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Showing posts with label sex offender registry. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sex offender registry. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Sex offenders throwing baseballs and living in houses....we're doomed!

So sometimes instead of freaking the fuck out over how many idiotic newspaper articles are printed on a daily basis over anything sex offender, I just have to laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. Even better if the comments underneath the article call out the paper (or news station) for being pathetic and desperate. But sometimes there are those articles that even make me wonder, what sort of scenario are they trying to imply will happen as a result?

Hidden among the perpetual "check the registry!" crap, and overly zealous "check the registry!" crap if a child happens to be missing, are some gems that simply have to make one smile instead of scream.

1. Danger of a Different Kind - Firefighters Push to Keep Sex Offenders Out (WWNYTV news)

I say:

2. Man who threw out first pitch for 2014 season is a sex offender (Miami Herald)

I say:

3. Sex offender and law school grad denied Kentucky bar exam (Kentucky Kernel)

I say:

4. Special report: Stopping near sex offenders (NBC 14)

I say:

5. Special report: Inside the mind of a sex offender (CBS6 Albany)

I say:

Okay, that's enough for me for one day. I hope you've enjoyed your daily dose of sex offender satire, because God knows we need it to survive. 

And can we chat about something? PLEASE people, we need more shares and more comments. Otherwise the bad, slanderous links take over and no one gets to read my brilliant works! So could we up the sharing? Thank you, I appreciate it more than you could ever know! :)

One last little thing: some good news, since we need it. SUCK IT, Pennsylvania Adam Walsh Act!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Just a reminder!

Hello everyone - just thought I'd post a brief update for those who haven't yet checked out USA Families Advocating an Intelligent Registry.

As I mentioned in my last blog post, I will no longer be blogging from this site, although everything will remain online and I will still be able to receive communication through the blog. I was recently named Executive Director of USA FAIR, a nonprofit organization founded by and for family members of registered sex offenders. As the name implies, we are not against the registry. We believe in a "smarter" registry, that takes an individualized approach to those convicted of sex crimes, and does away with the broad-brush, one-size-fits-all methodology. We believe in the rights of families and former sex offenders to live safe, productive lives, and also that children and other vulnerable citizens deserve laws that are based on facts and research - not emotion and anecdote. We will (and have!) challenge the media to report on the subject factually, and give family members negatively impacted by the registry a voice.

But without supporters we have no power. We all need to stick together - law-abiding former offenders and their families - in order to ignite the change that is so desperately needed.

If you haven't already, please sign up at www.usafair.org. You can sign up to volunteer, donate, or just receive email updates on the projects we are embarking on. We'll also be able to create a database of members by state, in the event that we need people to testify for or against bills, speak to the media, or mentor a new member.

You can also access a significant amount of research on the "studies" section of our website - www.usafair.org/studies.

Be sure to check us out on Facebook, too! USA FAIR

Monday, November 12, 2012

And another door opens: USA FAIR

Today I and several other advocates did something amazing. Today is the official launch of USA FAIR, Inc., which stands for USA Families Advocating an Intelligent Registry – and of which I am proud to have been named Executive Director.

With your help and support, we can help get the facts out on low sex offender recidivism, tell the stories of how the registry needlessly and negatively impacts the families of registrants and work to bring about real change through public education. We will hold the media accountable for the information they report and provide them with a central source for contacting advocates for reform and accessing the latest in sex offender research.

With my new responsibilities I will no longer be blogging from my I Love a Sex Offender platform. You can now read my blogs at www.usafair.org and stay up-to-date on our projects and progress through our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/USAFAIR.

I promise to remain the same outspoken advocate for the rights of our families and keep speaking the truth in the face of what seems like overwhelming hate and ignorance. I am confident that with USA FAIR behind me, the ripples of change we’ve begun to see will turn into waves.

It is my sincere hope that everyone I’ve met along my journey – and those I’ve not yet met – will accompany me on this next leg by donating your time and whatever financial resources you can afford. Without you, there is no USA FAIR. We need to work together like never before.

See you on the front lines,



Friday, October 26, 2012

"Safety Tools" are only "Safe" if they Work

As one of the last remaining people on the planet who doesn’t have a smartphone, I’m not familiar with any of the millions of apps out there that serve all kinds of purposes. However, the “Friend Verifier” App recently caught my attention because it claimed to be able to rid your friends list of registered sex offenders. A few friends tried it and chided the developer for sending up red flags on people who were undoubtedly not on the registry (among the accused were a retired pastor, elderly father-in-law and a few adult children.)

On the Friend Verifier Facebook page a few days ago was a notice from the developer to the app’s “fans,” apologizing on behalf of some users who had evidently posted comments asserting concern for the safety of registrants and their families. Friend Verifier’s post referred to those users as “pro-sex offender groups” who “believe people who rape and molest” have the same rights as the rest of us.

