The Man Who Abused Me is Not on the Sex Offender List (The One who Saved Me Is)

Folks, iidryfadkf
this is a long essay, but one I’m proud to share, as I continue to believe the Sex Offender Registry is not keeping kids any safer, and yet it is ruining a lot of lives. It comes to us from Shana
 Rowan, executive director of USA FAIR, Inc. (USA Families Advocating an Intelligent Registry), a nonprofit group founded by family members of people required to register.  As Shana says, “USA FAIR promotes intelligent, fact-based sex offender laws and shines a light on the collateral damage imposed on loved ones of registrants.” A noble goal. – L. 


by Shana Rowan

In the middle of tenth grade, I was a fire engine red-haired, eyebrow pierced, plaid-mini-skirt-and-combat-boots-wearing 15-year-old, fighting a losing battle with depression and anxiety. Eventually, this would cause me to lose every friendship I ever had. By the beginning of my junior year, I had only one – a handsome, quietly sweet boy who was innocent obliviousness to my undying love. The few words he did speak meant that much more. I could always tell that he was in pain; it radiated from him. I never asked why and he never offered. For both of us, just knowing the other was aware of our silent suffering was enough.
One day he and I were leaning against the lockers in H building, me unable to focus on anything but his deep brown eyes. The next day he was gone – arrested, removed from school and from my life. I never got to say goodbye – much less find out what had happened. With my last support system gone, I floundered badly. I was lucky to graduate high school – not because I wasn’t smart enough, but because everything at school reminded me of what I had lost, and just being there was difficult.
My life was so desolate that by 23, I was four and a half years into a relationship to a man 14 years my senior, who had become my husband. He subjected me to physical and sexual violence on a regular basis. He isolated me from my family, refused to work while I worked two jobs, and wouldn’t let me go anywhere alone. The shame of allowing myself to be victimized over and over again coupled with the paralyzing fear I had of my husband kept me from ever hinting that anything was wrong. The only thing that kept me together was everyone else’s illusion that everything was fine.
One day my husband and I were attending a baseball card signing (regular “fun” outings were part of the jig). As we waited in line, a plug for a local nonprofit organization – for the prevention of domestic violence – played over the loudspeaker. My husband laughed and said sarcastically, “maybe you should go there.” Earlier that morning he had grabbed me by the hair and slammed my face into the floor (I had accidentally knocked coffee onto his Yankees jersey). I was attending the card signing with a split upper lip. His laughter that day awakened the last trace of dignity I had. My problem was finding a way to get out of the house before he caught up to me – and more than likely, killed me.
At a complete loss of where to start, I decided to track down my high school love – who had written to me from prison a couple of years prior. As overjoyed as I was to hear from him, especially when he admitted that he had always been in love with me, I was terrified my husband would find out. I threw away his letters and tried to forget about him. Luckily, it didn’t work. Through the powers of Google, I learned he was out of prison and working nearby. On my lunch break, I marched into the mechanic shop he worked in. He had his head under the hood of a gold Buick. When the door shut behind me, he looked up, and back down. Up, and back down. Up.
He was the first person I told about what my husband was doing to me. Three weeks later, I walked out the door under the guise of visiting my sister. I never went back. I moved back in with my parents, and with my friend’s help, revealed to them what I had experienced. Soon, my friend was my boyfriend. His having been pulled out of tenth grade to serve a sentence in state prison had had a similar effect on him that being with an abusive man had on me. After about eight months, we made the decision to move 250 miles northwest where the cost of living was much cheaper.
There is no doubt in my mind that if it had not been for my boyfriend, who is now my fiancée, that my now ex-husband would have killed me eventually. He — my fiancee — has been with me throughout my recovery. He embraces my independence and individual interests, making it possible for me to live out my dreams of owning and fostering multiple rescue dogs. He supports me 100% financially, which allows me to act as the Executive Director of USA FAIR, Inc. a nonprofit organization – a volunteer position. I’ve found a church family I love, and play the piano there on Sunday mornings.
As I write this, our surveillance system is recording the movements of anyone who comes within 100 feet of our property. My anxiety medication sits within arm’s reach on the night table. I feel an ever-constant, lightly throbbing fear of the next phone call or knock on the door. I feel less safe now than I ever did with my ex. But the source of my fear is not my ex, or remnants of my past trauma. It’s for loving and living with the person I love.
My fiancé is a registered sex offender. As an adolescent, he sexually abused his younger half-sister, which was simultaneously being perpetrated on him by his mother. I’m thankful that his actions were brought to light and stopped, and that he now sees the immeasurable impact it had on his victim. I wish the same could be said for his abusers. I don’t aim to soften the seriousness of his crime. I do want to point out that while the man who brutally beat me walks free, the man who saved me from that is forever labeled a dangerous monster.
I know what you’re thinking: sex offenders never change; they can’t get better. Your sentiment is shared by many otherwise educated, open-minded individuals. That is precisely why I live my life in fear – even though I’m a world away from the person who held me down while screaming in my face. It’s the reason I’ve been repeatedly targeted and threatened by strangers, had my personal property vandalized, and been told the safety of my family is inconsequential. In case you think we’re the exception, ask the millions of other mothers, fathers, wives, siblings, and children who love someone on the registry.  Ask my parents, my sister, and my friends how it feels that on a whim, some deranged individual can type in a zip code or county, be presented with information commonly referred to as “the pedophile list” – and do with it what they will. (Last June in Washington State, a vigilante used the registry to hunt down registrants and kill them – murdering two before he was caught, and destroying two families, including two young boys who lost their father.)
Part of how I cope with the onslaught of ignorance and hatred is by immersing myself in research – state, federal, and independent. Truth is, the facts are on “our” side. As a broad group, sex offender recidivism is conclusively very low, and incestuous offenses carry the lowest recidivism of all at .04%. While the registry began as a safety tool to warn parents of violent repeat offenders who preyed on children, now it contains three quarters of a million people, some of whom who have never victimized children or used violence. Children themselves – as young as 10 – can be forced to publicly register as sex offenders, even though juvenile offenders have lower recidivism rates than adults. Most troubling to me is that sexual recidivism rates for convicted sex offenders are the identical same low rates to what they were ten years prior to Megan’s Law.  All the sanctions imposed on my fiancé, and by extension me, have had no impact on reducing sex crimes.
Sex offenders provide irresistible political and emotional appeal. Impose ever-stricter laws on sex offenders and you’re “tough on crime.” Add “sex offender” to a headline, even if it’s completely irrelevant to the story, and draw in viewers eager to protect their families. A magic list containing the names and faces of those to avoid sounds a whole lot simpler than educating ourselves about an uncomfortable, emotional subject. Who doesn’t want tough laws and convenient family protection? I think we all do. But even the toughest laws won’t do a thing if they are not also “smart,” and our children deserve parents who are fully educated and aware of the facts. I daresay that the loved ones of registrants deserve all these things too.
I am 100% against abuse of any kind and believe that perpetrators must be held accountable. If there was evidence that our current sex offender laws had a positive impact on public safety, I and other family members of registrants would accept this and go about living our lives. But since there isn’t – and I can say that with certainty because I’ve done my homework – I urge everyone to embrace new information and fact-based laws. This issue knows no bounds; it affects people of both genders, all ages, races, religions, political leanings, and sexual orientations. Supporting smart laws doesn’t mean you are soft on crime or a sex offender apologist or blaming the victim. It means you care enough to come out of your comfort zone and unify on an issue that affects us all.
If you take nothing else from my story, I ask just one thing. The next time you hear the term “sex offender” or browse the registry, please remember there could be a family not unlike yours behind the mug shot. – S.R.
If the Sex Offender Registry isn’t making kids safer, shouldn’t we change it?

