim who decided to beat the guy up to teach him a lesson (they really only punched him twice). The rapist was never charged and is not on the registry.

    A man who, during a fight with his wife, blocked the door so that she and her two children couldn’t leave.

    None are fine upstanding citizens but none are sex offenders either.

  21. Captain America March 22, 2013 at 4:29 pm #

    Maybe it’s because I am male, but I have a very hard time understanding the motivation for men to be involved in these kinds of crimes. I just don’t understand it emotionally and rationally. My immediate response to hearing of such crimes is that “they” (the law) should be a bit more tolerant toward posses taking justice in their own hands, and utilizing judiciously applied 2 x 4s to the offender for considerable periods of bone-breaking time.

    But that’s just me.

    I just see the tiny, tiny likelihood of these assaults and have decided not to care that much about them possibly affecting my life in any way.

  22. Captain America March 22, 2013 at 4:32 pm #

    @ M

    guilty of all those offenses! You know, mooning was really big for a time.

    The chief problem I see with the current situation is that it has everyone afraid of Stranger Danger, when the real problem is Creepy Uncle Chester.

  23. Sarah March 22, 2013 at 4:35 pm #

    Hi Donna,
    My question was not about someone over the age of consent with someone under the age of consent- that answer is pretty obvious. It was specifically a question of who is convicted if both parties are under the age of consent. LisaL said that in her state consensual sex between minors is registerable offense, and that her son’s crushes father has threatened to prosecute is anyone (including another minor) who has sex with his daughter. I am not disagreeing with LisaL that the law is completely ridiculous, I am thinking that if it were my son and my state I would probably march over to the dad’s house and inform him that if he threatened to prosecute my minor son for consensual sex I would also pursue charges against his daughter.

  24. mollie March 22, 2013 at 4:36 pm #

    Good for you, Patty Wetterling. I had moved to Minnesota about three months before that abduction took place, and I remember clearly how intensely everyone was affected.

    Good on you for seeing that our strategies don’t always meet the needs we had set out to meet (in this case, safety for children), and having the wisdom to go beyond reactivity to look for something more thoughtful that might actually help support safety and well-being of both “offenders” and “victims / potential victims.”

    Here’s hoping your voice is respected and that things might change for the better.

  25. Donna March 22, 2013 at 5:26 pm #

    @Sarah –

    First, “under the age of consent” and “minor” are not the same thing. “Minor” is under 18 generally. Since the age of consent in many states is less that 18, it is possible for someone to be over the age of consent and still a minor.

    Two teenagers under the age of consent who engage in consensual sex – your typical boyfriend/girlfriend scenario – cannot be charged with stat rape. No matter how much the dad wants it to happen, it isn’t going to happen. He can spew whatever nonsense he wants.

    However, a person under the age of consent can be charged with child molestation for having sex with another child. The victim is usually well under the age of consent, not a teen hovering around the age of consent (a victim must be 14 or under for child molestation to even apply in my state). The perpetrator can be any age. Occasionally it is used for consensual sex between an older teen and a young teen (12-14), but the victim in these cases is usually prepubescent.

    In Georgia “fornication” (sec outside of marriage) is still a crime on the books. I’ve never seen an adult charged with it, but I’ve had teens who are under the age of consent charged in juvenile court. Sometimes even the “victims” in stat rape cases. If both participants are still juveniles, both will be charged. Mostly, they just have to take classes and counseling. It doesn’t go on their criminal record nor do they have to register as a sex offender.

  26. Sarah March 22, 2013 at 5:49 pm #

    Donna, thanks that’s exactly what I thought. The point I was was making was that the statement “in 28 states consensual sex between minors is a registable offence” seems to be a little over blown for the typical boyfriend/girlfriend scinario.

  27. Emily March 22, 2013 at 5:56 pm #

    Wow, I think Patty Wetterling is awesome for seeing past her own horrible, tragic loss, and coming out and saying that she doesn’t think that two teenagers who have consensual sex, or a man who relieves himself on the side of the highway because there are no rest stations around for miles, should be tarred with the same brush as the person who abducted Jacob. Hopefully, the government will pay attention to this, because it’s probably going to sound stronger coming from the parent of a victim, than it would have from just anyone.

  28. Donna March 22, 2013 at 6:14 pm #

    Sarah, It isn’t overblown at all. Again, you seem to be assuming that “minor” and “age of consent” are the same thing. What that statement means is that in 28 states the age of consent is YOUNGER than 18 and that minors under 18 but over the age of consent, can be charged with stat rape for consensual sex with girlfriends and such charges put them on the registry.

    In Georgia, the age of consent is 16, meaning that minors of the ages of 16 and 17 CAN be and ARE regularly charged with stat rape. Georgia is not one of the 28 states because (a) crimes adjudicated in juvenile court have been excluded from registration which excludes all the 16 year olds, (b) misdemeanors are excluded from registry and we have a Romeo and Juliet law which makes all stat rape in which the victim and perpetrator are less than 3 years apart in age a misdemeanor.

    Other states do not have such laws. Some states have no Romeo and Juliet exception and all stat rape is a felony, even that among kids only 1-2 years apart so all have to register. Other states make people processed in juvenile court register. Other states male people convicted of misdemeanors register.

  29. Sarah March 22, 2013 at 7:02 pm #

    I get the difference between age of consent and minor. I also said that in my first statement I do not think that minors should be subject to the registry unless it was some kind of particularly violent offence. But not all states add you to the list for mooning, or peeing, or teenager on teenager sex. My state lists the actual offence and date of the crime, and when I checked the list for my city (which has over 300,000 residents) all of the violations save one were for FORCIBLE sex with a minor under the age of 14. I also have an aquaintance that was removed from the registry by court order even though he was convicted of statutory rape of a 15 year old (he’s 35) because it was consensual. Stories like Rae’s are sad and tragic, but I do not think that they are the norm.

  30. Donald March 22, 2013 at 7:21 pm #

    Sex offense is disgusting. Most all agree with that. However we are divided with what to do with sex offenders. I don’t agree with “lock them up and throw away the key”. Unfortunately, a sex offender gets a label as someone that is incapable of change. A person that ends up urinating in the parking lot during a pub crawl can get put in the same category as an incurable sicko that pounces on 5 year old children. Labeling people and not allowing them to reform is the best way to promote more sex offense.

    A stupid mistake can have lifelong consequences.

    Think back to a stupid mistake that you made. How would you like to have that haunt you for the rest of your life? It can greatly affect your employment. If you peed in a parking lot, I sure hope that you enjoyed your beer. I hope you didn’t spew it up on your shirt.