Before I was blocked and my comments deleted, I was able to capture this screenshot of the comment thread:

I also sent an email to the app’s head developer, explaining as I did above about the post and subsequent deletion of all comments, asking why bringing up a viable issue (the safety of children and family members of registrants, as well as including some important statistics) would be ignored and deleted.

Here’s a portion of the response I received:

“Unfortunately due to a small handful of people’s inappropriate actions, we had to reinforce our terms of service for the use of our Fan Page.  Our Fan Page is used by teenagers and young adults, so when individuals go on profanity driven tirades, threaten my company and me with physical harm and lawsuits, we can’t allow such behavior to go on.  So we have a zero tolerance rule, when it comes to harassment, vulgarities, threats, political grandstanding, etc.
There have been a few individuals who were, and still are trying to use, our app’s page to voice their opinion on sex offender registry laws.  Our page is not the forum for that.  We are a private tech company that offers a free application to help further a safer internet experience for children and young adults.  Those who feel the sex offender registry is unconstitutional, should notify their elected officials, and try to get the media to represent them.”
Once again, the concern I raised for the families and children who would be negatively impacted by this app is ignored. They claim that they want to “help further a safer internet experience,” but apparently, only some are deserving of that “safer experience.”
Curious, I decided to try the app for myself. After a couple of “scans”, it became very obvious that all it does is cross-reference names against the national registry, which any paranoid person can do themselves.. It doesn’t take into account any other information such as location or age. If you have even a relatively common name, you’re likely being flagged as a potential sex offender. If you live in Maine and you happen to share your name with a registered sex offender in Idaho, you’re also going to pop up in red. This is a “safe experience?” Now you’re just as much in danger of a vigilante attack as someone already on the registry – and so is your family.
The lack of accuracy in their software, coupled with the blatant disregard of and unwillingness to learn the facts, puts this app right alongside the other existing baseless and unsuccessful policies regarding sex offenders and supposed “safety.” What will it take for our society to realize that “more” does not always equal “better” when it comes to effective safety tools?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Adam Walsh Act: The Real Failure

Over the past couple of weeks, the news media has been capitalizing on something that already happened months ago: the rejection of or failure to comply with the Adam Walsh Act by thirty four states. The Adam Walsh Act, or AWA, was the federal government’s attempt at standardizing the sex offender registry in all 50 states. The penalty for a state choosing not to comply with the act was a 10% loss in Byrne Grant funding.

In many recent news articles, the language is indisputably slanted to make it seem as though state governments are “failing to comply,” “rejecting the Act outright” and “not even trying,” – as if there have been no issues with the Act for the states that did decide to adopt it; as if the states that opted out have no sex offender registry or legislation; as if rejection of the Act means those states don’t care about child safety.

The state of Texas would have had to spend $38 million to fully comply with AWA – the $1.4 dollars it will lose in Byrne Grant funding is 3.6% of what the total implementation costs would have been. Arizona would have had to spend $2,000,000 to become compliant with AWA – the $146,700 it will now lose is a mere 7.3% of compliance costs. This chart by the Justice Policy Institute makes it painfully clear: in all 50 states, compliance costs trump the 10% loss in Byrne Grant funding.

Funding isn’t AWA’s only issue. It requires lifetime registration for juveniles – children -  which many states believe unconstitutional. Ohio, one of the few states compliant with AWA, was challenged on the issue earlier this year, and federal courts ruled it was “cruel and unusual punishment.” Several states have also faced challenges to its retroactivity. AWA’s “tier system”, used to replace the “level” system many states currently use, supposedly to classify risk level posed by the offender, has come under fire for inaccurately classifying the majority of registrants as “Tier 3” – even registrants who were teenagers in consensual relationships with younger teens.

The problems with the Adam Walsh Act actually reflect some of the more major problems with non-AWA sex offender legislation quite well: treating and prosecuting all offenders with the same broad brush, including children; unreliable and sometimes inaccurate risk assessment; and overall ignorance of the fact that sex offenders have very low recidivism leaving our country’s most vulnerable citizens dangerously unprotected.

What AWA does give us is an opportunity to understand what the limits are for lawmakers considering sex offender legislation. We need as many people as possible to stand up and tell their legislators that the problems AWA poses are still alive and well in the current systems we have in place – and that we all deserve something better.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

He is not a monster

Vlog available below!

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.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Please support the documentary: Gary Blanton, Beyond the Label

Friends, I am pleased to announce that a fellow advocate, Derek Logue of Once Fallen, is working on a groundbreaking project: a professional, in-depth documentary about the life and death of Gary Blanton, with the help of Gary's widow, Leslie.

You likely remember Gary's brutal murder (along with another registrant, Jerry Ray) back in June - leaving behind his widow, Leslie, and two little boys. Patrick Drum, the murderer, has since plead guilty and was recently sentenced to life without parole. But Leslie and her children are still here, picking up the pieces and trying to move forward.