51 Responses to The Man Who Abused Me is Not on the Sex Offender List (The One who Saved Me Is)

  1. Papilio June 20, 2013 at 12:43 pm #

    Welcome home, Ленор Скенази! 🙂

  2. Silver Fang June 20, 2013 at 12:47 pm #

    Sex offender lists are a gross violation of the Constitution. Like it or not, once a person has completed their prison sentence, they are supposed to be allowed a second chance. Sex offender lists are like incarceration outside of prison, with restrictions on travel, loss of privacy and even being made to give all one’s Internet accounts and passwords to the police.

  3. Papilio June 20, 2013 at 1:15 pm #

    …and ‘Welcome home’ never sounded more ironic…

    What a story. Just when you think she’s seen it all, she ends up in a whole new kind of hell, one of pointless rules and stupid vigilantes. Sigh.
    I never understood why the SOR is public. I could see why the police want a list of known offenders, but to then put that one up on the internet, and not the list of wife beaters or murderers or rapists with adult victims (M/F) – what’s the logic in that?

  4. Natalie June 20, 2013 at 1:22 pm #

    Domestic violence.
    Now that’s something with a high chance of recidivism.
    And it’s not taken seriously enough.

    Good for Shana for getting herself out of this relationship and speaking up. People don’t understand how hard that is and blame the victim for staying.

  5. Jessica June 20, 2013 at 2:17 pm #

    When I was about 5 years old I was friends with an older girl who lived down the street. She was 11 or 12. One day we were playing in my room when she demanded that I perform a sexual act on her. When I refused, she threatened to throw me out my 2nd-story bedroom window, so I complied. When I told my parents about it they simply forbid me from playing with her anymore. I don’t know, they may have talked to her parents. Looking back, I think they realized she must have had some serious problems at home. Likely she was being abused herself. I wish my folks would have called the police to get her some help, but this was 30+ years ago when this sort of thing didn’t get that much attention. It was a brief, slightly traumatizing event in my life and I’ve moved on just fine, but I worry about what ever became of that girl. If it were today, and the police had gotten involved, she would likely have ended up on the registry, which is the last thing in the world that would have helped her. The sex offender registry has obviously devolved into an ineffective fear machine.

  6. SadButMadLad June 20, 2013 at 2:37 pm #

    Thats the problem with anything which initially is designed for the few but over time expands to include more and more. The initial scheme is always designed to get the small number of perpetrators. But everything is about victimology now, so more are classified under the scheme. It’s either from right-on people thinking that “something should be done” or those involved in the schemes building their empires. It’s not long before the scheme involves everyone.

    And the result of it? It demeans or devalues the initial scheme.

    So megan’s law is now a joke and will be seen as such and megan’s memory will be totally destroyed and she will be remembered for the pain her law has caused than for anything about saving children from harm.