    I really admire Patty Wetterling for changing her beliefs. We are all capable of having a misguided belief. However, not many people can change their outlook as profoundly as she did.
    This is the answer to the fear hysteria. It’s the ability to see things from another point of view. You don’t have to agree with that other belief but the important thing is to look at it from another angle. Perhaps you will change your belief. Perhaps you won’t. It doesn’t really matter so much but that you tried (and continue to try)

    UNDERSTANDING is the key

    This isn’t easy to do. I can be like playing the piano. It takes practice. You start off with row row row your boat but could end up with classical music.

    This is a bit abstract and not many will understand what I mean but here goes anyway. I believe that Patty Wetterling did the equivalent of playing Motzart.

    We need more people like that

  31. Donna March 22, 2013 at 7:28 pm #

    They may not be the norm in YOUR state, but they are the norm in MANY states. The fact is that I have represented many, many, many under age 20 charged with stat rape involving 14-15 year old girlfriends. All involved consensual sex. Several of them were dating with the permission of the girl’s parents and the relationship was outed via doctors, child support recovery, social services, WIC, etc, when the girl became pregnant. All except a small number (those 17-18 year olds who dated 15 year olds) are now in the sex offender registry. In 28 other states, those 17-18 year olds would be there too. Just because you don’t want it to be true doesn’t mean that it isn’t in fact true in many states.

  32. MaeMae March 22, 2013 at 9:19 pm #

    My local news just made a big deal out of the fact that a sex offender had taken off his ankle monitor and escaped. I admit I was freaked out. Until… I found other articles that stated he was wearing the monitor as part of a theft case and was registered as a sex offender back when he was 18 and had consensual sex with his 16 year old girlfriend. Way to mislead us, huh journalists? Anything to keep us watching and reading.

  33. Tsu Dho Nimh March 22, 2013 at 10:25 pm #

    http://californiarsol.org/2013/02/l-a-sees-parks-as-a-weapon-against-sex-offenders/

    So, instead of doing something useful, LA and other cities are creating teensy little “parks” because sex offenders can’t live within nnnn feet of a park.

    I guess they’ll feel better when they are all living under bridges where they can’t keep track of them.

  34. Warren March 22, 2013 at 10:39 pm #

    Thinking back to when these lists were first conceived, and implemented, they had two primary purposes.

    1. Give law enforcement a central data base, for sex offenders, that could aid in investigations.

    2. To put the publics mind at ease, because they can now see who is living near and around them.

    It has failed on both accounts now.
    1. Law enforcement has 10 times the amount of offenders and records to go through. They also have to put up with the public accessing the list and taking matters into their own hands. Which happens more frequently than any of like to admit.
    2. The public that actually look at the registry, do so out of fear. What was supposed to bring some peace only freaked out the public at the shear numbers on the list.

    I have never understood the need for the registry, other than it is just another tool in “security theatre”,

  35. Donna March 22, 2013 at 11:42 pm #

    @Warren – It isn’t just security theatre, it primes our need for vengeance. The same thing is behind the US love of the death penalty. Neither serve any purpose as far as recidivism or deference. Both are extraordinarily expensive. But they appeal to our sense of vengeance so we like them.

  36. John March 23, 2013 at 2:44 am #

    Can anyone here explain “Jessica’s Law” to me? Bill O’Reilly is really pushing this and demonizes any politician who refuses to pass it. From the way I understand it, Jessica’s Law dishes out an automatic 25 year minimum jail sentence to any adult found guilty of raping a child under 12, is that correct? Or is it just a sexual assault? There is a difference as the term “sexual assault” has a much broader definition and can include flashing the child or placing your hand on the child’s genital area over the clothing whereas rape involves penetration. I can understand the need for a stiff penalty for any adult RAPING a child under 12 but I’m not so sure that a 25 year jail sentence should be warranted for a simple sexual assault that can cover a wide range of offenses. Also, does the perpetrator have to be an adult to be prosecuted under Jessica’s Law or would the same thing happen to a 15-year-old kid who is playing doctor with his 11-year-old cousin? I’ve tried googling this law but I still can’t seem to find a clear cut definition of it.

  37. Kenny Felder March 23, 2013 at 4:55 am #

    This one is very personal to me. A good friend of mine–someone I have known for 30 years–is now on the sex offender registry. The girl next door took a topless picture of herself. The DA was cheerfully willing to admit that according to all evidence my friend was not even there at the time, but it was in his house with his camera. The result is not “just” his endless trials and hours of community service. The real consequence is the scarlet “A” he will be wearing for the rest of his life. He cannot live near a school. He must notify the police when he leaves the state for any reason. And on, and on, and on. This friend is a good and kind person, but he was also one of the most open, trusting people I knew. I met him because he walked up to us in a movie and said “You guys are into Monty Python? Me too!” He isn’t that way any more; he’s much more withdrawn. His trust has been shattered. It’s painful.

  38. BL March 23, 2013 at 6:09 am #

    Any system that equates raping a child with taking a whizz in the woods next to the 13th fairway doesn’t have safety or justice as its goal.

  39. marie March 23, 2013 at 8:50 am #

    Kenny, I am glad it is personal for you; it is personal for me, too. Before long, it will be personal for a lot more of us, at the rate our prisons are filling up with sex offenders….maybe then we can see some positive change in the crazy, fear-mongering laws.

  40. Andy March 23, 2013 at 8:50 am #

    Different Andy then the one that posted above message.

    @Bl it is about vengeance, anger and looking tough.

    One of things that puzzle me is that punishment for the similar act for kids and teenagers is often bigger then the one for adults.

    Sex between two teenagers can place one of them into jail and then sex registry for life. Also, running from home and truancy can place a kid into jail too. No equivalent is there for adults (thank god).

    It is as if we decided that they are supposed to be more responsible and self controlling then adults. That makes zero sense.

  41. amy March 23, 2013 at 10:50 am #

    What about this: we know a man on the list who was convicted of sexual assault, who was with a woman his age, who were both very drunk. He doesn’t remember what happened and so couldn’t deny nor confirm the events and so pleaded guilty and served his time. He’s viewed same as a child rapist on the sexual offender list. He can’t live near a school, etc. He’s now clean and sober for several years. How helpful is that in determining if we should use caution around anyone else on the same list? It’s opposite a car alarm. Everyone ignores them. But we’ve been conditioned to respond the same to ANY sex offender: keep your kids away!

  42. C. S. P. Schofield March 23, 2013 at 12:01 pm #

    I agree that many people on the sex offender registries should not be on them. I do, however, think there is a class of people who should be added; those prosecutors who pressed child-molestation charges during the day-care hysteria and who convicted people that a minute’s calm thought would have told a reasonable person were innocent. I frankly think such prosecutors should be burned alive for taking part in the witch hunt, but I’ll settle for having them on the registry.