Derek is a full-time advocate and has put everything he has into producing this documentary. To help with the remaining costs, he's organized a raffle on his website: http://once-fallen.blogspot.com/2012/09/once-fallen-fundraising-drive-raffle-to.html.

Please help Derek tell a story that our country desperately needs to hear! For a brief preview of what you can expect, watch the following clip of "Gary Blanton Jr.: Beyond the Label."

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The De-Humanizing of Sex Offenders - Even in Death

Can you imagine the trauma of losing a beloved family member to murder or an otherwise violent death? Luckily, it’s something most of us won’t ever have to endure. For two families in different regions of the country, though, not only did they lose a family member in unspeakable circumstances – they also had to read and listen to news outlets define their loved ones’ lives by the worst mistakes they ever made.

Buffalo News ran this story on September 26: Homicide victim was registered sex offender. Especially because there was no confirmation that the man’s status as a registered sex offender was a motive behind his death, it’s completely unrelated to the story – and yet, it was the headline. In fact, the entire article is little more than a summary of his previous criminal charges from twenty-seven years ago.

It took me less than thirty seconds to run a Google search on Mr. Ackley and find an obituary in another newspaper Henry F. Ackley. It talks of his two children, five grandchildren, five siblings, and “several nieces and nephews” who will miss him dearly. He was a US Marine and loved the outdoors. 

But to the Buffalo News and all of their readers, he was nothing more than a dead sex offender who committed sodomy in 1985.

800 miles away in South Carolina, WBTW News 13 reported that Lester Causey Jr. was found dead in a pond. But in order to even learn his name, you had to first get past the headline, “Convicted Sex Offender Found Dead in Pond” (read the story here.) Other than his name, we learn little else about him in the rest of the article. Whomever compiled the news report went so far as to suggest that he may have not updated his address with the sex offender registry in a timely manner (after, of course, we learned all about charges from nearly ten years ago.)

I was able to find his obituary without any difficulty at all: Lester Causey Jr. Mr. Causey left behind both parents, two brothers, and several nieces and nephews. He was an avid hunter and fisher.

But again, to WBTW and their viewers, he was nothing more than a dead sex offender who wound up in a lake. (To their credit, after being inundated with Facebook comments about their poor choice of headline, it was changed – but long after the damage had already been done.)

Mr. Ackley and Mr. Causey are dead; they’re not around to endure the humiliation, the anger, or the pain of being remembered so callously. This is yet another example of how the media de-humanizes sex offenders and defines them solely by the worst thing they ever did. It’s easy and often automatically assumed that they are people who no one cares about. In making that assumption, in these two scenarios, dozens of innocent people of all ages were the only ones left to endure the humiliation, anger and pain, in addition to losing their loved one. But sadly, it is also representative of what happens every day - the innocent family members of former offenders forced to endure the prejudice, scrutiny and discrimination targeted broadly at all registered sex offenders, when it should be applied carefully and narrowly to those few for whom research and evidence indicates are truly dangerous.  Sadly, our current climate of irrational fear seems to take the “one size fits all” approach to the grave.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Shame on the City of Oswego

As a New York based advocate for registry reform and fiancée of a registered sex offender whose crime was committed when he was a minor, it was with great disappointment to learn this morning that seven councilmembers voted to restrict a registered sex offender’s ability to legally gain employment as a taxi driver in the City of Oswego. While this proposal is well-intended, it is premised on myth and emotions – not facts – and will undoubtedly fail to achieve its intended goals as well as create yet another barrier for registrants to find steady employment.    

Contrary to popular belief and the sentiment of some of the councilpersons, sex offenders have the next to lowest recidivism rate of all offender groups. This has been widely documented by academics and law enforcement researchers. The myth of high sex offender recidivism has now been firmly discredited, but not by politicians who find that these facts do not square with the stories they’ve been telling their constituents.

Because of this big lie that continues to be told, law abiding former sex offenders are treated differently than all other former offenders – even murderers.  Comments on cnycentral.com display the pervasive intolerance held by many members of the public - that all felons except sex offenders deserve second chances.

Empirical research has shown that a critical factor for successful reintegration into society is steady employment. Well, for registrants in Oswego – they can cross cab driver off their list of potential jobs.  Like similar employment restrictions enacted all over New York State, this new law ultimately seeks to solve a problem that does not exist. The council admitted that never in Oswego has there been an incident of a registered sex offender attacking their cab passenger.  I follow registry issues diligently in New York and I can’t recall such an incident in the entire state.

My Google research has turned up one case nationally, in Stonewall, LA, where a registrant picked up a boy in his cab and murdered him. Although a tragic case, the boy was not a normal random fare. The registrant had previously been engaged in a texting relationship with the boy pretending to be a girl.

