Leave Your Civil Rights At The Door

1 02 2010

Being previously married to a pedophile and being a survivor of sexual abuse endured as a child, I guess I consider myself able to have an opinion on the subject of pedophile’s rights.

In the latest issue of Time Magazine there is an article on the issue of residency restrictions imposed on sex offenders:

“sex offenders, thrown into homelessness in recent years by draconian residency restrictions that leave them scant available or affordable housing. They live in tents and shacks built from cast-off supplies, clinging to pylons and embankments, with no running water, electricity or bathrooms. Not even during a recent cold spell, when nighttime temperatures dropped into the 30s, could they move into temporary lodging.”

The slant of the article the author chose panders to the sex offenders as victims of the equivalent of a sanctioned hate crime.

A little background here on the issue of discussion.  I moved to Florida February 23, 2005 and the very next day a little girl came up missing just north of where we live.  She had been abducted from her home and there were suspicions about her family members and such, but no real leads.  I remember watching the updates in the media like a hawk and feeling such a connection to the little girl because she looked so much like my oldest daughter.  In fact, she and my oldest daughter were born within a month of each other.  A few weeks after her abduction, they finally found that this little girl had been kidnapped, raped repeatedly and then buried alive by a sex offender living nearby.  Afterwards there was a flurry of changes to lenient state laws and the implementation of the Jessica Lunsford Law, named for that little baby girl.

Jessica’s Law itself increases prison sentences for child sex offenders, requires lifetime probation for those offenders, and can include electronic monitoring of those offenders.  It also makes it a felony to harbor a sex offender and forces schools to follow a screening and identification process of all personnel and visitors.  The law also includes public and local law enforcement notification when a known offender can no longer be located at their address of record.  Other state and county laws were soon added to cover the gaps, including residency restrictions.  The statewide law prohibits living within 1000 feet of a school or other location, including bus stops in residential areas, where children may congregate.  Most counties imposed a harsher enforcement of 2500 feet (which is about half a mile) complete with no loitering laws for the same distance.

Now enter the complaints.  Sex offenders have no where left to live.  Pardon my lack of sympathy.  Perhaps someone should create a tattoo to place on every child at birth that reads:

WARNING: Touching this child in a sexual manner, including but not limited to molestation, lewd demonstrations, penetration of cavaties will result in a sex offense conviction, prison sentence, ostracization from community and family, and difficulty in living a normal life.  Perhaps worse.

This isn’t a situation that any forced them into and I refuse to accept the idea that it’s not taboo in the rest of the world, just that we’re too religiously wound up to accept it.  If you choose to harm a child, from the minor charges of flashing your naked form to touching that child to the worst imaginable sex crimes – you suffer the consequences and I really don’t give a damn that you have a hard time finding work or a place to live.  Sex offense survivors have a difficult time with trust, with intimacy, with flashbacks that are set off by the simplest of everyday things.  We live with your actions for the rest of our lives – why the hell shouldn’t you?

Yet, the Time article alerts us to changes in Florida law, egged on by the ACLU, that only maintains the 2500 feet barrier around schools and creates a 300 foot loitering law around bus stops, daycares, playgrounds and places that harbor children.  What’s next?  Mandating that we invite sex offenders into our homes to help them rehabilitate to society?

For too long sex offender laws have been far too lax.  They have been allowed to work next to us, eat in restaurants with us, work with contractual companies doing business at schools and other places we believe our children our safe, live next door to us and in general, operate undetected in our communities.  They pose a risk to our children who want to enjoy a ride at the amusement park without being touched inappropriately as they are buckled into their seats; they pose risks to our children walking home from the bus stop; and countless other locations our children are at risk in by unknowingly being in the vicinity of a sex offender.

Yet, if the reformationists have their way, which this change in the Florida law is a step towards, we would no longer have a publicly accessible registry of sex offenders in our area; sex offenders would not have to maintain their address and other pertinent information with local law enforcement; and convicted sex offenders would serve lesser sentences or attend counseling in lieu of punishment for their crimes against children.  In fact, one sex offender support organization degrades the severity of sex crimes against children to parallel that of  “poverty, malnutrition, ethnic discrimination, poor education, and inadequate health care”.

The fact is that we deserve to know about the dangers in our society, from asbestos found in a public building to an outbreak of tuberculosis to an inmate on the loose to a convicted sex offender in our midst.  This isn’t the demonization of some innocent individual who through no fault of their own pose a risk to those around them.  This is a sick individual who chose for whatever reason to permanent injure the life of an innocent child through sexual acts.  And there remains the chance for repeat violations, though there are opposing schools of argument on this statistic.  A five year study conducted by the US Department of Justice noted a 25% repeat offence rate for convicted sex offenders, while the Center for Sex Offender Management found over a 25 year study period the recidivism rate for convicted sex offenders was 52%.  (see below)

Given the statistics and the risk, I see no reason why any sex offender should be permitted to have freedoms to walk about without a red flag to alert those around them – including preventing them from residing in areas where children live and play.

Perhaps Ms. Skipp, RSOL supporters and doubters alike should walk a day in the shoes of a person who has been sexually abused as a child.  Then they might better understand the fear to enjoy the freedoms and pleasures of childhood; how the idea of walking to the bus is rife with fears of being followed or watched; how while during the acts of intimacy later in life a survivor must struggle with vivid memories of the pain and assault; how seeing a stranger in a crowd who bears a resemblance to their attacker can stir a panic; and how the guilt of what could I have done differently riddles your thoughts in moments of solace.


Sources:

  • Jessica Lunsford Act
  • Florida Statute § 947. 1405 (7)(a)(2)
  • Time Magazine, February 1, 2010 “A Law For The Sex Offenders Under A Miami Bridge” by Catharine Skipp
  • RSOL Mission Statement
  • CSOM
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