To OK legislators: Don’t remove valuable sex offender therapy option

By Sandy . . . A woman in Oklahoma has gotten the attention of state legislators after creating a Facebook page protesting that the uncle who was convicted for abusing her as a child was allowed to live next door to her. After his recent release from prison, Harold English of Bristow, Oklahoma, moved into his mother’s home. The mother of English and grandmother of Danyelle Dyer has said that her son had nowhere else to live.

The exclusionary zones in Bristow make English finding another residence very problematic; however, he is now under a temporary order forcing him to leave the home. Lawmakers have rushed to close this “loophole” in the law, and House Bill 1124 will be making its way through the Oklahoma legislature in the next session.

It is expected to pass with little to no opposition, and if it does so, it will forbid any convicted sex offender from living or being within 1,000 feet of the home of his or her victim. Residency restrictions are shown by research to be without merit in any circumstances, but this particular one has even less to recommend it.

Its implementation would prove disastrous for one type of sex offender therapy.

While no one should be forced to be close to his or her former abuser if that is not his or her choice, legislation prohibiting former offenders from living near or with their former victims is not wise. Virtually all child sexual abuse is committed by a relative or someone else close to the family, as happened in this case. For children age six and under, the perpetrator is found to be a close family member in 50% or more of the cases .

Family reunification therapy is one tool available to treatment providers, and one that in the right circumstances is very valuable. It is a program designed for offenders who recognize and take responsibility for their own behavior and are willing and able to live within the limits placed upon them by the treatment program, the judicial system, and society.

It is a survivor-led process, in partnership with non-offending caregivers, with the priority concern being the safety of the child. If at any point the child who was sexually abused does not wish to move forward with reunification, the process is stopped immediately.

When desired by all relevant persons, this therapy model offers hope for recovery for both victims and perpetrators. It has been found especially valuable with juveniles when the offending situation was that of an older sibling against a younger or more vulnerable one.

Lowered re-offense rates and successful rehabilitation are closely linked with an offender’s ability to gain and maintain stable living conditions as well as family support. Family reunification therapy provides one path to achieving these goals. Legislation such as HB 1124 in Oklahoma would remove that option from those who want it.

For many, this type of therapy, with its emphasis on accepting responsibility, forgiveness, and accountability in equal parts, has been a lifesaver for both former victims and former perpetrators. It is not for all, but it should remain as an option for those who choose it.

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Sandy Rozek

Sandy 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.

  • This topic has 5 replies, 1 voice, and was last updated 3 years ago by AvatarLori/OK Voices.
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    • #17527 Reply
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      Debbie Boswell

      Do not remove this Option

    • #17540 Reply
      Avatar
      Ben

      One Size Fits All Legislation…

      When are they going to learn that this is a poor legislative action to take?
      Further stripping of civil rights and/or liberties of even those on a registry is a slippery slope indeed.

      The late great Martin Luther King Jr. said it best, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

      Proposing laws to dictate where one person can not live for the sake of protecting others from a crime not yet committed is a boasted forseen assumption that they know or can see into the hearts of all those once convicted of a crime, as if a person can not be rehabilitated, ever. A thief is always a thief, an addict or alcoholic can not ever find sobriety, and a drug dealer or gang member will never realize the errors of their ways and turn to a new life, free of a crime ridden mentality. Are these things true? Don’t these such criminals all deserve a second chance at life without a restriction after they have paid their debts to society because they are trying to make things right?

      How is anyone convicted of a sexual offense any different? Therapy works, and the best way to help reduce the acts of another crime against anyone is to see that the offender has not just family support, but also societal support as well. Banishment, restrictions, and buffer zones at their core is nothing more than public shame and scorn… pure punishment disguised at a protective measure, that truly does no such thing. Oh, what lies they tell. It is the politicians that should be ashamed of themselves for the sure lack of virtue made apparent by their boasting upon the right of the many at the cost of the few.

      Does it no longer matter that there are those that may want to restore unity within a family previously ridden of abuse who wants to find healing for both the victim and the offender? Are these people’s rights to do so through the proper therapy channels not equal to the rights of anyone else?

      In the very case of a juvenile offender who has been through therapy, even though they may have to live as a human being on the registry, with all its already forever difficult collateral consequences to his/her family, are we now going to stand by and watch as another law is passed that says, “Nope, this kid can’t even live with or anywhere near his family cause that’s for the greater good of all.”… even though their families want them there, want to reconcile, want to support, and want to forgive??

      How is this even left up to a suit in an office who thinks he knows what’s best because of one instance that should be the very platform to stand on as a call not only for what’s best for Oklahomans, but what is best for other states as well?

      There is no loophole to close. They are merely writers of pure fiction, and if this bill passes, it is because their constituents are eating it up thinking they feel safer at night, when all the while they’ve really just been lied to.

      ….Sigh….
      I hope something can be done to stop this.

    • #17548 Reply
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      W.C.

      This is politics at it raunchiest. This is public grandstanding and hopefully the bill gets shot down in committee. But more than likely the law will pass and reunification will be driven to extinction, which is inhumane and cruel to the affected family. Shame on the politicians. All they give a care about is getting their names on a tough piece of sex offender legislation.

    • #22908 Reply
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      Lori/OK Voices

      I do believe treatment can help individuals but completion of the programs yield the best results in any circumstance be it for sex related issues or drugs, alcohol etc. I like to hear from individuals who have COMPLETED the program. Only then can they speak to the benefit, how it helped them and their actions will/should reflect it. Persons in denial have not gotten where they need to be and it comes out in their conversation.

      As to this case, I have done research and this woman did not live at the home and can be backed by supporting documents I have obtained. I have been trying to meet with the authors of this legislation and they take my information and never return the call with promised appointments.

    • #22909 Reply
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      Lori/OK Voices

      Also, in my course of research, the offender had been formerly convicted in TX of a sex crime and I believe wholeheartedly, this family is basking in their regret of allowing him access to the child, having had knowledge of his former actions and that this is a family problem and should not reflect all situations.

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