Unfortunately, this is the hallmark of the great sex offender panic – respond to the anecdotal story, a rare heinous crime, or imagine a potential heinous crime – and draft a punitive new law that will impact the entire universe of registered sex offenders – the vast majority of whom are now law-abiding citizens who want nothing more than to provide for their families and get on with their lives.

When will it end?  There are evil people in this world and some of them are indeed registered sex offenders.  But, why should all registrants pay for the sins of the few?  If a registered sex offender commits a high profile crime while at work tomorrow – will his job title become the next one off limits for the entire 700,000+ registrants in the U.S.?

Sadly, in our current climate of fear, the answer is probably yes.  And it will be until we as a nation resolve to stop basing laws on the rare heinous crime and start looking at the facts and evidence that is abundant and staring us in the face.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Hero

Patrick Drum is in jail. He is sitting in a cell with no access to computers to look up registered sex offenders or guns to kill them, but for many, the saga is far from over.

First and foremost are the families of Gary Blanton and Jerry Ray, who will live out their lives with the gaping holes left by the sudden and brutal deaths of their loved ones – who were fathers, husbands, sons, and friends.

Their deaths will have a lasting legacy on my life as well.  It was so disturbing to see the outpouring of support for Patrick Drum’s actions. It makes one wonder how precarious our civilized society may be and highlights the uphill battle that we in the reform movement face.

The judge and prosecutors in this case expressed their disdain for Mr. Drum’s vigilante actions as well as the public support he received for killing “sex offenders.”  Yet, it has been the emotional political rhetoric over the last decade that has fermented the hatred that has cast every former offender as a “monster.”  In the comments section of news sites few offered sympathetic commentary about Leslie, Mr. Blanton’s widow, or Paul, Mr. Ray’s father. We didn’t read much grief expressed about Leslie’s two little boys, who will now grow up without a father, or the fact that Jerry Ray was his father’s caretaker. No, the vast majority of comments around the web praised Mr. Drum for doing a good deed – that he is a hero.

The World English dictionary defines “hero” as follows: a man distinguished by exceptional courage, nobility, fortitude, etc.

Hunting down innocent, unarmed men and continuing to shoot them as they scream for help is not “courageous.” Believing their deaths trump the wreckage their families will deal with forever is not “noble.” Hiding in the middle of the woods waiting for the police to find you is not “fortitude.”

Since this tragedy began on June 3, Leslie Blanton has been the epitome of courage. Always willing to talk to the media and tell them the registry is the reason Gary is dead, while always reminding the public of her two young fatherless sons – never afraid to show her anguish and pain. She continued to hold her head up high as locals and people from across the country alike praised her husband’s murderer and heckled her and her children.  That’s nobility. Just three months after his death, supporting her two kids all by herself – that’s fortitude. Leslie is a hero.

We, the loved ones of registrants, can all be heroes in this fight for justice and fairness. – and we can’t afford to wait until something horrific happens. While most of us are blessed to have our loved ones on the registry still on this earth, we must never become complacent about the very real danger that the public registry presents to law abiding former offenders and their families.

May Leslie Blanton, my new hero, inspire all of us to speak out - so that no family member of a registrant should ever have to live through what she and her children must now endure.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Hurting some families to supposedly protect others

Before I start off this entry, just know that it is available in video form, should you prefer I Love a Sex Offender in "vlog" format. Otherwise continue below the video.

A 36-year-old man goes to pick up his stepdaughter at school at the request of his wife because school had unexpectedly let out early. It’s as routine task for most of us, which would have been a minor hiccup in an otherwise normal day. But for a North Carolina man, he wound up in jail. 

His crime? “Being a registered sex offender on school grounds.” While he waited for his stepdaughter near the front door to exit the school, the principal called the police to alert them that a sex offender was there. Officers showed up, and even after the man explained the situation, he was placed under arrest.  As a result, he was forced to spend 23 days in jail and lost his job.

Making it a crime for registrants to loiter at schools is obviously an attempt at protecting children from harm. But shouldn’t North Carolina have done what several other states have done and exempt registrants who are parents or guardians from conducting the normal business of raising a child?

Registrants with children should be able to pick their kids up from school or attend a school play featuring their child.  There has not been one publicized incident that I am aware of where a registrant abused a child at a school while being on premises for their own child.  But as with too many emotionally driven sex offender laws, this North Carolina law seeks to solve a problem that the state does not have.

In everyone’s haste to protect the children, a certain child was forgotten in this case: the stepdaughter. The article doesn’t mention her age, but she is young enough to be an elementary school student: ironically, the main demographic these types of laws are designed to protect.  This little girl was forced to endure the pain, confusion and humiliation of the public arrest of her stepfather. He was ripped away from her and her mother sitting in jail for 23 days and losing a family income in the process.  And it could have been worse, with a much longer sentence, but for a reasonable judge who sentenced him to probation and time served.

