By Sandy . . . “Rape victim pushes for stronger child protection” (Asbury Park Press, 6/22/17) makes the case, through the eyes of a victim of familial sexual assault, for legislation that would require any person required to register on New Jersey’s sex offender registry to be supervised when he or she is with his or her own child.
I totally empathize with the former victims of any crime. I am glad that Ms. Anselmo came forward and was able to get justice. Victims of such crimes begin their healing process when they report the abuse, and perpetrators begin their healing process when they are held accountable.
Then, once a former offender has been adjudicated, has satisfied or is satisfying the conditions of his sentence, and is not breaking any laws, a former victim has no right to influence what he does in his life.
Victims’ advocate Laura Ahearn with Parents for Megan’s Law, in support of the proposed legislation, is being disingenuous when she suggests that those on the registry having families and children is a new phenomena. As researcher and expert Dr. Jill Levenson reports, many had families prior to their convictions. At least a third of those on the registry are juveniles or were placed on the registry for actions that occurred when they were juveniles, many 20 and 30 years ago, and have spotless records since. Do Anselmo and Ahearn think they did not grow up, marry, and have children? Do they really think that they should now be constrained from participating fully in the lives of their children?
Virtually all sexual abuse of children is committed, as was that of Anselmo, by family members or others close to the victims in their everyday lives. When desired by all relevant persons, the therapy model that offers the most hope for recovery for both victims and perpetrators is that of family reunification. Would Anselmo remove that option from those who want it with the passing of a bill that reduces parents who are on the registry to that of a somewhat unwelcome visitor in their children’s lives?
The children of those on the registry already have much to deal with and overcome. They are victims of harassment at school and from peers; many have seen their parents, homes, cars, and even themselves made targets of vigilantes, vandalism, and violence. Some already suffer the indignity of their parents having special conditions or restraints when they come to their schools for activities or meetings. What Anselmo and Ahearn propose will further alienate registered parents from the lives of their children, increasing the chances of the children becoming high-risk for many negative consequences.
Dr. Levenson has participated in a study investigating the consequences of the registry to the children who have a parent on it; the risks are real and many.
Jackie Anselmo says she wants to help other kids. The best way she can do that is continue in her own healing process, take care of her own children, and allow parents who are on the sex offender registry and are doing their very best to be positive role models for their children, provide for them, and participate to the fullest extent possible in their lives to do so.
Sandy, a NARSOL board member, is communications director for NARSOL, editor-in-chief of the Digest, and a writer for the Digest and the NARSOL website. Additionally, she participates in updating and managing the website and assisting with a variety of organizational tasks.