By Dolley Madison…..
In spite of strong opposition on the part of advocacy groups and from a significant number of very credible journalists and media outlets, the legislation known as International Megan’s Law passed and was signed by the President. For all who have ever been convicted of a sexually based offense, this has serious implications for any future plans regarding an overseas business trip or a far away beach vacation.
My family has fancied the idea of going to Europe for quite some time. Traveling with our school-aged child to explore her family’s roots has always seemed like an awesome adventure. We even have a travel fund savings account set aside for that purpose, and in spite of dipping into it for state-side trips, including a couple of RSOL conferences, some years we’ve managed to save enough so that my grandmother’s native Frankfurt, the statue of that Nuremberg bookseller who was assassinated by Napoleon’s army, and authentic marzipan seem just around the corner.
Other years, when registered Hubby is out of work due to a lay off, or the one time he was fired due to being on the registry, the travel fund sits motionless, whimpering for an infusion.
We are fortunate. We have a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs, warm beds, vehicles to drive, and the dog is healthy. At least one of us has remained employed; many registrants are not as fortunate. They suffer lonely, cold nights in a society that leeches away the hope for the simplest comforts, let alone any thoughts of traveling abroad.
Thirteen years ago, when I made the first beginnings of involvement with a sex offender reform movement, I never dreamed that I’d eventually be worried about traveling abroad or vehemently opposing a bill that would put my name on a list for residing as an adult with a registered sex offender. I did not know I would become so angry about what the registry has cost us, angry enough to fight for something so specific and insular. Naively, I had set out to fight for ALL, not the few with the means to travel, not only the innocent, not only the easiest to represent. I thought civil rights meant equality, and equality meant the same for everyone.
I know now that each is affected in his or her own way. The struggle of the poverty stricken single man required to register due to an underage, consensual relationship is no less than that of the man fighting an addiction to porn who has lost his wife and children over it. The anguish of the father who is not allowed to be part of his children’s lives is no greater than the grief of the mother over her son’s loss of a meaningful career. And those who are scorned and denied the pleasure—or the necessity—of foreign travel, as well as those who will find themselves ridiculed, humiliated, and even harmed because of a “unique” identifying mark on their passports are no less part of the collateral damage in the war that our society is waging on anyone who can be labeled a sex offender.