This story is perfectly illustrative of how easy and even common it is for one-size-fits-all registry sanctions to wreak havoc on registrants and their families if they don’t pay close attention to every letter of the law. Will legislators ever take into consideration the plight of the spouses and children of registrants when they draft these laws?  We are families too.  Hopefully, if we continue to speak out and our voices grow louder – we will be heard.

Original story: http://www.heraldsun.com/pages/full_story/push?article-Sex+offender+pleads+guilty+to+being+on+school+grounds

Friday, September 7, 2012

Solving the Halloween Problem We Simply Don’t Have

Lawmakers all over the country are talking about child safety on Halloween night – but sadly, they are once again pursuing smoke and mirrors “press release” public safety instead of real child safety measures based on facts and empirical evidence.

Many municipalities have blanket bans targeting registered sex offenders on Halloween, making it illegal for them to decorate their houses, give out candy, or even keep the lights on. Lawmakers (mostly city council-persons) claim it’s simple logic to keep children away from former sex offenders, and many members of the public agree. Some towns go so far as to literally round up all the sex offenders, force them  into a large public building, and keep them there from sometime in the late afternoon to sunrise.

There are two major problems with this approach: one, it’s based on the stubborn myth of high sex offender recidivism – refusing to acknowledge that most former sex offenders pose little risk of re-offending. Two, it inflicts harm and violates the basic rights of children and families of sex offenders to celebrate a traditional holiday. Remember being a young child and picking out your pumpkin? Maybe your family had a Halloween party every year. Maybe you just loved trick-or-treating.

For the children of sex offenders, those things are becoming mere fantasy. You can’t carve a pumpkin. You can’t put up decorations. Your friends can’t come trick-or-treating at your house – nor can you enjoy any part of the holiday with your parent, if they are even allowed to stay in the same house. Are these children less deserving of safety – and a childhood rite of passage – than others?

Despite lawmakers’ claims over the past several years, children face the same low risk from registered offenders on Halloween as they do on any other day or night. The overwhelming majority of child sexual abuse victims are again largely ignored, as the abuser is far more likely to be found in a family photo album than on the registry – and the abuse is likely perpetrated behind closed doors in a familiar place, not during a candy exchange with a stranger. (Source: http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/saycrle.pdf)

Lawmakers have the opportunity to enact smart laws that will genuinely keep children safe, as there are occurrences that are far more likely to befall children on Halloween. According to Center for Disease Control, the greatest danger kids face on Halloween is being hit by a car or truck – four times more likely on Halloween than any other day of the year. (Source: https://www.intellicorpintouch.com/blog/detail.aspx?id=424)

According to Dr. Jill Levenson’s 2009 study, “How Safe Are Trick-or-Treaters? An Analysis of Child Sex Crime Rates on Halloween,” (http://sax.sagepub.com/content/21/3/363.full.pdf+html) theft, vandalism, robbery, and assault rates increase on Halloween and the days following. After interviewing members of law enforcement all over the country, no evidence was found to indicate any increase in sex crimes against children by people on the registry on Halloween. Sex crimes of all types accounted for about 1% of all crimes on Halloween – and non-familial sex crimes against children age 12 and under accounted for less than .2% of all Halloween crime incidents.

We have the opportunity to educate the public as well as lawmakers about the truth, ask them to put politics aside and create real safety measures that actually keep kids safe, and everything they need to know is right here. Go out and teach!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The conference: STRENGTHENING safety for ALL families

I didn’t know it was possible to be as excited about multiple two-connection plane flights in four days as I am right now. In less than two weeks, I will be traveling the thousand-mile plus trek from central New York to Albequerque, New Mexico, for my first RSOL conference. My last column raised some questions and hurt among fellow advocates in the way that I explained my decision to form a new group apart from RSOL. I hope that my attendance at the conference and anticipation at meeting fellow hard-working activists demonstrates my continued commitment to work with all reform groups from around the country.

It may be a bit of a cliché, but it’s true - united we stand, divided we fall - which is why I would like to make it very clear – again – that I value each and every advocate we have in this fight. We need everyone’s talents, abilities and dedication if we want to have a shot at restoring dignity and basic fairness to our and our loved ones’ lives. Those of us in this quest may have strategic differences, but we have a unity of purpose – to fight for reasoned evidence-based laws.

A news piece that aired yesterday referred to the conference as an attempt to “weaken sex offender laws” (watch the video and leave comments here: http://www.koat.com/news/new-mexico/albuquerque/Sex-offender-convention/-/9153728/16404830/-/m19lds/-/index.html.) Unfortunately, this is not accurate and while New Mexico RSOL’s spokesperson did an excellent job explaining the true objectives of the conference, the news station decided to ask random members of the public if they agree with “weakening sex offender laws” and of course they don’t.  Who would?  We are not fighting for weaker laws. We are fighting for better laws that work and that will do a better job of truly protecting the community. That will only come from education and a key component of public education on this issue must come from the families of registrants. The research and statistics are on our side.  We have a unique opportunity to bring faces and personal narratives to those statistics.