  43. Donna March 23, 2013 at 2:20 pm #

    @John – Jessica’s Law varies somewhat from state to state. I think most states have enacted some of the ideas behind the law, but since each state’s laws are different, it looks different in every state.

    It can definitely be broader than rape, but where the line is will vary by state. Sentencing is different in juvenile court – juveniles are subject to their own sentencing laws and not the adult scheme – so it would not apply to juveniles sentenced in juvenile court. It would apply to juveniles charged as adults.

    Mandatory sentences are inherently flawed. Each case is so different and situation specific. Laws are broad. While 25 to life is certainly going to be reasonable for some cases of raping a child, there are going to be thousands of cases where the facts of the particular case don’t lend themselves to that sentence.

    And laws named after dead children are without fail absolutely horrible laws. They are reactionary and devised and passed based on emotion rather than careful consideration and reality. In many states, prosecutors, police officers, sexual abuse victims groups – those people who should love this law – are advocating its repeal due to it causing more problems and costing more money than it’s worth.

  44. jill March 23, 2013 at 6:34 pm #

    In my state public urination is a registrable offense, but when you look it up, the actual charge is indecent exposure, so you think the worst.

    @Donna, a 14 year old and a 13 year old having consensual sex in my state is considered child molestation for the 14 year old and that 14 year old will be on the registry.

  45. Papilio March 23, 2013 at 7:13 pm #

    How did the stat rape law even get in the law books anyway, since you’re all so against nanny states etc?
    I mean, of course parents are allowed to disapprove when their teenaged children have sex, but what’s got the state to do with that? It’s a family matter.
    By forbidding teenagers to have sex (rather than teaching them to do it safely and do nothing against *their* will), you just encourage them to do it in secret and figure it all out on their own. *That*’s where the trouble begins: it’s harder to buy condoms and birth control pills in secret (see the stats on teenage pregnancies per country), it’s harder to figure out what is normal and what isn’t (if all they see/know is porn on the internet, with girls doing and wanting everything the guys want them to do…).

    A related matter concerning sex offenders and young perpetrators: when it comes to prevent rape, it’s often the girls who get the lecture. They shouldn’t show too much skin of behave too provocative around boys/men, or be on streets alone at night, etc.
    But it’s really up to the boys not to rape, and they’re not getting any message that they shouldn’t have sex with a girl who’s drunk or unconcious, or just wants to kiss, or changes her mind half way (which she has every right to!!).
    Parents typically are worried over their daughters getting raped, but they don’t wonder what their son would do with a girl in the back of their car, when she changes her mind or isn’t clear enough to say ‘no’ and/or fight him off.

  46. Emily March 23, 2013 at 8:28 pm #

    >>A related matter concerning sex offenders and young perpetrators: when it comes to prevent rape, it’s often the girls who get the lecture. They shouldn’t show too much skin of behave too provocative around boys/men, or be on streets alone at night, etc.
    But it’s really up to the boys not to rape, and they’re not getting any message that they shouldn’t have sex with a girl who’s drunk or unconcious, or just wants to kiss, or changes her mind half way (which she has every right to!!).<<

    Papillo, that's a great message–in fact, that's exactly why I still walk alone after dark, and wear tasteful tank tops in the summer, despite having had a close call once–because, the way I see it, I have a perfect right to live my life the way I see fit, and it makes no sense for people who haven't done anything wrong, to be under house arrest, while people who sexually assault others roam freely.

    However, can I just add one thing? Rape/sexual assault isn't always a guy versus girl thing. A rapist isn't necessarily a man, but just, someone who can't take no for an answer. When I was in my first year of university, we were taught by our R.A.'s to "defer to the person who wants less sexual activity." I think that this is a good message, because not only does it break the gendered stereotype, but it also takes a bit of the pressure off guys–I mean, sometimes it's the guy who wants to take things slowly, and that's perfectly fine.

  47. Warren March 23, 2013 at 9:34 pm #

    Remember back in the summer the story of the mother given a ticket, because her toddler dropped his shorts and took a pee up against a lamp pole?

    Isn’t he lucky, that he didn’t end up on the sex offenders registry.

  48. Donald March 23, 2013 at 10:43 pm #

    @ Jill’s comment

    ….a 14 year old and a 13 year old having consensual sex in my state is considered child molestation for the 14 year old and that 14 year old will be on the registry.

    This is considered that the girl has been molestation. That’s because at a young age, the brain isn’t fully developed. She has little foresight of the future. However with boys it’s different. The ‘not yet developed’ brain argument can’t be used for guys. Lets instead punish them for life.

  49. Donald March 23, 2013 at 11:15 pm #

    Why aren’t CSI viewers on the registry? Why are people that get entertained from watching sex crimes allowed to roam free?

  50. J xwaite March 23, 2013 at 11:38 pm #

    My husband of 9 years is on the registry. 6 years ago he was wrongfully accused of tipping a 17 year old girl down her shirt on a golf course. The girl called the media, and the prosecutor charged him with criminal sexual conduct. There was no evidence other than this girl saying “yes” to the prosecutor’s leading questions. Our attorney advised (wrongfully) for my husband not to testify. We have 2 girls now, ages 6 and 4. And yes, it is hell having their dad on the list. My daughter has been kicked out of preschool. We have recently been kicked out of our neighborhood sports center. My kids cant have friends over. i have had another mom call the department of child and family services on us and interviewed my daughter, asking if he has ever touched her inappropriately. when this person realized the charge she stated, “you need to get this cleared up” My husband is not allowed to do all of the things mentioned above. Why punish the kids? I have no idea where to turn. My husband is not a danger. we love kids! We have exhausted our efforts with the legal system. The legal system does not care. If anyone has any ideas, please comment.

  51. Emily March 23, 2013 at 11:39 pm #

    @Donald–I agree. If the “not-yet-developed brain” argument can be used for the girl, it should be used for the boy too–even more so, because research shows overwhelmingly that girls mature faster than boys. More than that, though, if a boy and a girl in their early teens engaged in consensual sex, arguably because of a “lack of foresight,” then the same consequences (if any) should apply to them. This isn’t always possible, in the sense of “natural consequences,” because, of course, if the girl gets pregnant, her choices are adoption, abortion, or keeping and raising the child, but the boy can just escape scot-free if he wants to. However, as for consequences imposed by external authority figures, it’s probably best for the law to stay out of this one, and let the parents handle it.

  52. J xwaite March 23, 2013 at 11:40 pm #

    And by the way, there was no jail time, no fine, no parole, no community service. Just 25 years on the registry which is not “punitive” sigh….

  53. Donna March 24, 2013 at 12:56 am #

    A14 year old having consensual sex with a 13 year old is probably technically child molestation in many states. The maximum age for child molestation charges is often right around the 13-14 age. It would be extremely uncommon for this to be prosecuted as child molestation.