    All caused by people who think they know what they are doing but actually cause so many unintended consequences that they make everything they touch worse than before.

  7. Don June 20, 2013 at 2:54 pm #

    Here in Virginia a John Doe lawsuit attempting to avoid registration failed seven years ago. The person being forced to register was convicted, at 18, of a 7 year relationship with his sister who was 4 years his junior.

    What possible value was there in having him register, 13 years later, when his sister testified she’d just as soon keep it under wraps? This wasn’t a nothing crime, mind you, and I’m glad it was caught and prosecuted and, hopefully, everyone involved getting needed help. But something that started when the man was an 11 year old boy – that’s deserving a permanent taint on his name?

  8. Siobhra June 20, 2013 at 3:12 pm #

    Right now in Florida there is a little girl age 17 who was in a relationship with her 16 year old girl friend. It had been going on for more than a year and the father of the 16 year old waited until the other girl turned 17 to report her to the police. She has been arrested and is waiting trial. If convicted she will be on the sexual offenders list for the rest of her life.
    The list is a joke and anyone who takes it serious is sick. It needs to go. If we were to have such a list the only way to get on it is when a judge puts the person on the list. And have time limits until they come off unless a judge extends it.

  9. Rich Wilson June 20, 2013 at 3:37 pm #

    Domestic violence. Now that’s something with a high chance of recidivism.

    And there’s villain we all love (to hate).

    I don’t know what the rates of recidivism are for various types of abusers and therapies, but I do know that the place where I learned how to not be abusive worked for me and MOST men who went through it.

    Abuse is learned, and we can learn alternatives. There’s no quick fix- it takes work. Most of the flip advice you get form most people is extremely bad. Take “Just bite your lip and count to 10”. I got extremely good at hiding my anger, to the point that when I eventually and inevitably exploded, I had no idea what the real cause was.

    There’s no excuse for abuse. Help is available. If you think you might need it, get it. Or support someone who does.

  10. Natalie June 20, 2013 at 4:16 pm #

    Hi Rich,
    I apologize, I have no idea what the rates of recidivism are for abusers who seek therapy. I had a caricature in my head of someone who thinks it’s appropriate and doesn’t think it’s a problem. Life is more complex than that. I’m glad that you sought help and I wish you and your family the best.
    Again, my apologies.

  11. Kate June 20, 2013 at 4:59 pm #


    Reading what you wrote reminded me of a boy I knew in highschool,. S came from an emotionally abusive (possibly physically abusive) home, and his friends – especially his girl friend – were his glimpse into normal life. Unfortunately, S carried the baggage of his abandonment and attachment issues with him, and began to get more and more terrified that his girlfriend was going to leave him for someone less screwed up. Finally, he shook her and tried to hit her, in school, during an argument. It was the first time he was ever violent towards her, but it scared her a lot.

    He was expelled the next day.

    It’s always bothered me. The year before graduation, they took a confused, messed up kid who was so afraid of losing everything good in his life that he couldn’t think straight, and transferred him away from everyone he cared about. I knew that what he did was wrong, but I’ve never been able to get over how, in the space of a day, he went from being a full, complex person with hopes and fears to An Abuser. Full stop.

    I think it makes the rest of us feel better about ourselves, honestly. If we can put people who abuse, hit, or molest and put them in a box labelled, “Abuser: Permanently Screwed Up”, then we can believe that *we* aren’t capable of doing those things that horrify us. Moreover, if we can convince ourselves that some people are just evil or just dangerous by nature, than we only need to change the laws to quarantine these people from society and make us all safe… rather than take on the much larger and more challenging task of changing ourselves and our communities from the inside.

  12. Nicole June 20, 2013 at 6:02 pm #

    I have a 60 year old uncle who is a pedophile who has reoffended twice (I have multiple sex offenders in my family, at least half haven’t seen the inside of a jail cell). He is currently out of prison. It’s maddening that he is out.

    The sex offender registry is a cop out. If someone is dangerous, they don’t belong out of a secure facility, period. I support indefinite detention for adult offenders who are repeat offenders or whose offences are particularly heinous, and hospitalization in sex offender treatment centers for people who pose a clear risk. If someone just got out they need counseling and monitoring for at least a couple years to help ensure their successful reintegration, and they do not need stigmatized. If someone is rehabilitated they deserve a second chance.

    Child and young teen offenders are often abuse victims, and most definitely deserve intensive treatment and a second chance. I would say most do not belong in a prison setting, because they have issues that are better addressed in a treatment setting. Putting them on the sex offender registry is insanity.

  13. Cin June 20, 2013 at 6:49 pm #

    Kate — applause.

  14. SHEEPLE HERDER June 20, 2013 at 6:58 pm #

    As usual you nailed it Shawna.

  15. ressa June 20, 2013 at 7:37 pm #


    I know how you are feeling. I was 4 when my dad was accused of sexually molesting me. I have doubted that he even committed the crime my whole life. I was 17 when I sought out my dad and his family (I looked for him he did not look for me). I was lucky enough to find him and we have now built a life together. He has become my greatest source of support. Due to changes in the laws that occurred a few years ago we are being told we can no longer live together. I feel this is wrong since they have taken my rights away as well. I feel I should have the chance to move past the events of my childhood and develop a relationship if i wish to do so and i had made that choice 9 years before the law that states we cant have contact was passed.