We are the best spokespeople to tell the many success stories of the vast majority of law abiding former offenders who have rebuilt their lives and are now good and decent providers to their families. And, sadly, we can also bear witness and tell the stories of how family members have become the victims of the collateral damage of the registry. 

I firmly believe that families will be the catalyst we need to infiltrate the news cycle and combat the myths and misinformation we all know so well. Let this conference be a testament to how strong the bond of family is in the face of ignorance and injustice.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

How I got here

After the rollercoaster summer spent awaiting the outcome of my fiancé’s failure to register charge ended with probation, I found myself finally able to feel emotions other than panic and sadness, and in came the anger. I clearly knew very little about sex offender laws, but I was determined to learn.

The charge that led to Geoff’s probation wasn’t a sexual crime; my fiancée hadn’t re-offended. It was a technicality – that could have put him in jail for years. New York State would have paid God knows how much per year to keep him incarcerated, and for what? Why wasn’t a first offense a violation punishable by a fine or at the most a misdemeanor?  How did the registry morph into an instrument of inflicting ever-escalating restrictions and punishments on people long after they served their sentences?

I turned to the Internet to try and find answers. There had to be other people going through this. I could not possibly be the only 20-something female in love with a wonderful man who happened to be branded with the new “scarlet letters” of S.O. for something he had done years ago.

What I found was much more than I could have ever imagined. First I found an online support group for family members of former offenders. Not only did I find other wives and girlfriends, I found mothers, sisters, brothers, fathers, grandparents and friends of registrants. It was great for sharing, but I needed something more.  I wasn’t content to just vent about these laws.  I wanted to work to change them. This was how I became involved in RSOL, aka Reform Sex Offender Laws – a network of ad hoc state organizations coordinating activities through its website.

I immediately contacted New York RSOL, and quickly became acquainted with Rita, the wonderful woman who acted as the organizer of the group. She and the other members were incredibly giving, smart, and genuine. I felt as though I had found the perfect group with whom to achieve the change I so desperately wanted to see. In a matter of months I became the co-state organizer.

As an advocate for registry reform, you learn to develop a thick skin, as bullying, name-calling and personal attacks are a part of daily life. So when I started hearing anonymous people on the Internet claiming RSOL had roots in NAMBLA, or I was called a “pedophile lover”, I paid no heed.

However, although RSOL never had a connection with NAMBLA, I did learn that they had a founder in common. Alex Marbury, a co-founder of RSOL (now deceased) was a pseudonym for Tom Reeves – a co-founder of NAMBLA.

I’d like to make one thing very clear: in dealing with RSOL, I never met one person who belongs to NAMBLA, or who supports lowering the age of consent or ANY of NAMBLA’s other objectives. The people of RSOL today are fellow family members – wives, mothers, children and other loved ones who desperately want to work at bettering life for themselves and their families.   When they found out that Marbury was Reeves, many felt betrayed.

Because the organizational structure of RSOL already exists, many good people decided to remain with RSOL and reshape it in its post-Marbury period.  My co-state organizer and I decided differently.  To us, the Marbury-Reeves deception created an unfortunate distraction that we don’t need to introduce to New York as we work to reform the registry.
Rita and I stepped down as state organizers of RSOL a few months ago, though we continue to network with RSOL state affiliates and other groups as well. In its place, we formed a new group – FAIR New York – an acronym which stands for Families Advocating an Intelligent Registry. We feel that this describes our objectives more accurately.  We will be incorporated.  We will elect a Board of Directors of people using their real names.  And we will make it quite clear that we support age of consent laws – as we and every other reform activist I know always has.

Monday, August 20, 2012

A cautionary tale; a teachable moment

Thirteen days after Geoff and I closed on our first house, disaster struck. I was getting back from walking our dog when a car sped out of our driveway – and my heart stopped. Somehow, I knew it was a bad omen and I was right.  After searching the premises, I discovered the business card of a local police sergeant, asking my fiancée to call her right away.

I knew exactly what it was about. In New York State, sex offenders have 10 days to notify authorities of a change in address. We were both aware of this requirement and even talked about it on multiple occasions – but it didn’t get done.  We foolishly didn’t make it the top priority it needed to be.

A couple of weeks before the closing, it came time for Geoff to go to the police barracks for his three-year photograph update. This required some planning, as the barracks were close to 25 miles from our house, money for gas was tight, and he would have to miss a half-day of work. Regardless, he got it scheduled and done.  While he was there he attempted to give the clerk our new address.  However, because we were still only in contract on the house, she refused to accept it, saying he had to wait until after the closing and advised him to call back to schedule another appointment to come in and fill out the change of address form.