  54. Robin March 24, 2013 at 1:57 am #

    So after 25 years Mrs. Wetterling realizes the fiction she took out of thin air to be fact and published as fact and preached to the high heavens was really worthless dribble. Nice research honey.

  55. John March 24, 2013 at 2:01 am #

    As I read through this blog about crazy situations where a friend or a loved one ended up on a sex offender registry, I literally become sick to my stomach! Has America become that uncivil and draconian? Goodness gracious, sticking a few dollars tip down a 17-year-old girl’s blouse is enough to put a person on a sex offender registry? That is crazy! And 1/3 of all people on the sex offender registry are juveniles? Even though my heart goes out to John Walsh in the horrible death of his son so many years ago by some diabolical and evil person, at the same time I can’t help but feel some kind of contempt toward him because of so many young people’s lives he’s ruined by pushing for all these crazy and over reaching laws under the banner of his dead son. It’s time to reign all this in! I used to think that the United Arab Emirates were draconian and uncivil because of all their crazy sex laws and the disproportionate sentencing they give to “violaters” of these laws. But I’m beginning to think that the U.S. Is just as bad or perhaps even worse!

  56. Emily March 24, 2013 at 2:37 am #

    @John–Unfortunately, it gets worse. Take a look at this:

    http://superofficialnews.com/fappy-the-anti-masturbation-dolphin-kicks-off-nationwide-school-tour/

    So, I made a comment on the Facebook page saying that masturbation can be “self-rape” if rape and sexual assault were defined as having sex/performing sex acts on someone without their consent, and asking how masturbation could be “self-rape” if it only has one person involved, thereby taking the question of “consent” out of the equation. The person in charge of the Facebook page told me that I need to “stop sinning and get closer to God,” and said that he’d “be praying very hard for me tonight.” Umm, for one thing, I’m atheist, and for another thing, I never said that I actually DID what he said was a sin, but couldn’t articulately prove how it was so. But anyway, you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll think, just, WTF? Also, I have to wonder, why a dolphin?

  57. Emily March 24, 2013 at 2:38 am #

    *I said that masturbation CAN’T be “self-rape.” It’s late at night, and I didn’t edit properly.

  58. J xwaite March 24, 2013 at 8:49 am #

    Thanks for your comment John. Sometimes an encouraging word can make it a better day. Everyone who sees this case such as neighbors and friends cannot believe it. They feel bad and think its ridiculous. Our local sheriff stated “sometimes bad things happen to good people” How can they possibly state the registry is not punishment. I am punished every day. Also, this is Michigan, which has the highest registry per capita. They love putting people on the list!

  59. marie March 24, 2013 at 8:59 am #

    The Fappy thing is not for real. Seriously, not real. The funniest comment there was this one:
    Thomas Tiddlebum on March 16, 2013 at 6:28 am said:
    Fappy has been helping me in halting the evils of touching my no-no place. When he came to our school, I was afraid at first, but he really helped make me feel special in the closet and even though his candy had some fuzz on it, it was still good. I liked his funny eeep eeep noises he made when he showed me how not to touch my devil’s wand. We also had fun washing hands which took a while but the soap smelled good like mushrooms.

    The comment that claims Fappy visited his school comes from commenter bestbtrollin.

  60. Warren March 24, 2013 at 12:17 pm #

    There is a story just out, in Vancouver, BC. A man did his time for aggrevated assault, is released, but deemed a danger.
    The police take up a campaign to notify everyone in the public of his release, with pictures and all.

    Now I am all for keeping people safe, but how is this going to help. It is hard enough for an ex con to move on with their life. Now with this “public safety” campaign, this man does not stand a snow ball’s chance in hell, of obtaining meaningful employment, thus putting him in a situtation in which he is likely to go back to crime.

    In my opinion this stunt by the authorities only guarantees that this dangerous ex con, will continue to be dangerous. It is counter productive.

  61. AW13 March 24, 2013 at 1:12 pm #

    “I am saying that a man that goes to a pro, is not someone I worry about molesting kids, or women.”

    Bingo. There was a registered sex offender living in the same apartment building as we were several years ago. I looked up his offense. Apparently, he had flashed a 15 year old boy about seven years previous. Not exactly the sort of person I worried about running into in the hallway.

    “Parents typically are worried over their daughters getting raped, but they don’t wonder what their son would do with a girl in the back of their car, when she changes her mind or isn’t clear enough to say ‘no’ and/or fight him off.”

    Untrue. First, the assumption that my son wouldn’t take no for an answer and the female in question would have to “fight him off” is offensive – I’m not sure why you would presume my son is a rapist. Second, teaching our son to respect women is high on our list of priorities – and this includes not forcing them (or anyone) into doing something they don’t want to do. Third, my husband, in particular, worries about stat rape laws. As a 17 year old, he slept with a 15 year old girlfriend. Hardly sex offender material, but with the legal climate these days, he’s worried that our son could engage in completely consensual behavior and end up on a sex offender registry. So yeah, the parents of sons do worry about these things.

  62. Emily March 24, 2013 at 2:01 pm #

    @Marie–I didn’t catch that blatant “troll” username, so I didn’t know that Fappy wasn’t real. However, there’s a Facebook group connected with him, that IS very much real–that’s where I “met” the “charming” gentleman who informed me that I was a sinner for not equating masturbation with rape. Actually, my thoughts on that are, teenage boys have urges, and it doesn’t make sense to make them feel guilty for engaging in a completely harmless means of release. Also, knowing that Fappy the Anti-Masturbation Dolphin IS a hoax now, that brings up a whole lot of other questions–I mean, did the perpetrators of this hoax actually rent/buy/make a dolphin costume for this purpose, or did they just co-opt someone else’s photo of a person dressed as a dolphin, talking to kids in school? It boggles my mind how much effort some people put into messing with other people’s minds.

  63. Papilio March 24, 2013 at 2:23 pm #

    @AW13: Please, don’t be offended; I’m not talking to anyone in particular, so why should this be about your son?

    That said, the fact remains that all of those one-time-rapists-in-fuzzy-circumstances (i.e. NOT the predator kind rapists!) are someone’s son, and the crime could well have happened because boundaries weren’t as clear to these boys as they should have been. I’m basing myself upon a large piece in the newspaper a couple of months back, written by a journalist who tried to make this very point, and she had added anecdotes from guys in the US as well. One of those men (telling about when he was in college, didn’t view himself as a rapist) said that the girl just wanted to kiss, but he wouldn’t stop, even as she kept whispering ‘no’. Quote: “An erection has no conscience.” These boys really saw no harm in getting on top of a sleeping girl – but imagine the consequences once they do!