  16. Bill June 20, 2013 at 8:29 pm #

    There is no documentation of one child any where in the U.S. that has been saved from sexual abuse because of the registry. Not one piece of evidence of any kind. Not one child saved in over 15 years. Is it worth the cost? Is it worth the millions of tax dollars? Is it worth the millions of people who have had their lives negatively impacted because of the Registry? I dare any one to say YES and post a intellectual response to support their affirmation.

  17. Jacqueline June 20, 2013 at 9:38 pm #

    Siobhra-I was under the impression that there are laws (I can’t remember what they’re called) that if the age difference is under 2 or 3 years, there is no issue, precisely to avoid this kind of thing. Does Florida not have those laws? I also think the family of the 16 year old sounds slightly dysfunctional, but that’s a somewhat different issue.

  18. Lois Marshall June 20, 2013 at 10:57 pm #

    Once again, I thank dear Lenore for attacking this topic. Some time ago, she featured a story about two of my sons who are on the registry. You can probably find it in her archives if you wish.
    What I want to address now is bullying, though. Similar to domestic abuse, we often think that bullies are not redeemable, much in the same way that many think that sex offenders are not redeemable. The story I want to tell is about one of my sons who is now a registrant.
    My son, being thin, was often the butt of bullies, at least until he learned how to stand up for himself. Shortly after he learned to stand up for himself, he caught one of his tormentors beating up another one of his tormentors. Now, most people would have just said “serves him right”, and walked away. Not my boy! He walked right up and got in the face of the aggressor and told him to leave the other kid alone. To the surprise of probably all three, the big kid just threw up his hands and walked off. The other asked, “Why did you stand up for me? I used to treat you just as bad as he did!” My son’s reply was “What he was doing to you was just as wrong as when he did it to me. I just couldn’t stand by and watch it happen to someone else, even if you did used to bully me.” With that, he turned and walked off.
    Now he is not allowed to live near schools, because he was conscientious about fastening kids into a ride that sometimes meant that he had to touch their backsides. It’s a shame, really. He cares about those who can’t stand up for themselves, but is not allowed around them, and is sometimes accused, by those who have no idea of who he is, of being a “baby raper”.
    The other child who was bullied has completely changed, and I believe it is due to the actions of my son.
    When will the public be willing to give my son another chance?

  19. Erika Doring June 20, 2013 at 11:06 pm #

    Thank you Shawna for working at your mission. You make important points, mainly the political motivations behind SO legislations are the same as those behind legislation and enforcing citations when leaving a child intentionally, but safely alone. Ironically I worked as a CPS investigator for 10 years after counseling youth Sexual offenders for 6 years. After doing research myself, and in combination with 15 plus years working with offenders i wholeheartedly agree with all of your points. It comes back to political motives(gains) and (lack of) public awareness of the legal system. Wish I knew how to address that! I’ll begin by supporting and reffering to your organization. Please note that many of those on the registery never received a fair trial. Lots of reasons in our political//criminal justice system that lead people to compromising and accept altimatems offered. Thank you for all you are doing!

    USA Fair Inc.!

  20. Donna June 21, 2013 at 12:16 am #

    Jacqueline –

    All laws vary from state to state. Laws in this area vary greatly from state to state. Many states don’t have what are usually referred to as Romeo and Juliet laws. And while the laws surrounding treatment of those on the registry are fairly similar state-by-state, the sex offender registry itself – what crimes require registration, treatment of juveniles, treatment of misdemeanors, treatment of first offenders, whether there are tiers, whether you can get off the registry after time, etc. – varies VASTLY by state.

    Also, the case you are referring to involves two females, meaning that the act at issue is not vaginal penetration by a penis. Some states treat sex acts other than traditional sex more harshly. I don’t know enough about the case to know if that is happening here but it adds a possible wrinkle.

  21. Joel June 21, 2013 at 3:30 am #

    Regarding SOR in general – agree with the general sentiment and extremely well argued points already stated.

    Florida case – teenage girl with a teenage girl. Can almost guarantee this has more to do with the fact that it was a homosexual relationship. “She made my daughter gay”. I’d bet a week’s salary on it without knowing anymore details.

    I’m glad that some states have Romeo & Juliet laws, they should be in every state. It’s normal for teens to start developing sexual feelings and to explore them (alone or with others). As long as it’s consensual, with someone around their age, not familial and not with someone in a position of authority, then it should be a non-issue. As an adult and parent, I have a hard time looking at 12/13/14 year olds and imagining them exploring their sexuality. They look so young and innocent. But, I still remember that around 6th grade (12 yrs old), and especially in 7th grade, was when my fellow classmates started this journey. It wasn’t just one or two outliers, it was easily a majority. Do I want my kid having sex at 13? No. What can I do about it? Not much except educate like crazy and cross my fingers.

  22. Michael June 21, 2013 at 3:36 am #

    I advise anyone on the registry in the US to do what I did—move to another country that does not have a registry (unless you intend to reoffend, in which case you need to get professional help). It was easier for me because I have dual citizenship and a PhD, but I have known others who also expatriated without having these advantages. It is such a relief to be free of the daily terror of being attacked by vigilantes, and being able to live where I choose and pursue my career without fear of discrimination, harassment and persecution.

