How Your Kid Could End Up on the Sex Offender Registry

What’s the difference between a 17-year-old who touches a 13-year-old’s breast and a 34 year old creep who likes little girls?

Nothing. At least, not on the Sex Offender Registry.

The other night I was a guest on the blog radio show, “American’s Reality Check,”a show mostly devoted to sex offender registry issues. A guy called in who is on the list for fondling a 13-year-old when he was 17. Now he’s 34 but next to his name and current age it states his offense: “Indecency with a child.”

As if that’s still what he’s doing today.

So to the casual observer – or freaked out parent — it looks as if there is a middle-aged guy down the street who molests young girls.

Now, obviously: No one is in favor of grown-ups having sex with kids. But right now there are more than 600,000 people on the sex offender registries, many there for the sex they had as teens with other teens!

TO MAKE A PREDATOR

Say it again: People are  on the registry for the sex they had as teens with teens.  So rather than making our kids safe from predators, the registry is turning them into “predators.” It’s labeling them that! It could label your own sweet kid that, if he or she goes and has sex with someone a few years younger. Kids as young as 14 can find themselves on the registry for years – decades — and our rationale? It’s “for the sake of the children.”

But is it? The vast majority of abused children are molested by people they know (relatives, family friends). The need to protect kids from strangers is far less than the need to protect them from those they know and love.

A study just released by David Finkelhor, head of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, found that adding more names to the sex offender list isn’t the best way to keep children safe from abuse. A much better way, his research determined, is to teach them how to identify dangerous situations and summon help.

 Meantime, the chance of a young life being ruined by getting on that registry keeps growing.

CALLING KAFKA

Check out the website freestudents.blogspot.com. You’ll see pimply face after pimply face – all young men now branded as sex offenders for crimes like, well, Ricky’s. Ricky is a kid who was 16 when he had sex twice with a girl he thought was 15. Turns out she was 13. When this came to light, the cops arrested Ricky.

Now he’s on the sex offender registry for life, because he got labeled a “Tier 3 offender” – the most dangerous. His offense was classified as “aggravated and violent” because of the three year difference between him and the girl, not because of any actual violence.

Once you’re a registered sex offender, you can’t live near a school, a park or a day care center. You can’t work with kids. If you have a younger sibling at home, most states will make you move out. Finish your high school? Ha! Usually you’re not even allowed in the building. Get a job? Just try. (And we’re not even talking about the jail time many young “offenders” have to serve.)

THE ALTERNATIVE

So what is the alternative to a registry that’s like a great big dump filled with lots of once-horny teens gone grey and, among them, the occasional rapist?

How about a registry with JUST the rapists? Folks like Phillip Garrido, who allegedly abducted Jaycee Dugard. Maybe if cops didn’t have to keep checking on every guy who had sex as a high school senior with a freshman girlfriend, they could concentrate on the actual criminals out there. That way, all our kids would be safer.

Including the ones who have sex in their teens. — Lenore

For more info, check out this site, the Sex Offender Solutions and Education Network.

Trust No One — Especially Not a Parent Volunteering at School

Hi Readers — Here’s a round-up of Providence, Rhode Island-area schools that are making their parent volunteers get background checks, sent in by a gal named Rema. I know a lot of folks will say, “This makes sense! Can’t hurt — can only help!” but let’s consider whether that’s true.

*First of all, if there are any studies that show kids are getting molested right and left by parents who volunteer at recess duty or on field trips, I haven’t seen them. It seems kind of hard to molest a kid in the middle of a trip to the petting zoo. (To read how children are being discouraged from actually petting animals at the petting zoo — for health reasons — click here. But then don’t forget to come back! The bus leaves PROMPTLY at 2:15.)

*Secondly, the idea behind these background checks is that everyone who is innocent should be happy to be checked, so what’s the big deal? The big deal is that now we are treating everyone as GUILTY of unspeakable crimes against children, until proven otherwise. That is a strange view to have of humanity, not to mention a depressing one. It’s also wrong: Most people are not child rapists. (Something tabloid TV forgets.)

*Thirdly, and this is a topic I hope to get deeper into on a later post: even most of the folks who are ON the sex offender lists do not pose a threat to children. I know that sounds shocking, which is why we’ll revisit it. Suffice to say that if you are a 16-year-old who has consensual sex twice with a girl you think is about your age (who turns out to be 13), as was actually the case with a guy named Ricky, you can find yourself registered FOREVER as a “Tier 3 predator.” Your charge will read  “lewd and lacivious acts with a child.”  

Any parent reading that description would think, “Keep him AWAY!” But is a teen who had sex with another teen really a threat to our kids? Those sex offender lists are like bad data: They look like helpful information, but a lot of it is just garbage. I’d let Ricky chaperone my kids.

*Finally, this whole “background check” deal falls into the ever-growing category of trying to make extremely unlikely events extremely unlikely.  Just as a manufacturer will recall a stroller if 1 child in 36,000 gets his fingers pinched in a wheel,  just as a park district will remove all the merry-go-rounds lest some child possibly hurt herself, just as a principal will forbid kids from playing tag because someone could trip,we are now going to excessive lengths to make it harder for helpful parents to help a school,  when we should be doing just the opposite.

Anyone who is willing to volunteer for lunch duty, or recess: God bless ’em. (I tried once, and fled.) –Lenore