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.


  1. I worked with juvenile sex offenders in Washington for about 5 years and I loved it, in a weird sort of way. Some of them were creepy and have a life of deviance ahead of them, but most were just dumb kids with poor social skills who made a very very very hurtful and stupid mistake. They were all skilled manipulators, though, and it was challenging sometimes to break through their "thinking errors". Luckily, if they did well and completed their treatment, they could petition the court to remove their requirement to register as a sex offender. It always made me feel good to be able to go to court and tell the judge what a person had done to change their life.

    Side note #1: Registry laws can be helpful, but it's the sex offender you DON'T know about (and hasn't been caught yet) that is dangerous. Also, very rarely is a child sexually assaulted by a stranger; it's usually a family member, friend, or acquaintance.

    Side note #2: I always found it funny, when working with a gay juvenile SO, how scared they were of someone finding out that they were gay. They felt this would be a lot worse than someone finding out they were a sex offender.

  2. .. I'm sure it's interesting seeing this side of sex-offenders. People who are trying to overcome something.
    However, you have to be realistic in dealing with people. Sure. Sometimes they get better. But a lot don't. I met a guy who was on the sex registry. He lied about what he was on there for. He told me streaking as a child, when it was actually a 4th degree molestation charge against a foster sister.
    He then raped me, repeatedly, for an entire month.
    Some people get better.
    But it's reasonable for them to have to have their name on a registry so people know whether their kids will be safe there are not.
    It's a terrible world, and even if someone makes a mistake, or finds attraction to something (like children), it's our job to protect the kids more then the feeling and identities of registered sex offenders.

  3. As I mentioned to you before I did an internship in an adolescent psyche hospital in New Hampshire. I worked with adolescent substance abuse patients and victims of sexual abuse and must admit my view has been pretty biased. This post has given me a different perspective, thank you for sharing your experiences. This has been a difficult area for me; not only have I worked with victims but I was abused as a young child by a group of adults for nearly ten years. The abuse began when I was six years old by my step Grandfather and progressed from there to his “Group” of friends which met on a regular basis. I know from first hand experience the kind of damage that can be done and the hell that the young victim lives in constantly. I recently discovered that one of my perps is now being accused of molesting two of his grandchildren. I realize that we must show love and compassion but from my perspective the safety of the child is foremost. Perhaps there is a way to address this issue with love yet safety for the victim simultaneously? I have recently thought about sharing my abuse story on my blog, it is not a part of my life I freely discuss but perhaps the time has come to do so. Anyway thanks for your insight from a different perspective.

  4. It’s a very interesting view you have, an admirable one for sure. I think people are prematurely judgmental in a lot of cases. It’s an unfortunate reality of the world in which we live. I’m torn on the Sex Registry list issue. I’ve personally been a victim of a sex crime, but I never went to the police. The person who committed the crime against me is not on the registry. My sister was another victim. In her case, the police were involved, but there wasn’t enough evidence for a conviction, so it never went to trial. As a result, there’s another guy out there who’s not on the registry. The whole idea behind the registry is not to humiliate people. It was generated as a way to help other people feel ‘safer’ but what they don’t realize is that people aren’t born sex offenders and added to that list before ever committing a crime. The people on that list have, most of the time, been court ordered to complete therapy, and as you mentioned in your blog, this therapy has proven to be incredibly successful. That being said, the list is not going to go away. I would like to hope that the very idea of a list existing may just be what is preventing someone else from acting on their impulses. I can see the logic behind the creation of the list, yet I can see so many flaws in its existence. It’s just one of those things in life where there’s just no easy way to solve it.

  5. I had an acquaintance in college who was a registered sex offender. He was maybe a little socially "off" in some ways, but he was a nice enough guy who seemed to be trying to make the best of a bad situation and learning from the past. And while I wouldn't temp him by leaving him alone with a potential victim (something he wasn't legally allowed anyway), I also didn't constantly worry about what was going through his head every time a kid or hot girl was in sight. He made a terrible mistake which deserved no forgiveness, and he was paying for it. But how is anyone supposed to change if we keep shoving them back into the hole they're trying to emerge from (assuming they're trying)?

    The safety of people in my neighborhood is important, and the security of children paramount, but there is no excuse for demonizing and mocking: just be informed, and be wise, and never, ever put the offender's "feelings" or "needs" above those of victims.

    Also, don't registries indicate offense levels? If some don't, they should. And they shouldn't water down the significance of being in a registry by putting someone in for mooning as a teen.

  6. I am sorry to say this but I strongly disagree with everything you said. Try walk in the shoes of those who was sexually assaulted. Those people who preyed on those young kids deserve to be listed on the registry for rest of their life. They chose to act upon their desire to do harms unto the others especially with children under of legal ages. They have no rights to privacy at all. Honestly, if I have my ways and I know many people who do want them to be killed and made examples to the public. That is when I support the idea of eye for eye, tooth for tooth. The idea apply to those who committed murders but again, most of murderers are hidden from the public and sitting on the death row.

    I personally have known several offenders and it's suffice to say that I am not their friends nor welcome them in my home anymore. It's same for people decided to use people as their punching bag.

    Because I know what it is like to be groped and massaged down in my area by older person plus what it felt like to be a punching bag...