    Those problems remain after these young people have passed the magical 18th birthday and I suspect it’s part of the explanation as to why there are date-went-wrong, one-time-rapists at all. Sure you can put them on some black list and punish them the rest of their lives, but by then the damage is already done. Boys – young men – should just know that it’s no sex, unless she says yes (and 2: they do it safely) – but who tells them that?

    @Emily: You’re right! But this scenario is the majority, that’s all :-)

  64. John March 24, 2013 at 3:11 pm #

    Emily……I clicked on your link thinking I’d be outraged by another article of some poor soul put in prison for something like telling a little kid that he or she was cute or a good athlete, etc. but instead I laughed my butt off!!! In fact I thought I was reading an article out of “The Onion”! Either way, I’m sure that Fappy is an invention by somebody with a crude but incredible sense of humor. There is no way in our old fashion and draconian minds that we would condone sending a stuffed animal into our schools telling our young kids about the evils of masturbation. If this really did happen I’m sure it would be all over Fox News but it wasn’t so I don’t think it’s anything we can take seriously. In fact, it almost pokes fun at the fear many of us Americans have when it comes to mixing the words “children and sex” into the same sentence!

  65. John March 24, 2013 at 3:44 pm #

    J xwaite……my heart certainly goes out to you and your husband who was so unjustly branded and humiliated for a really innocent act. Goodness, the girl was 17, not 7! I have a friend of mine who was in a chat line with somebody who eventually sent him pictures of young naked girls. So David immediately deleted the photos and told this person not to send him these kind of pics because he wasn’t into that s… Apparently, the feds caught up to this guy and from conviscating his computer and access to his accounts, they were able to trace his conversation back to David. So the cyber police then raided David’s apartment and arrested him too. Even though David deleted the photos and informed this person not to send them to him anymore, he was tried and convicted for guess what? For not telling authorities that he was sent child pornography! That was his crime. He is now serving a 2 year jail sentence in a Federal prison and is now also on a Sex Offender Registry for the crime, “Possession and distribution of child pornography”. Had David blown the whistle on this guy immediately after receiving those pictures, I’m sure the feds would have also turned his apartment upside down and then it would have been all over the newspaper. So I can understand his decision to just hit the delete button. But apparently a decision as simple and as obvious as that turned out to be the costly one. Goodness, give him a big fine for not informing the authorities and then let him get on with his life but don’t brand him a sex offender!

  66. John March 24, 2013 at 4:20 pm #

    The problem with throwing a boulder in front of these run away sex laws is that even though an elected official might realize the harm and collateral damage these stricter laws are causing, he knows he’d be committing political suicide by working to reform many of these over reaching laws. This is because of the lynch mob mentality many voting Americans have when it comes to children. Then their opponent and Bill O’Reilly and Nancy Grace and Wendy “nutcase” Murphy will get on the air and tell the American public that Governor or Senator so and so doesn’t care about children so don’t vote for him or her, yada, yada, yada

  67. Hodi Jater March 24, 2013 at 4:36 pm #

    American society is based on fear. When you combine fearfulness, paranoia and bizarre religious beliefs, it’s a bad thing.

  68. Warren March 24, 2013 at 4:53 pm #

    The sex offender registry in a way is the same as those MSDS sheets.

    The MSDS was created to protect people from hazardous materials. The initial premise has not changed, but our definition of what is hazardous, has.

    The registry was created to keep women and children safe from dangerous sex offenders. The premise has not changed, just our definition of a dangerous sex offender.

    Now if a man gets caught shoplifting at Victoria Secrets, will that then become valid enough reason to put him on the list?

  69. Papilio March 24, 2013 at 5:36 pm #

    (Just abusing this place to comment on your tweet:)

    “Hey, Norway! I’m in your big paper today. In fact, the only words I understood: “Lenore” & “Skenazy” @Aftenposten http://bit.ly/WORNAl

    I don’t believe that fact, Lenore… I just checked it out (as a linguist, I couldn’t resist) and they misspelled your name as Leonore! :-/
    And even if you’re monolingual English, you are probably able to understand words/phrases like “sønn”, “hjem selv”, “mobil(telefon)”, “problemer”, “boken” and of course “amerikanske mødre”. 😀

  70. Jenna Wood March 24, 2013 at 5:56 pm #

    I know personally a few people on the sex offender registry. One woman I know of was put on the registry for spanking the bare bottom of a toddler she was watching. It was a bad decision to be sure, but the fact that she has to get her picture updated annually, report where she lives, register her car, etc. is wrong. She wasn’t a sex offender. She still isn’t the sex offender. She was a harried mom who made a bad decision.

    I would prefer to have the registry only of those who committed violent crimes. And stat rape isn’t one of them.

  71. Donna March 24, 2013 at 6:29 pm #

    It is a fear created by sexual repression, mixed messages and victim mentality.

    We abhor aging and obsess over youth but treat men as if they are dirty old men if they are attracted to that youth (I don’t mean prepubscent children but young women).

    We are obsessed with sex but can’t accept our own sexuality. We are naturally sexual beings but view sex as something to be hidden and not talked about.

    Since we can’t accept our own sexuality we really can’t accept our children’s sexuality. Especially our daughters. We simply can’t accept that with puberty comes hormones and with hormones comes sexual interest.

    And we love to be the victim. We relish in it. I’ve watched countless times while parents and prosecutors try to convince perfectly happy teens that they are victims because they chose to sleep with an older boy. Coeds who convince other coeds that they were raped because of drunken sex, or in one of the weirdest cases, when they felt bad in the morning although later police investigation proved that the coed in question never even came in contact with a man that night. Hell, we offer therapy to school kids because their classmates eat gun shaped pop tarts.

    And yet we tend to view victimhood as an end-of-life situation. Rape and child molestations are viewed as something that permanently destroys you, not as horrible things that you need to overcome. I am not mitigating the pain of child molestation or rape, but it need not be the deep despair that people view it to be. Many people go on to live happy lives after sexual assault. Maybe different lives than would have happened without it, but happy lives nonetheless.

  72. hineata March 24, 2013 at 6:40 pm #

    Wow, this is all beginning to sound very ‘1984’ish. Very frightening. @JxWaite, my sympathies to you, your husband and your family. What an absolute nightmare!

    So, what can be done about it? Lenore, how do you go about registering protest to this kind of thing? As a foreigner, are there websites or addresses we could send letters to? And how about those in the US? Would they address their concerns to their State Representatives (or whatever the name is)?

    This is something very much worth fighting. I imagine, too, in respect to juveniles it would contravene the UN Declaration on the Rights of The Child. All the more reason to get that document signed asap.