We had so much going on.  Juggling the closing of our house with the end of our apartment lease so we didn’t wind up homeless was an enormous source of stress for both of us. It was also the time of year when Geoff was working lots of long hours, including overnights.  He did call the barracks twice, a fact verified by our phone records, but both times he was told the person he needed to make the appointment with was unavailable and that he should call back.  He didn’t and I will always regret not reminding him to call again. We both take responsibility for what happened.  There were reasons – but no excuse.

Unfortunately, Geoff and I were both unaware that changes of address could be done directly with the New York State Department of Criminal Justice Services via certified mail to Albany.  He didn’t even need to schedule another appointment and lose another half-day of work. 

We also didn’t know that failure to miss the 10-day deadline was a Class D felony that carried a potential one to three year prison sentence.  Once that was confirmed, panic ensued. Without my fiancée, I would lose the house. I would lose my life. I would lose my mind! And he would come back to me an empty shell of a person.  I knew that going back to jail would end him.

Luckily, I have incredibly amazing parents who lent us $3,000 to hire a lawyer familiar with sex crime laws.   After five months, a lot of medication and pure agony, the judge ruled in his case. My fiancée was sentenced to 3 years of probation with a recommendation for early release after 1 year.  The court recognized that given the fact that Geoff had recently appeared for his new photograph and that we had just bought a home several miles down the same road in the same town, that Geoff was not trying to abscond and evade police.

The experience taught me many things, but the most important one by far is to be aware of the laws your loved-one needs to comply with.  If we knew that the change of address could be achieved by simply mailing a letter or understood the full ramifications of not registering within 10 days, I know it would have gotten done on time. 

We must make it our business to become  ”experts” on the registry laws that are a constant backdrop to our lives together.  It was this incident that propelled me to activism.  The fact that it was not sexually reoffending behavior, but the technicality of missing a deadline that almost sent him back to jail is chilling.  The sex offender registry is very serious business, which we learned the hard way.  Going forward, we will work to obey its every provision - as vigorously as we work to reform it.

PLEASE go to Facebook and "like" I Love a Sex Offender, where I share graphics like these almost every day!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Second Thoughts and a New Approach

I’d like to go back to some remarks I made in a previous entry, “Child Safety Zombies,” on August 2, 2012.

The tone I used to write about Marc Klaas was not acceptable. Mr. Klaas and others, such as John Walsh, are people who have suffered terrible, unthinkable losses. Some of the policies they have pursued to achieve a safer society are not what I believe are the most effective, however, I have no doubt they are driven by love and compassion above all else and to even imply otherwise is frankly wrong. I apologize for these remarks and similar ones that I might have made in the past.

This raises the broader issue of how we should interact with those who have different views than the reform community – specifically the anonymous bloggers and posters – many of whom spew hate toward people required to register and at times their loved ones. 

I myself have been the target of many such attacks, even death threats, for speaking out on this very emotional issue.  Hate sites have even falsely accused me of being tied to NAMBLA, a common smear painted on all reformers – despite the fact that I and every activist I am working with supports age of consent laws.

I think we need to change our approach.

First, I think we need to stop calling our online opponents “trolls”, “vigilantes” or “zombies”.  They are people who are misinformed.  If we were to put ourselves in their shoes and actually believed that every person on the registry was a powder keg looking to go off and sexually abuse someone at the first opportunity, many of the policies they advocate would be understandable. (As opposed to the violence that many threaten, which is never acceptable.)  We know the truth – that sex offenders have one of the lowest rates of recidivism of all offender groups in the criminal justice system.  Our mission is to educate the public to this fact and to tell our stories to those who are willing to listen.  Which brings me to my second point…

We need to disengage from this online war of words.  These people are not willing to listen, so there is no hope of educating them to the facts.  Engaging with these people online only empowers them and wastes out time.  As someone who has responded to them in the past, I know it leaves a momentary feeling of satisfaction, but it is an illusion of activism – not true activism.  Any energy we expend acknowledging these individuals is energy not spent working to bring about real change; such as lobbying our elected officials, reaching out to the media, commenting on news articles, writing blogs or organizing ourselves online.

So I am done using terms like “zombies” and will no longer engage in the virtual world of hate.  I hope others will join me.  There is much good and important work to be done in the real world.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

America is abusing its own children

Is there any politician, law enforcement or journalist out there who wants to offer a response to this?

We will never be quiet until our families are safe. Family safety should be a basic right for all Americans, not just a few. How do you know YOUR family is safe?

Shana Rowan NAMBLA Shana Rowan Shana Rowan Oneida Shana Geoff Boudreau Geoffrey Boudreau

Thursday, August 9, 2012

No more sex offender laws until we fix the ones we already have

It's really that simple.

I'm getting really sick of hearing about Governor Cuomo's "crackdown on sex offenders" and "making New Yorkers safer." Know why? Because it's one of the best examples of a knee-jerk reaction to a scary and heinous case ever.