  23. Sally June 21, 2013 at 8:19 am #

    No Joel, it has nothing to do with homophobia. There have been countless numbers of more or less the exact same scenario (teens in a sexual relationship where one partner is slightly older than the other) in hetro cases, some of which have been high-lighted on this website. I’m sure you can find them filed under ‘Sex Offender Issues’ in the Hot Topics column.

    It seems for some reason people are especially upset at this case and its getting lots of attention. I suppose because like you they image the teen in that case are being specifically targeted and bullied because it’s two girls in a sexual relationship. But some are on the registry for even less than an “inappropriate” sexual relationship: For situations where no sex had taken place.

    For nothing more than ‘inappropriate behavior’, like putting money down a teenage girl’s shirt, or (inadvertently) touching children’s bottoms while strapping them into safety belts on carnival rides, there are people in the United States who cannot live where they choose to and will be barred from entering careers they may have been well suited to. Or are forced to leave their exsiting careers.

    Such cases you would have thought should have been splashed over national headlines in all their “Orwellian Thought Crimes” proportions, but no one seems to have noticed. Or cared.

    So I suppose one could say the opposite appears to be true of what you assume, the case being homosexual seemed to have helped the girl, as it has drawn the attention of the media and people like yourself to the absurdity of these laws.

  24. Donna June 21, 2013 at 11:21 am #

    Actually Sally the particular case in Florida DOES have to do with the girls being homosexual. It appears very clear that the parents of the younger girl are very much against their daughter being gay and blame the older girl.

    The consensual nature of stat rape means that it is a crime always reported to police by someone other than the “victim.” While outside the family reporters are not uncommon (teachers, child support recovery, WIC, welfare, the juvenile court system), the majority of reporters are parents. Parents do this for all sorts of reasons that are occasionally racist, homophobic, and otherwise prejudice.

    I had a stat rape case where the mother called the police because her daughter slept with a black boy (who was in the same grade). This was very clear in her statement where she repeatedly refers to him as a n-word. He wasn’t her daughter’s only sexual partner but he was the only one reported to the police. Luckily the DA was a good guy and the case was randomly assigned to our black judge so we were able to resolve it without a conviction.

    So while stat rape charges resulting from sex between teens close in age is not exclusive to gay or interracial couples, unusual relationships that parents have problems with outside of sex and age are far more likely to get reported to the police than relationships the parents endorse.

  25. Donna June 21, 2013 at 11:32 am #

    @Joel –

    Romeo and Juliet laws aren’t all they are cracked up to be. For example, in my state sex between teens less than 3 years apart is misdemeanor stat rape. Misdemeanor convictions are excluded from the state sex offender registry. Great. But try to get a job that runs a criminal background check with a stat rape conviction on your record. And how do you think that is going to go over if he tries to volunteer at a school that requires a background check?

    And that only protects him from registering if he always remains in our state. If he moves to a state where misdemeanors are included on the registry, he may be required to register there. Or since it has been determined that these are not ex post facto laws, our state’s laws could change at any time requiring misdemeanors to register effecting everyone ever so convicted.

    Stat rape laws need to be wiped out completely. Consensual sex should not be a crime because other people don’t approve.

  26. Natalie June 21, 2013 at 12:09 pm #

    But stat rape laws are designed to protect minors from being manipulated by older, more mature people, hence the idea that it’s not really consensual sex. I agree in that the use described here is horribly vindictive and serves no moral purpose, and the slight difference in age distorts the meaning of the law, But then what would you suggest to prevent Lolita-like situations? Where an adolescent, pre-teen, etc. is manipulated into having sex by someone much more mature? It could be consensual. Why wouldn’t you just modify the law instead of getting rid of it entirely?

  27. Donna June 21, 2013 at 2:32 pm #

    @Natalie –

    First, pre-adolescents are covered by child molestation laws and should remain there. No need for stat rape laws.

    As for adolescents, the law negates the fact that many teens WANT to have sex with older, more mature people. It makes ALL such sex illegal.

    Actual manipulation, rather than assumed manipulation, can be covered under the umbrella of rape without needing a statute to address consensual sex at all. “Consent” achieved by manipulation is not valid consent, and therefore, the sex was not consensual. If a DA can prove manipulation such that it invalidates the consent, a rape conviction can be had. I see no reason why an age disparity can’t be used as evidence of manipulation. It simply shouldn’t be allowed to be the SOLE evidence needed to prove manipulation.

    And stat rape laws were not designed to protect minors from being manipulated by older, more mature people. That can be covered by rape. They were enacted because society doesn’t want to admit that many teens WANT to have sex and that some of them want to have sex with older, more mature people.

  28. Natalie June 21, 2013 at 3:04 pm #

    “If a DA can prove manipulation such that it invalidates the consent, a rape conviction can be had.”

    Two things:

    1) I’m curious as to how often that actually happens. I’m under the impression that rape is underreported and difficult to prove unless it was violent or drugs were used to incapacitate the victim.

    I understand that teens want to have sex with adults, I’m not arguing with that. I’m with you on the ridiculousness of stat rape laws. I guess the question is,

    2) where do you draw the line between child molestation and consensual sex between a teen and an adult?

    A 12 yr old and a 40 yr old?
    16? (16 and under is what stat rape covers, correct?)

    What would be an ideal law in your opinion? It seems there’s a gap that you’re not addressing between child molestation (what ages does that cover?) and completely getting rid of stat rape laws.