    As the mother of a teenage son, as well as two teenage daughters, this sort of thing scares the crap out of me. I have always told them not to bother with teen sex – it simply isn’t worth the hassle. But who knows if they’ll listen, longterm? Would hate to think any of them, particularly the boy (boys seem in more danger) getting stuck on something like this for a silly decision. My sympathies to you in the US. And, where can I write?

  73. marie March 24, 2013 at 7:34 pm #

    I would prefer to have the registry only of those who committed violent crimes

    The problem is that any kind of registry will necessarily be abused. That’s how we got to where we are now. Once there is a registry, someone will find a way to increase the numbers of registrants.

    Rape and child molestations are viewed as something that permanently destroys you, not as horrible things that you need to overcome

    Exactly. Men who use child porn (a reprehensible habit) are accused of victimizing the child all over again every time they look at the images. These accusers seem to revel in the idea that these children could never possibly grow up and live any kind of decent life. These kids have something ugly and painful to overcome… let them overcome.

  74. AW13 March 24, 2013 at 7:45 pm #

    @Papillo: OK, I get where you’re coming from now. And I know you weren’t referring to my son, per se, (particularly since my son is 4), but as the mother of a little boy, I was taken aback by the idea that anyone’s son would be assumed to be a rapist. That being said, I understand your point, too, that those fuzzy, date rape situations do involve someone’s son and why didn’t anyone teach these sons about respect and boundaries. The attitudes in the article you’ve summarized are scary (and what a horrible quotation, btw). I guess I’m just frustrated that parents don’t seem to understand the importance of teaching their boys these things. Considering a great amount of the pop culture that is consumed in the US, it should be obvious that boys won’t pick up a respectful attitude there.

  75. Papilio (P A P I L I O ;-) ) March 24, 2013 at 10:38 pm #

    @AW13: Glad we understand eachother now!

    I also agree with Donna on the sex taboo thing.
    I was thinking, I don’t presume any US tv channel to have an educational show for teenagers (and adults) about sex & facts, like we have here, and in the UK:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/organgrinder/2008/sep/10/channel4.television
    To be clear: this programme is not just about the fun part of the matter, but also about STD’s, pregnancy (and how to prevent both), proper condom use, relationships, but also the way teens view themselves (plastic surgery!) and what they think is normal behaviour in the bedroom (forementioned pop culture!).
    Interestingly, the more teens know about sex, the later they start actually doing it (and the less trouble they get themselves into).
    So talking would definitely be a good thing. And even better: it would help solve actual problems :-)

  76. J xwaite March 25, 2013 at 9:31 am #

    John, that is so awful about your friend! I have heard many crazy stories from speaking to our attorneys that many many people are in jail for sex crimes that just did not happen! There are no support groups for the non sex offender – sex offender registrant. How do we all come together and get something done??

    Hineata – thank you for the supportive comments. Please let me know if you have any ideas regarding the children rights and the UN.

  77. Emily March 25, 2013 at 9:31 am #

    >>Interestingly, the more teens know about sex, the later they start actually doing it (and the less trouble they get themselves into).
    So talking would definitely be a good thing. And even better: it would help solve actual problems :-) <<

    That doesn't surprise me much. My mom got me a book on puberty when I was ten (and she got my brother the boys' version of the same book when he was about the same age), and I remember that book being very upfront about the whole sex issue–sex itself, and all the ramifications that can arise from it. It definitely mentioned pregnancy and STD's, and it might have even mentioned something about feeling uncomfortable emotionally if things don't work out with the person you slept with. So, I read through all of that, and it was a lot for my ten-year-old mind to take, so my reaction was pretty much something along the lines of, "That's gross. I'm going to go ride my bike now."

  78. J xwaite March 25, 2013 at 9:33 am #

    And, yes, my husband did send a letter to his state representative. Nothing came of it as expected. Yes, it is living an absolute nightmare.

  79. hineata March 25, 2013 at 3:52 pm #

    @Jxwaite – the US hasn’t signed the UN Declaration I was referring to, or at least it hadn’t a couple of months ago. The difference it might make is that protesters within the US could, if it became a signatory, use it as a way of shaming the Government into altering legislation that undermined the rights of children and teenagers. In the case of juveniles subject to registration on this vile list, their rights are certainly being undermined.

    Your huband’s and children’s rights are too – in your husband’s case the Declaration might be useful with regard to the harm your kids (and, of course, the children/potential children of all men and women put on the registry for minor crimes/ridiculous non-crimes) are suffering.

    Thinking about it, there may also be other UN Treatise/Declarations the US has actually signed that might be relevant to the rescinding of this register. They have an excellent website. When I have finished this paper that I am supposed to be writing right now, around Thursday (!) I will have a look, and you might want to take a look yourself at some stage.

    The UN has no teeth, of course, to force member countries to act on documents they have signed. Where these documents are useful is, as stated above, internally by legislators looking at changing policy (New Zealanders seeking anti-smacking legislation used the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Child frequently) and, if breaches are serious enough, economic sanctions can be placed. Highly unlikely to happen in the case of the US, so the internal ‘shaming’ route would be the way to go.

  80. BL March 25, 2013 at 6:03 pm #

    Has any legislator ever stated exactly what this information is to be used for? My state’s website states that it’s for “public protection”. But what does one do with the information?

    There’s a big warning on the website telling us what NOT to do:

    “Any person who uses the information contained herein to threaten, intimidate, or harass the registrant or their family, or who otherwise misuses this information, may be subject to criminal prosecution or civil liability.”

    Hmmm. The fact that they say that means that’s the first thing that comes to a lot of people’s minds.

  81. J xwaite March 25, 2013 at 10:26 pm #

    Thanks Hineata – very interesting! I will take a look at the end of the week to see if you found anything, and I will look into it as well.

    Very good point BL!

    I have a friend/coworker whose son was a foster parent to a baby girl that was beaten so badly by her real father that she was severely brain damaged and will never be mentally older than a 3 year old. What was his punishment from the court after it was proven he was the abuser? He lost his right to father the girl (a right he never wanted). No other punishment and he was not put on a registry of bad, harmful people. How can this be? And my coworker was the one that brought it to my attention as a comparison to my husband’s and my family’s punishment.

  82. John March 25, 2013 at 11:39 pm #

    You know J xwaite, that is something I never understood, as to WHY we Americans are so hung up with children and sex. My niece is a Teacher’s Aide and they had an incident where a 7-year-old girl had a hot clothing iron plastered to her face by an enraged and abusive father. So the school called CPS and worked with the family. Finally the police found out about it two weeks later but the school informed the police that the case was being worked by them and CPS. According to my niece, the police had no problem with that and told them to proceed.

    So I’m like, WHAT?! A clothing iron to her face?! Now had the father placed his hand on the little girl’s breast or vaginal area, those teachers would have been defrocked and thrown into jail for not IMMEDIATELY notifying police the second they knew!!