The laws themselves aren't bad - that's what's frustrating. His new law, sponsored by my own Senator Joe Griffo, now requires Level 3 sex offenders to go in every 90 days for a new photograph, or whenever they change their appearance. What most don't know is that this was really already the case, according to many local jurisdictions and municipalities. All Cuomo did was turn it into a state law, in response to a twice-convicted rapist who went missing, evaded authorities due to an outdated mugshot, and in turn raped and murdered an elderly hotel owner in Utica. 

I even explained to a local newscaster that I didn't necessarily think this was a bad law. It simply needs to be thought out, which it probably hasn't. Many municipalities already struggle to keep up with the photographs and information updates from registrants in the area, and with this new requirement, they will need additional help - which means more money. Is this really the best way to "keep New Yorkers safe" - or might we want to review the existing policies we have, that already cost money, and haven't done a thing to make us safer?

THIS New Yorker would like to see a report on the effectiveness of E-Stop, for example. How many crimes has that prevented? How many children were saved? Actually, I want to know how many non-sex offenders were charged with internet-related sex crimes against children since E-Stop was enacted. I want to know how many non-sex offenders have been charged with gaming-related sex crimes against children since "Game Over" was enacted. I want to know how many sex offenders have re-offended in New York state compared to how many new sex crimes have been committed by first-timers in a certain period of time. Oh wait, I already have that!

Governor Cuomo, Attorney General Schneiderman, and the rest of you rich guys in Albany: how about some REAL safety for New Yorkers - all of them - AND their families? We've had enough of your feel-good politics and refusal to respond to questions from your constituents about the effectiveness of your policies. The longer you hold out, the worse the backlash will be.

Monday, August 6, 2012

All sex offenders are not pedophiles. Here's the proof.

A quick one, I promise, but apparently very much needed today. Sadly there are some out there who cannot distinguish the difference between a pedophile (someone diagnosed with a mental illness) and someone convicted of a sex crime (over 200+ offenses, many not child-related - very informative list for those who are interested, offenses listed by state.) Again, let's remind those who aren't aware that children can and are arrested and convicted as sex offenders. According to the US Dept of Justice, children are responsible for 36% of all crimes against other children. (See the study here.)

I know I'll still get the "your boyfriend is a pedifile" comments, and of course the "you are sick and gross and please don't ever procreate" BS, but that is fine. For those who are actually capable of learning, this is for you:

Again, remember there is a wealth of information accessible by clicking on the "resources" tab, at the top right of the page. 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

An uncomfortable truth

I'm sure someone(s) will find a way to become offended by what I'm about to offer, and that's fine. Let me know in the comments.

How long ago was it that African Americans were thought of as sub-human and dangerous to white people? For centuries they were kept as slaves and endured horrific, inhumane treatment at the hands of many prominent people who were very much in the public eye - based on bigotry, intolerance and myth. Eventually, slavery was abolished, but less than 60 years ago, we had segregated water fountains, bus seating, schools, and bathrooms. Parents tried to keep their children away from African Americans (unless they were maids or chauffeurs), believing that they were dangerous and would bring harm upon them.

The name Adolf Hitler does not need much explanation, as we all know of the torture, suffering, and slaughter of millions and millions of Jewish people he ordered during World War II. But he did not act alone. He convinced nearly an entire nation of people that Jews were dangerous, impure, and worthy of extermination. He believed he was "doing the work of the Lord." He didn't listen to logic or consider/care about the collateral suffering he imposed on those affected by his actions. The extensive reasons behind the genocide he enacted could be debated for hours, but the truth was not among them.

When the suffragettes were fighting for the right to vote in the early 1910's, they faced an unlikely opposition: women who were against the right to vote. There were various social arguments among the female offense, and one was that it would disrupt the woman's role as subservient in the household to her husband and in society to other men. As the suffragettes eventually won the battle, the fear and anger that drove the opposition was overcome. Sadly, this is rarely the case - and the fact that the opposition existed at all is a bit disappointing, yet a very accurate portrayal of our society's fear-based policies that apparently have not dissipated much at all.

Are there differences between these oppressed groups, and people on the registry? Of course. African Americans, Jews, and women have not all committed crimes, sexual or not, upon children or adults. Some have. It just isn't the reason that they faced such intense scrutiny, torment and prejudice. To look at things from a darker perspective, one could probably say that by oppressing African Americans, Jews and women, some crimes were probably prevented - but simply because they were all human.

Based on fact, logic, research and science, some sex offenders are dangerous. Most are not. Yet our society has allowed fear, myth and pure hype to govern how we legislate not just sex offenders, but their families and children as well. Most people do not even know what a "sex offender" truly is. Most people will assume the worst. That is precisely why registrants, as a group, fit right in with the examples above.

For a link to research on sex offenders and sex crimes, go here: My Library of Research.