    If there’s nothing to protect someone who is young, curious and not confident in their sexuality, who might get into a situation which is over their head before they realize it and then unable to get themselves out, I can’t help but feel that they’ll get the short end of the stick if required to prove that they were manipulated. If they say anything at all.

    That’s not to say that I agree with the current stat rape laws. But proving manipulation to invalidate consent doesn’t seem like a good replacement.

    Actually, I just reread your post and you said that an age disparity could be used as part of the evidence of manipulation. So you do take that into account.

  29. Donna June 21, 2013 at 3:37 pm #

    “I’m curious as to how often that actually happens.”

    It doesn’t. Why would a DA go there when all they need for a stat rape conviction is to prove age and sex? Would it happen more if stat rape laws were gone? Probably.

    It may also take a tweeking of the law in some states. Tweek the law. It doesn’t require delving into criminalizing consensual sex.

    “where do you draw the line between child molestation and consensual sex between a teen and an adult?”

    Child molestation laws generally address children 13-14 and under depending on the state.

    “If there’s nothing to protect someone who is young, curious and not confident in their sexuality, who might get into a situation which is over their head before they realize it and then unable to get themselves out, I can’t help but feel that they’ll get the short end of the stick if required to prove that they were manipulated.”

    I’m not sure what you mean here. While this is an unfortunate situation for the young person, I’m not sure why it should be a crime for someone else if a teen makes some decisions that she later regrets.

    If actual manipulation is occurring, why is it unfair to make it be proven? We don’t consider it unfair to prove all the elements of a crime for any other crime?

    I’m not sure why it is we want to make life easy for the DA to convict people, take away their freedom for years and brand them sex offenders. We are talking about issues with HUGE ramifications for the rest of your life. Shouldn’t it be somewhat difficult to get there? Isn’t that the point of the majority of the Bill of Rights?

  30. Natalie June 21, 2013 at 4:45 pm #

    In the previous situation, I’m picturing a pre-teen. I didn’t know they were covered by child molestation laws.

    I don’t want to make it easy for the DA to convict, but I also want kids (male and female) protected.

    My aversion to proving manipulation is based on how difficult I perceive rape convictions to be. Isnt it difficult if no one witnesses the victim saying no and there is no sign of a struggle?

    So how could you prove manipulation when the victim has said yes? That would need to be explored if stat laws were eliminated. I’m just not very optimistic about the process. I would prefer a modification to stat laws rather than their elimination. I also don’t think that those convicted guilty should be automatically placed on the SOR.

  31. Donna June 21, 2013 at 5:34 pm #

    12 and under are always covered by child molestation laws. 13-14 is going to depend on state and even then depend on the facts. By that age, they do start drawing a consent/non-consent line. My clients who slept with the 14 year old who was inviting them in her bedroom window for sex and then keeping a detailed diary involving acts that we needed to explain to some of the attorneys in the office were charged with stat rape and not child molestation. A 13 year old who is being forced to have sex with her stepfather is going to be child molestation.

    It is difficult to prove rape when you have a he said/she said situation. Adult. Child. Yes, it would also be difficult to prove manipulation when she said “yes.”. Again, it absolutely should be difficult to prove that someone committed a serious crime. The ramifications are HUGE against someone convicted, even outside sex offender registry. Life as a convicted felon sucks, regardless of the felony. It sucks more for some felonies but it sucks for all.

    How would you modify stat rape laws so that they allow for the very common situation of teens willingly consenting to sex with older people? I’m not talking about a couple years difference. That is easy to fix. I am talking about very real situations where a teen willingly enters into a relationship with someone considerably older. Because that is the problem. Sending adults to prison when it was a 100% consensual relationship with no manipulation involved, just because they were too old for society.

  32. Papilio June 21, 2013 at 7:47 pm #

    I agree with Donna (duh…): throw out the stat rape laws. But: I would like to see those replaced by mandatory comprehensive sex ed for teenagers (say age 13 or so). Just make it a part of biology class.
    Manipulation is just that more difficult when Snowflake knows what she’s doing.

  33. Papilio June 21, 2013 at 7:56 pm #

    This dissertation is interesting too, when it comes to the information American teens get about sexuality and what effects that information has on their attitudes.

    Just scroll down to see the introduction, summary, conclusion etc:

    Here you can read chapter 1 and 2:

    Weird detail: neither of these articles actually mention the SOR and the effects of the SOR on sexual development in adolescents. That would be an interesting read as well…

  34. TaraK June 21, 2013 at 10:10 pm #

    When I hear someone freaking out about someone on the registry moving in to their neighborhood I always ask them why the person is on the list. 99% of the time they knew their victim. Again, it goes back to know your kids, know who your kids know!

  35. CrazyCatLady June 22, 2013 at 12:36 am #

    My friend’s father is on the list. He just put him self there. He apparently, in the line of his work (at least as was told to my friend after the trial) patted a grown woman on the rear. Yes, he always had that leer of a dirty old man.

    But…I am not sure that it is fair to lump him in with people in possession of child porn, attempting to lure kids out of state for sex, and misrepresenting age on the internet. His attractions were always for adult females, usually with ample padding on the backside.

    Now, his grandkids are coming to visit, children to whom he is absolutely no threat….and he can’t take them to the park. Although, I guess it keeps him from putting the eye on the other moms at the playground.

