I live with a good and decent man. He is a loving and caring person and he is my fiancé. He is also a registered sex offender.
I was therefore horrified and heartbroken on Tuesday to have watched “The View” when in a “Hot Topics” discussion about sex offender Halloween laws, which ban people required to register from participating in the holiday, Whoopi Goldberg said, “How about putting a sign on their door that says a real monster lives here?”
I like Whoopi and have no doubt that what she said came from a place in her heart that cares deeply for the safety of our children. It is not surprising that her comment came following an earlier segment on the sentencing of Jerry Sandusky. All registered sex offenders are frequently painted with the same broad brush of the worst serial pedophiles and child abductors. These emotional and tragic stories obscure the fact that most registrants have nothing in common with these most heinous offenders.
I’m virtually certain that Whoopi’s comment was rooted in the mistaken belief that registrants will commit a new sex crime. She most likely doesn’t know that sex offenders have one of the lowest recidivism rates of all offender groups in the criminal justice system – typically ranging from 3% to 10% depending on the study.
My fiancée is on the registry for an offense involving incest, the sub-set of offenders with the lowest recidivism rate of all. As a minor himself, he engaged in inappropriate sexual activity with his half-sister. Years from now, when we have the children we hope for, should they be denied celebrating Halloween at home for a mistake their father made at twelve?
Yet, it is not some future Halloween party cancelled that left me so frightened by Whoopi’s remarks. The media’s mischaracterizations of all people on the registry as “monsters” is becoming dangerous hate speech with a growing number of tragic consequences.
Most recently, in June, a vigilante in Washington State killed two registered sex offenders and told police he was going to keep on doing it until he was caught. Having slain people who have been cast as monsters, he thought of himself as a hero. He murdered Jerry Ray, 56, the primary care giver to his elderly father and Gary Blanton, 28, who left behind his wife Leslie and two young children.
There are challenges to loving a registered sex offender, but on most nights Geoff and I can leave those challenges outside and feel safe and secure in the comfort of the home we just bought together. At times though I am jolted in the back of my mind when I wonder if a remark like Whoopi’s will be the tipping point for a sick mind in our town… and bring a true monster to our door.
If this blog post finds its way to Whoopi, I hope she will retract her statement on The View.