Readers — This letter below came in as a comment. I wanted to highlight it here because of its startling but spot-on conclusion: The best way to keep kids safe from molestation is to let them know they can tell us about anything sexual that has happened and we won’t be mad.
The Crimes Against Children Research Center did a study that concluded the same thing: Rather than adding more and more names to the sex offender registry and alerting neighbors to a registrant in their midst, a better way to keep kids safe is to teach them what abuse is (no adults should be touching the part of their body a bathing suit covers), and how to refuse an abuser’s approach, and how to summon help. More about that study anon. Meanwhile, on to the comment! — L.
A NOTE FROM A PUBLIC DEFENDER ABOUT SEX CRIMES & KIDS
Dear Free-Range Kids: I work as a public defender and will attest that the vast majority of sex offenders do not have a record (at least of sex offenses). Out of the 100+ serious sex offenses my office has handled during the last 5 years, only 3 have involved defendants already convicted of a sex offense in the past. Meaning that (a) sex offenders are not being reconvicted in large numbers, and (b) most sex offenses are committed by people who are not on any registry.
And this lack of recidivism has absolutely nothing to do with a lack of access due to registries. The average child molester is a master manipulator. He will be able to convince people that this was all a big mistake and get access to children without much trouble. And anyone who is going to abduct, rape and kill a child is going to be completely undeterred by a registry. It’s more likely a result of the fact that most on the registry are there for consensual sex with a slightly underaged person (too underage and it becomes molestation regardless) and they are unlikely to reoffend. You also mix in people who commit sex crimes against adults who aren’t a threat to children – rape of an adult and rape of a child are VERY different and you almost never see a crossover. This leaves you with a very small number of registered sex offenders who are likely to re-offend, or likely to commit a crime against a child.
Sex registries have the dual effect of improperly stigmatizing people and lulling people into a false sense of security. Sure, dad can check out mom’s new boyfriend. But his being on a registry or not has absolutely no bearing whatsoever as to whether he poses a threat to a child. He could be a molester who has never been caught. He could be a public urination case that ended up on a registry. It seems as if the better choice would be to forget the registry all together and teach our children to protect themselves and keep the lines of communication open about sex so that they believe that they can come to us should something uncomfortable occur. — A Public Servant