    Now I’m certainly not making light of an adult touching a child’s genital area but since when has beating a child to the point of brain damage or scalding their face with a hot iron become less of a crime than molesting them???

  83. Marbran March 26, 2013 at 8:32 am #

    I have to say, the more time that passes the more supportive and understanding I see people becoming in terms of the registry and its poor construct. The 5.3% recidivism rate is pretty much repeated in other studies. It is time for our politicians to start taking a critical look at the laws they have passed and what these laws are doing to families of registrants, for they too must bear the yolk of the registry. Kids who have a parent on the public registry are teased by their peers, or worse; spouses of registrants can have a difficult time with employment because their address appears on the list; registrants are threatened with another arrest if they violate the myriad restrictions placed on them by the SORNA. Where does it stop, especially with the growing surveillance of all citizens by our government? The people we “elect” to manage our social affairs would rather see us all enslaved or tightly controlled, it seems. The registry is one mechanism for doing that, as are gun registries, or animal abuse registries, both of which exist.

    See Families Advocating Intelligent Registries (FAIR) and Reform Sex Offender Laws (RSOL) for more information, and to learn how you can help support the defeat of these onerous laws, even if to just sign a petition.

  84. TaraK March 26, 2013 at 9:01 am #

    My son has a hilarious Mr Bean face. Last night he was making it at small children while we were shopping. Even though no parents (that we know of) saw it, and he was with me the whole time, I had to tell him that it might not be a good idea to make a habit of making that face to small children if I wasn’t around. My twelve-year-old man child got “the talk” that parents never had to give 20 years ago. He learned that people jump to conclusions and assume things about teenaged boys and men that are ludicrous. I stopped short of telling him that when he works children’s church at our church that he should never let himself be left alone with the children or do anything that could be misconstrued as inappropriate. :(

    That said, I was one terribly proud mama when a friend asked if he was old enough to babysit her three children. Two of them girls. :)

  85. Caleb March 26, 2013 at 11:38 am #

    I think the more frank and open people are about the subject of inappropriate sex the better. There are some really bad people out there, and a couple of kids who made a bad decision ought not be on the same list as such people.

    There is also a problem with people “remembering” being abused, years later. Sometimes the memory is real, but sometimes the subconscious turns an event that felt a certain way into an event that was a certain way.

    For example, after our house was broken into when I was a boy my mother was horrified and disgusted by her fellow man, and said, “I feel like I was physically violated.” It was a very real and genuine feeling, but not a fact. She was robbed, not raped.

    However in certain circumstances a psychologist can be asking a client how they felt about a long ago event, and then confuse the feeling with fact. The next thing you know an innocent person is accused of abusing a child or grandchild they only rebuked, and all he– breaks loose.

    A woman who suffered such accusations from her own daughter started a group called the False Memory Syndrome Foundation, which has helped parents who are suffering the pain of such misunderstanding. She’s been at it for 20 years now, and now has many doctors and psychologists with her. When she started she and her husband were very alone.

    Her name is Pamela Freyd, (she has a PHD,) and the FMSF website is: http://www.fmsfonline.org/currentnewsletter.pdf
    in case anyone is interested.

  86. Susan M March 27, 2013 at 9:47 am #

    That 5.3% 3 years later sounds low, but what they fail to mention is the LIFETIME recidivism rates. Those have actually been documented as 30-40% for child molesters and rapists- and those are only the ones caught. I agree there are some people on there who definitely should not be. But the sad fact is, that for the traditional rapist/molester, there is a very high chance they will do it again.

  87. Warren March 27, 2013 at 11:49 am #

    @Susan M

    Even if the recidivism is that high lifetime, what does having a public registry do to prevent them from re-offending, and how does it protect the public.

    Do you know there are mothers, yes it seems to be a gender issue, who have links to get automatic notifications whenever a registrant moves into, or is released into their city, or town. They then go on campaigns of posters and flyers, and yes sometimes door to door about this convicts place of residence.

    When I lived near Toronto, I had a mom come to the door. About the guy given probation, but put on the list. She had his name, address, phone number and a picture of him. I asked her what he did, and all she knew was he had to register, and that was good enough for her.

    I called the local cops, and found out I wasn’t the only one, to find out what horrible crime this guy did. Horror of horrors, he patted a waitress, at a dive bar on the ass. Poor judgement yes, worthy of arrest no. But this woman’s campaign ruined his life, at least for awhile.

    The registry hasn’t made anything safer. All it has done is made more people paranoid.

  88. J xwaite March 27, 2013 at 12:24 pm #

    @ Warren
    Another victim of the law. Was that waitress really harmed? I know that my husband’s alleged victim was not harmed based on eye witnesses of her after the alleged incident. I feel for that guy and his family. The teenage issue separate, we need to do something about this umbrella over really stupid actions that are ruining lives. A small mistake or indiscretion costs a person and his family 25+ years?? And he is lumped into a category of really bad, sick people? Reform is a must. But also educating people on what could happen if they decide to urinate in public, tap or tip a waitress or whatever. I certainly didn’t expect this would happen to my life! The registry is not punishment? I would rather have had my husband due a little time and come out able to live a normal life.

  89. Amanda Matthews March 27, 2013 at 12:31 pm #

    “Two teenagers under the age of consent who engage in consensual sex – your typical boyfriend/girlfriend scenario – cannot be charged with stat rape.”

    But they can be charged with regular rape. And it happens a lot the the parents of the girl either force the girl to claim she was raped, or the girl claims it to get out of trouble.

    Exactly this is happening right now with my niece. My sister and her husband came home to find that my niece had a boy hidden in her closet. My niece, not wanting to get in trouble, claimed that the boy raped her. Rather than admit to themselves that their daughter is having sex, and putting her on birth control, they are deluding themselves and have had this boy charged with rape. (Because really, if someone rapes you, do you hide them in your closet when your parents get home and pretend nothing is up, or do you go tell your parents “Help, there’s a rapist in my closet”?) Of course, once the ball got rolling, she can’t admit that it wasn’t rape, because now she’d be in even more trouble. My niece is only 4 months away from the age of consent in my state, the boy a year over, yet he will be forever labeled a rapist so that my sister can keep her delusions and my niece can avoid being grounded.

    It is true that the parents of a boy could cry rape first, but what are the odds of a teenage girl actually being convicted of that, or heck the odds of a teenage boy saying yeah he was raped when the truth is he had consensual sex?

    “Consensual” sex when a person is inebriated is not consensual by law, yet how many women have been convicted or accused of rape after having “consensual” sex with a man while both were drunk, vs how many men have been?

    These laws were made to protect women and children and morphed, but the very idea that women and children need protecting from men is flawed in the first place!