    My friend said that his mother and father were thinking about moving out of state. I told him that he should caution his father to be very careful about that. Right now, he lives in a community where he is shamed, but everyone knows the facts and that he isn’t likely to be threatened. If he moves, no one will know…until he and his wife have to tell them so that they can get into the retirement community or what have you.

  36. SKL June 22, 2013 at 5:25 pm #

    I just heard that a guy on the sex offender list abducted and murdered an 8yo girl last night. His past offenses included multiple attempts (though unsuccessful) to abduct children, lewd talk to children, showing porn to children. He just got out of prison May 31! He was a registered sex offender but did not meet the definition of predator apparently. He was allowed to live near a school etc., not that it mattered, since it was at WalMart that he snatched his victim. 🙁 Somehow they have to get this stuff right! Why was this creep able to get hold of another child when it’s clear that given a chance, this is what he would do??

  37. SKL June 22, 2013 at 5:27 pm #

    I have a question. I keep hearing “Protecting the Gift” (a book) being recommended by seemingly level-headed people. I’ve never read it. Is it a worthwhile read? I have two six-year-old daughters and I believe in free range, but I also believe in kids keeping themselves out of the way of creeps.

  38. Shana Rowan June 23, 2013 at 11:49 am #

    Hi everyone. Thank you so much for the positive comments and thoughts.

    SKL, you are correct, a man with several previous offenses has been charged in the murder of an 8-year-old in Florida. As horrific as this crime is, we can learn from it and others like it. It takes a willingness to look at some difficult facts and be willing to admit our current policies aren’t working.

    Proper risk assessment tools and putting a stop to the ever-expansion on the registry likely could have prevented this crime and others like it. The media focuses on the fact that men like this – and Michael Klunder, Jon Couey, and Timmendaquas – all were on the sex offender registry. This is true – however, what is also true is that they were career criminals with a lengthy rap sheet beginning when they were teenagers. They represent that minority of registrants who have the potential to re-offend and would benefit from law enforcement monitoring and heightened public awareness.

    The problem is that we apply the broad brush approach of what these relatively few individuals are capable of to all 750,996 people on the registry. What results is a system that is not only harmful to former offenders and their families, but also severely dilutes the effectiveness of the registry as a safety tool. If the registry was limited to those people who were assessed with modern, accurate risk tools rather than the outdated instruments we use currently, isn’t it safe to say our resources could have been far better applied to prevent those individuals from committing such atrocities?

  39. SKL June 23, 2013 at 1:51 pm #

    Yes, Shana, there has to be a better way to do this. In the case of the Florida girl, I assume the problem was that he was caught before he had a chance to actually rape children on his past known attempts. The crime of trying to do xyz and being foiled in the attempt is not given as much weight as actually succeeding, even though there is no difference in the criminal’s brain/heart. I don’t know what the answer is. I wish the guy had to wear a big neon sign saying “child predator,” because that’s obviously what he was/is, but that will never happen.

  40. Donna June 23, 2013 at 3:08 pm #

    SKL –

    Actually the attempted kidnapping charge that landed him on the registry was 20 years old. He was just out of jail but that was apparently for making obscene phone calls to a minor, a misdemeanor. You can’t give a person who commits a misdemeanor a life sentence, even if you think he is a horrible person. He had several arrests in the intervening years but since the article doesn’t specifically say that they were related to minors, I will assume that they weren’t (or the article would have said).

    This was also not a stereotypical stranger abduction. Apparently, the child was with the mother at the Dollar Store when this guy offered to take them both to Walmart to buy clothes. The three then spent a couple hours together in Walmart (doing what, who the heck knows) before he wandered off with the little girl to get burgers with the mother’s approval.

  41. Donna June 23, 2013 at 3:22 pm #

    Maybe I’m just cynical but I wouldn’t think one would need a sign saying “child predator” or anything else meaning “possibly up to no good” to be wary of a stranger you meet in the Dollar Store who randomly offers to take you to Walmart to buy clothes for your family.

  42. Joel June 24, 2013 at 2:41 am #

    Donna –

    You’ve done a good job pointing out a lot of the failures of the system. I think you and I are on the same page with the whole topic. I have always been troubled by statutory rape or molesting convictions of any kind when consensual sex is involved. It is a far tougher subject when we are talking about a significant age difference. But, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head; it should be the burden of prosecution to prove it was rape via manipulation, not just a simple case of “she was this old, therefore he is guilty”. A lot of stat rape cases (I’m guessing the majority) are more of a matter of the parent not willing to accept that their child was pursuing and having sex. Punishing the other party gives them some sort of relief I guess.

    In my high school days, many 14 and up year old girls were seeking out adult men. Many others were freshman dating seniors. I think as a society, we just have trouble with the reality of teenage sexuality. Back then, nobody pursued stat rape that I ever heard about; not even sure it was on the radar at that time. From my personal experience, most of them turned out just fine 30 years later. One such case is my sister-in-law, who has been very happily married to my brother for 20 years.

    I fear that this trend is only going to get worse for the time being though. Pre-teens and teens are exposed to much more information, much earlier, and are pursuing sex younger than ever. Which, will in turn, drive more and more “protective” laws, which will lead to more and more convictions when sex was consensual. Sigh.

