Thursday, February 25, 2010

Sex Offenders

I've spent the last two months volunteering with sex offenders. I volunteered with an adolescent group and an adult group. The adolescents were from age 12 to 17 and the adults were 18 and up. Yesterday was my very last time meeting with them and I am truly going to miss them. I wanted to share with you my experiences with this unique group of people.

When I told people that I was volunteering with sex offenders, a lot of them raised an eyebrow or two and usually had some sort of shocked expression or reaction. I think this is probably because when the majority of people think of a sex offender, they think of someone hiding in the bushes, waiting to snatch a child, and then pull them into some sort of creepy van and drive off. I hate to break it to you guys but that isn't the case.

I think for the most part, the general public is misinformed about what sex offenders are really like. To be honest, when I went to my first group meeting, I had no idea that they were sex offenders. I just thought it was group therapy to talk about whatever issues people wanted to bring up. It was only around the third time that I found out who these men were.

I have never seen anyone work so hard to overcome something as I have seen these men. They go from being purely driven by lust and animal appetites to truly learning how to love and care about someone. Some of these people literally have no social skills because they have used sex and getting that sex as a way to put up a wall, and stop someone from actually getting close to them. That is really interesting if you think about it because sex is usually a way of people getting very intimate--not a way to build a wall.

These men struggle with something I can only imagine. Being gay, I understand that a lot of people don't approve of an attraction that I can't help. I can only imagine how hard it must be for these men to be attracted to people so young. These men can't help their feelings. They can only determine how they will act.

And they've obviously messed up. I am not trying to say that these men didn't do something wrong. My point is that these men are prematurely judged by the general public and are put under some of the most harsh sentencing I have ever seen.

If you are a sex offender in the state of Utah, you are automatically put on the registry for LIFE. That means that anybody with access to the internet can type in their own address, and find out the names of any sex offenders nearby. What a huge violation of a person's privacy! I've heard many of these guys tell me stories of over-zealous individuals who look up their addresses, and then write "child molester" with photos of the sex offender all over the sex offender's door and around the neighborhood in which they live.

Why do people take it upon themselves to humiliate someone like that? I suppose that a lot of it is simply a fear of the unknown. I do not think that kind of behavior is ever appropriate.

Do you know some of the stats about sex offenders? Those who actually go to therapy and complete programs like the one I volunteered in only have a 4% chance of re-offending. That's an incredible success rate! More than most types of therapy actually. And studies have shown that there is absolutely NO proof that being listed on the national registry for sex offenders has any positive change on the people who committed the offense.

Drug addicts, murderers, alcoholics, and abusers are all hailed as "heroes" when they stop their offenses. Sex offenders are not. They are assigned the lowest class in our hierarchy of morality and left to rot there. Even when they haven't offended for years and years, and have more of a depth of understanding of themselves than I have ever seen anyone, they are still on that list.

These men have taught me how to love and support people unconditionally. I have never EVER felt uncomfortable or awkward at all in their presence. I truly respect these men for choosing therapy to tackle their issues head on instead of hiding away in some prison. I have learned more of how to be selfless and how to put others first. I have learned so much about responsibility, putting others first, making boundaries for yourself and others, how to show someone the proper respect, and especially how to love someone and take them for who they are.

We all make mistakes, and most people get a second chance. The best that these men can do is be the best that they can be, and hope that people don't assume the worst because of a mistake that was committed ten years ago.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


What's the point in having,
So many enticing friends,
If all your walls just keep them
From seeing you 'till the end?

My heart is locked away
For no one else to see.
It sits there dark and cold
Never to be free.

When others try to come,
To try and light my heart,
I run and hide away
To scared to make a start.

What if I am loved
For just the real me?
Would that change who I am?
Could I love what I see?

I honestly don't know.
And I'm too scared to try.
The emptiness is safe here,
It gives me space to cry.

Here I am not ridiculed.
I am not told that I am wrong.
Out there I've been so hurt,
And judged for far too long.

Today my heart is heavy
For my soul is not complete.
It yearns for that connection,
Of two hearts with love replete.

It seems that others try
So hard to get close to me.
But I just look straight down
And refute just what they see.

I am at a loss
For what I can do here.
I honestly love others
But not my own self sphere.

How can I tear down,
What's taken years to build?
I'm trapped in my own fortress
Never to be fulfilled.


Monday, February 8, 2010


Imagine that you've throwing a party. Lots of people show up and everyone seems to be having a good time. There is nothing especially eventful about the evening and it's proclaimed to be a smash hit. The next day however, you journey into a friends' apartment.