  90. Amanda Matthews March 27, 2013 at 12:33 pm #

    * okay not EXACTLY that as the boy is over the age of consent, but it still happens that way

  91. marie March 28, 2013 at 4:43 pm #

    That 5.3% 3 years later sounds low, but what they fail to mention is the LIFETIME recidivism rates. Those have actually been documented as 30-40% for child molesters and rapists- and those are only the ones caught.

    Well, there is this:
    Released prisoners with the highest rearrest rates were robbers (70.2%), burglars (74.0%), larcenists (74.6%), motor vehicle thieves (78.8%), those in prison for possessing or selling stolen property (77.4%), and those in prison for possessing, using, or selling illegal weapons (70.2%).

    And those are only the ones that are caught!

  92. JTW March 29, 2013 at 4:08 pm #

    “A recidivism rate of 5.3% can actually translate to allot of victims. All of the figures that I looked up indicated that there are about 60,000 to 70,000 people arrested for sex crimes each year-”

    the vast majority of which are false accusations or non-crimes as explained.
    Yet all those people end up on the “registry” for life, as registration is part of the arrest, not the sentencing.
    And more often than not, a court will consider the accusation enough evidence to convict (in fact there are places where by law an accusation is enough to convict).

    “As far as I’m concerned, the penalty for a crime ought to be the sentence. So, when people have served their time, that ought to be it.”

    For all crimes, yes.
    At current, many things effectively carry a life sentence even if no sentence is proclaimed at all.

    “If consensual sex between minors is a registrable offense in your state (which I agree is completely ridiculous) wouldn’t that mean that both the boy and girl involved would be subject to criminal conviction? ”

    Sadly, in most places only men are ever accused and convicted. The girl is the automatic victim, whether she claims to be so or not.

    ” Only law enforcement has a right to run criminal background checks without your consent. Schools, employers, etc. need your permission.”

    nice in theory. In practice things work different.
    With court proceedings being public, they end up on the internet where they’re easy to find for anyone.
    And of course refusing permission for a criminal background check to a (prospective) employer will automatically lead to them thinking you must have a criminal record (rather than just questioning their need for violating your privacy like that).

    “The issue is not how many victims there are. The sex offender registry does absolutely nothing whatsoever to stop a sex offender who wishes to reoffend.”

    Worse, it turns people once accused of being a sex offender (which in many places is all it takes to end up on those registries, especially the vigilante ones run by private “pedophile hunter” groups) into victims as those registries are public and used to drive people out of their neighbourhoods, cities, counties, even forcing some to change their identity and move abroad to get away from the constant attacks on themselves and their property (and families, though more often than not the people ending up on such lists innocently are the quiet single men whose only crime it is to walk past a school where an overly sensitive parent or teacher is eyeing all strangers like a hawk).

    “The mother and two teenage friends of a rape victim who decided to beat the guy up to teach him a lesson (they really only punched him twice). The rapist was never charged and is not on the registry. ”

    here, the man would be on the registry and probably in prison because of the accusation, the others have their own TV show and be praised as upstanding citizens for taking on a violent sexual predator (despite him never being convicted for lack of evidence)…

    “Maybe it’s because I am male, but I have a very hard time understanding the motivation for men to be involved in these kinds of crimes. I just don’t understand it emotionally and rationally. My immediate response to hearing of such crimes is that “they” (the law) should be a bit more tolerant toward posses taking justice in their own hands, and utilizing judiciously applied 2 x 4s to the offender for considerable periods of bone-breaking time.”

    90% of accusations of sexual crimes are false, yet lead to automatic conviction through public condemnation of the accused.
    You seriously want to make that worse by officially promoting physical violence based on such false accusations?

    First, “under the age of consent” and “minor” are not the same thing. “Minor” is under 18 generally. Since the age of consent in many states is less that 18, it is possible for someone to be over the age of consent and still a minor.

    Two teenagers under the age of consent who engage in consensual sex – your typical boyfriend/girlfriend scenario – cannot be charged with stat rape. No matter how much the dad wants it to happen, it isn’t going to happen. He can spew whatever nonsense he wants.
    “”

    In many places a man (not a woman) can be charged with stat rape if the woman involved is a minor, even if she is above the age of consent, and the encounter was consensual.
    In fact he’ll automatically end up not just on the sex offenders registry but the pedophile registry as well, and a host of vigilante “registries”.

    So, instead of doing something useful, LA and other cities are creating teensy little “parks” because sex offenders can’t live within nnnn feet of a park.

    I guess they’ll feel better when they are all living under bridges where they can’t keep track of them.
    “”

    The idea is to drive them out of the city, state, and eventually country.
    Same thing is happening in Europe.
    “registered pedophiles” aren’t allowed within X miles of a school, playground, park, toy shop, etc. etc.
    Worse, even if they find a place they are allowed to settle down, they’re followed by the press and vigilante groups making their life impossible and petitioning city councils and mayors to revoke their residence permits, to the point many of them are forced to change their appearance, live under a false identity, and flee the country.

    “It isn’t just security theatre, it primes our need for vengeance. The same thing is behind the US love of the death penalty. Neither serve any purpose as far as recidivism or deference. Both are extraordinarily expensive. But they appeal to our sense of vengeance so we like them.”

    the death penalty, when applied as originally intended (arrest them at dawn, convict them at noon, hang them at dusk) is a very cost effective way to deal with serious crime, especially if the executions are extremely public and preferably graphic (beheading, hanging, or firing squad).
    It’s the whole judicial shebang with decades of appeals and counter appeals, then executions behind closed doors and only a short press release afterwards that disappears in page 20 of the local newsrags nobody reads that’s the reason the death penalty has lost all its deterence.

    Do I advocate going back to the original system? No. But moving back closer to it? Certainly.

    “I know personally a few people on the sex offender registry. One woman I know of was put on the registry for spanking the bare bottom of a toddler she was watching. It was a bad decision to be sure, but the fact that she has to get her picture updated annually, report where she lives, register her car, etc. is wrong. She wasn’t a sex offender. She still isn’t the sex offender. She was a harried mom who made a bad decision.”

    no, she’s a harried mom who made the right decision in a society where right and wrong have been perverted.
    Spanking a child that misbehaves is not wrong.

  93. marie March 29, 2013 at 11:27 pm #

    Bravo, JTW!

  94. larry April 8, 2013 at 5:48 pm #

    SORNA’s duty of self-reporting is involuntary servitude, forced labor, prohibited by the 13th Amendment. and the federal criminal code.

    Sponsors should be impeached, removed from office and indicted for empowering a government foreign to the bill of rights.

    Victims of that non-consensual economic exploitation should be compensated in an amount equal to the value to government of the data provision services imposed.

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