  43. marie June 26, 2013 at 1:05 am #

    @CrazyCatLady, who said, But…I am not sure that it is fair to lump him in with people in possession of child porn, attempting to lure kids out of state for sex, and misrepresenting age on the internet. His attractions were always for adult females, usually with ample padding on the backside.

    So, your friend’s dad, who likes to pat chubby cheeks, shouldn’t be “lumped in” with people like my husband, who is doing federal time for possession of child porn? In turn, my husband shouldn’t be lumped in with child rapists who shouldn’t be lumped in with murderers who shouldn’t be lumped in with… oh, I don’t know…Congressmen and reporters?

    This is what the SOR has done: it has done a lot of lumping. Instead of looking at your friend’s dad to see if he was a criminal or just a man who does something inappropriate, the justice system inexplicably sees patting backsides as a sex crime and he is now a sex offender. When did inappropriate behavior become criminal behavior? The world has gone mad.

    As for my husband, the justice system didn’t look at him to see if he posed any danger, either. He’ll be on the registry, too, even though he has never so much as patted a child on any kind of cheek. As wrong as using child porn is (and it’s not wrong just because it’s a crime), using child porn doesn’t automatically mean the person is dangerous.

    Only a very tiny number of criminal cases go to trial. That means that prosecutors are very rarely required to prove their case to a jury. (In my husband’s case, not even a grand jury.) That also means that the people on the SOR might have been compelled to plead to something they didn’t do. This happens more often than is comfortable to believe. When you see someone listed on the registry, remember that the justice system has NOTHING to do with truth.

    As much as I appreciated Shana’s essay, I disagree with her about an “intelligent registry.” Any registry will inevitably grow–legislators and law enforcement will relish the chance to look tough on crime and they will push to add more people to the registry. How do you think we ended up with 750,000 people on the registries we have now?

  44. anonymous this time June 28, 2013 at 3:11 am #

    Labelling is inherent in our culture, our language. It takes courage to re-wire yourself to be wary of labels, to instead work to state clearly what you observe, and what effect it has on YOU, instead of labelling someone “sex offender,” “asshole,” “idiot,” “abuser,” “bitch,” “slut,” “control freak,” “wing-nut,” or whatever other “shorthand” you are tempted to use and stick with to make sense of your world.

    Here’s the truth as I see it: anything anyone does is something that I myself am capable of, given the right circumstances. There is nothing another human being does that I want to judge or label as “inappropriate” or “abominable,” since categorizing is what I would do to separate myself from that person, to delude myself that they are “bad” and I am “good.”

    If someone puts their hand on my ass, it can mean a lot of things. Depends on who, where, when… Hell, a glance can creep me out or thrill me. It’s not the hand, it’s not the look, it’s how it affects me. Someone can make a gesture and I might laugh, another time the same gesture in a different context crushes my spirit. Jokes are that way, too. If I look back on my life, I see at least 25 or 30 incidents where someone I encountered said or did something that, technically, could be seen as “criminal” and “sexual” and land them on the offender list. Again, this is about labelling, and blame, and shaming… not about assessing what aspect of life and thriving is served or not served by the initial behaviour, or the registry.

    We’ve gotten quite addicted to the idea of “right” and “wrong,” and “good” and “evil,” but often in the service of “justice” or “safety,” we end up making a mockery of these values, and landing farther and farther away from the target of a harmonious and compassionate society.

    God help us.

  45. Earth.W June 28, 2013 at 5:24 pm #

    What the West truly needs is an open discussion on what is and isn’t a sex offense.

  46. JLM July 1, 2013 at 12:55 pm #

    What I often find so difficult is how each state has so many different requirements and regulations.

    While in our state, the age of consent is 18, and every 17 year old is now referred to as a child.

    While in most states, talking to a 16 year old wouldn’t have even been considered a crime at all, in our state, you are now considered a “monster”.

    .I have difficultly when the 17 year old is actually the aggressor, seeking out an older male, and even lying about her age, knowing that she looked 20, the age she claimed to be.

    I have difficulty with the fact that while I didn’t condone the incident, and felt that the person needed to learn a lesson, that being put in prison, having to register for a life-time, being labeled, ruining lives, (the whole family suffers)tearing the family apart, over what was inappropriate “consensual touching” is completely insane.

    Every situation is different. Every case is different, with different circumstances, It matters what state your in, what county, and what courthouse. It matters if you are in a small town, or large city. It matters who is representing you and what judge is sitting on the bench.

    Sometimes, everything that can go wrong, does.
    Our family, unfortunately, will never recover. Years have passed, and we now have grand-children. One of the saddest things is that, because of witnessing the horrifying system, my husband feels that he can not be affectionate to our grandchildren. How sad is that?

    The repercussions are so far reaching. I often wonder if the girl who lied and sought out our son ever thinks about what she did. We will most likely never know.

  47. Dan A. July 19, 2013 at 12:10 pm #

    The discussion here is fascinating. I did a little research using this site: and found there were nearly 4-5 registered sex offenders living on my block. But these are offenses that are as far back as 1996.

  48. jen July 25, 2013 at 6:36 pm #

    A 19 year old boy never been in trouble for anything is being charged with aggravated incest because he touched his sister once when he was 11 and she was 8 a felony and lifetime registration farthest thing from a child molester but faces the same penalties NOT RIGHT


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