You converse about the party and begin to leave the room when one of the roommates makes a comment about leaving early and says throwing his head back at you, "ya but he doesn't know why I left." What would your immediate reaction be?

If you're like me, you immediately think of the absolute worst possible scenario. They hate you. They hate your friends. You throw stupid parties. Or any number of other combinations of things that could've happened. Later, you find out that he just went on a date and was being funny. you feel dumb.

Ya well, this happened to me this last weekend. I take compliments terribly, and I take criticisms even worse. My automatic response to a compliment is something to the effect of, "ya but you don't know the real me" which immediately makes the compliment null in my mind. Sad yes, but it happens.

And when I receive criticism or even someone just trying to give me a little motivation, I take the comment and use it to immediately attack myself at my very core. I look for those negative comments to confirm to myself that I am actually not worthy of compliments that people give me. It's just easier to sink down into a state of depression where people don't notice you than to try so hard to be happy only to crash and leave people wondering where the happy you went.

So back to my weekend. Friday night was absolutely fantastic. I absolutely loved seeing so many of my absolutely fantastic friends! Everyone seemed to mingle pretty well, even if there was some confusion with my gay friends wondering which one of my straight friends could be gay :P Overall, it was wonderful.

The next day, my mood immediately dropped. I had confided in a friend some information that had really been bothering me. He then said, "gee, I wish I had your problems." Now, I make it sound like it was a totally inappropriate comment. At the time, I was absolutely furious. And I immediately began to use it as ammo against myself. Looking back now, I realize this friend was joking, but we'll get to that later.

Sunday morning, the situation described in the beginning happened. I felt terrible. I started degrading myself for throwing such a terrible party and making my friend feel uncomfortable. Ya, he had a date. Also made me feel stupid when I found that out!

Which finally leads me to Sunday night where things began to change. A person came over who cares about me a lot. He doesn't know me well, but he seems to love me like someone who's known me my entire life. I honestly hope I can be like him someday.

But I digress. We sat down and he talked to me for a long time. He asked me probing questions about why I internalize so much and why I care so much about what other people think. To be honest, I got more out of the questions he asked me than his overall message that no one has permission to make you feel inferior but yourself.

I feel good about myself when I'm self-aware. I feel more in control of my emotions. His thoughtful questions invited a spirit of understanding on my part into my heart. I thought about the questions, not necessarily coming to any major conclusions, but it allowed me to make a more neutral judgment of myself and the situations I was in.

I then reported my new found appreciation for my new friend to another really close friend. That did not turn out well. I was told to fall in love yet not compromise my worthiness. I was also told to get close to lots of people, but stop making new friends. Now that's just the gist of it but I'm sure you can imagine I was very confused.

This morning I went to therapy. There, my therapist and I began to pick apart my weekend. I was feeling considerably better at this point after my friend who asked me such lovely questions. My therapist and I are going to be working on negative thought patterns. The first step for me is to acknowledge what my negative thought pattern is saying. Acknowledging its existence does not make it true. It allows you to decide what to do with it. Which is what my friend last night was trying to say. When people tell me things, I use the ammo on myself. I make myself feel inferior. Only I have permission to do that. And I do.

I left therapy feeling very self-aware, and committed to make a new start. And then I got another piece of bad news. My friend who I felt was giving me contradictory advice, decided he needed a break from me. But hey, I put my new work into practice! I didn't begin firing on myself. I looked at it almost like, "hmmmm, interesting" and carried on with my day. I am not responsible for how he responded to me. And from the looks of it, I'm in a much better and happier place right now because of what I practiced.

The only problem now is my nature to want to run and fix things. I want to run and make things right with this individual. But again, I'm not responsible for his feelings.

So now I begin to analyze what my friend was trying to tell me. Now that I look back, I think he was trying to say that I need to let down my wall and let people in. And I've decided to work on that too. And the other piece of advice was to simply not neglect the friends I already have. I don't feel like I neglect my friends, but I'm willing to strengthen the friendships I do have.

And there you have it. My weekend in a rather...long...nutshell. I'm feeling very happy about my new viewpoint on the world. I will do my best to keep this viewpoint for as long as possible.

Oh, and I think everyone should volunteer. Just as a side-note, I volunteer at the state hospital. Forgetting myself and serving others does wonders for my mood. I'm sure it's better than almost any anti-depressant drug :)

So, the moral of the story for me is that I need to stop reading into what people say. It gets me in trouble. And if I do read into it, I need to acknowledge my negative thought process, and decide what to do with it. I am in control. And I guess lastly is that we all need to be careful of what we say. Whether we're broadcasting our woes to the world in an effort to cut at someone, or if we say something in a "joking" manner, our intentions are not always clear. Let's be careful.