Cambridge, Mass.–In a span of only a few months’ time, local and national media, fueled by the fires of social media, have documented an alarming rise in open, public vigilante attacks against citizens of this country. Some of these citizens had been merely accused of a crime, and, before there could even be a criminal trial, vigilantes took the law into their own hands. Others have been attacked for the sole reason that they were listed on the public sex offender registry.
These assaults have all occurred during this calendar year, but they follow like occurrences resulting in injuries and deaths going back for years.
On January 13, 2013, in California, a man accused of rape was lured out and beaten with a baseball bat, leaving broken bones, massive internal injuries, and missing teeth.
A South Carolina man and his wife were stabbed and shot to death July 22 in their home by a couple who claimed that the reason for their actions was because the South Carolina man was listed on the sex offender registry. His wife was simply collateral damage; she was just at the wrong place at the wrong time—in her home with her husband.
In early August in Detroit, MI, a mentally disabled man accused of sexually assaulting a 15 year old girl was assaulted on a street corner by members of his own community and beaten with baseball bats.
And less than a week ago in a small Texas community, headlines chronicle the vicious assault of a man by a woman and her boyfriend, again because he was on the sex offender registry.
These acts of vigilante violence all ring with a common theme: citizens taking the law into their own hands, reminiscent of the days of a lawless west, a part of America’s history that we, as a civilized society, had believed that we had left behind.
Brenda Jones, Executive Director of Reform Sex Offender Laws, Inc. has issued the following statement in response to these acts of vigilantism that have occurred in a purportedly free society: “I see these events as a disturbing example of the sort of vigilantism that has often been perpetrated on former offenders and their family members in recent years. When the South Carolina murders took place, RSOL pushed to have registrants’ exact addresses pulled from public view, in part, because of our concern that other vigilantes around the country would get the notion that targeting registrants was somehow okay. The fact is that our country has laws in place to punish persons guilty of crimes. Our founding fathers set up our system of governance precisely to avoid such vigilantism. No civilized society should be deliberately publishing ‘hit lists,’ but that’s what the sex offender registries have become.”
Reform Sex Offender Laws, Inc. is an advocacy organization seeking reform of the laws that require the registration and open publication of those individuals who have been convicted of sexual offenses. Please visit our website for more information.