The sex offender registry — it’s not what you think

By Sandy Rozek . . .  “Texas sex offender added to 10 most wanted sex offenders list.” “Virginia man arrested for sex crimes after third victim comes forward.” “Arizona sex offender sentenced to 100 years for child porn.”

These are the sorts of headlines that inundate the news and media outlets regarding those in the criminal justice system because of sex crime charges. The cumulative result is to leave the public with the impression that everyone who is labeled a sex offender has done some horrible things and deserves not only lengthy sentencing and harsh punishment but also inclusion on a public sex offender registry for as long as possible.

However, the headlines that would show how untrue this is are seldom if ever seen.

On March 12, the West Virginia Supreme Court overturned a sex offender parole violation for a man who has been imprisoned for more than three years. Forbidden any internet usage by terms of his parole, Bobby Ross was revoked and imprisoned when the parole board learned that his girlfriend with whom he lived owned a computer with internet access. In spite of the fact that he did not know the password for the protected device and that no evidence existed that he had ever accessed it, he was sent back to prison.

Where is the headline saying “Sex offender imprisoned again because his girlfriend owns a computer that he never used”?

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 23 percent of contact sexual offenders were younger than 18 at the time of their offense, with 16 percent under the age of 12. The statistics further show that in more than a third of sexual-abuse cases against minors, the perpetrators also were juveniles; with victims younger than 6, 40 percent of the offenders were juveniles.

These situations, which are often consensual for teenagers and part of age-appropriate play and curiosity for younger children, seldom make the headlines. The cases of “40-year-old man charged with sexual assault of 6-year-old child,” however, blare from every media source for days on end, and in as sensationalized terms as possible, whenever they occur.

“Michael” is a former police officer in Colorado. In telling about the “sex offense” cases he remembers the most vividly, he related these, cases he was required to visit as an officer in order to verify their registration compliance.

“A 10-year-old male (yes, I said 10) was at a sleepover at a 9-year-old male friend’s house. The mother of the younger boy walked into the bathroom, and both boys were naked, laughing, and poking at each other’s privates. Instead of being a parent and telling them to knock it off, she called the police. The older child was charged and forced to register on the sex offender registry.

“After a homecoming game that her school won, an 18-year-old female cheerleader boarded the bus with the rest of the students to return to their school. She saw the opposing side’s cheerleaders outside the bus, lowered the window, pulled down her underwear, and “mooned” them. She was subsequently charged and registered as a sex offender.

“A 23-year-old male at a college party, intoxicated, as a joke ‘shorts-dropped’ a male friend of his, exposing his buttocks. He was charged and registered as a sex offender.”

These types of cases seldom make the news, and if they do, it is highly unlikely to be beyond the local level. When they do, the public outrage at their triviality and the waste of resources generally causes a reversal or at least a reduction of the charges. The Zach Anderson case is a prominent example of that. The revision of many state laws in regard to teen sexting is another.

But these are seen as the exceptions rather than the majority. In actuality, a report issued by the Justice Department verifies that only a small fraction of those on registries are truly high-risk.

Read the remainder of the piece at Criminal Legal News

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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.

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    • #39680 Reply
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      david

      Nope, until you become ensnared in it, you don’t know what it’s like. Thru SOT group i’ve met 4 or 5 dozen “sex offenders” and IMO only 3 or 4 were what i’d consider high risk. Most guys were there for something they did when they were 17 to 22- statutory rape, possessing illegal images, incest. Stuff that is actually pretty normal human sexual behavior. Certainly nothing that should put someone on a registry for the rest of their lives.

      Average age of a person convicted of a sex offense is 14. Shows how messed up things are- but so is society, esp. regarding sex. The way our news is presented isn’t helping either.

      Reality will prevail tho, and eventually sex crime laws will be reformed.

    • #39685 Reply
      Avatar
      Maestro

      I doubt that any major changes will come for laws regarding what a “sexual offense” is determined to be. Sex offense stories are the news media’s bread & butter. Even if laws changed, the news media will still sensationalize stories like the guy whose girlfriend owns a computer. This type of fear mongering will NOT change.

    • #39700 Reply
      Avatar
      WC_TN

      “A 10-year-old male (yes, I said 10) was at a sleepover at a 9-year-old male friend’s house. The mother of the younger boy walked into the bathroom, and both boys were naked, laughing, and poking at each other’s privates. Instead of being a parent and telling them to knock it off, she called the police. The older child was charged and forced to register on the sex offender registry.

      The hypocrisy of the system is staggering in cases like this. Here is the hypocrisy:

      Some children 9 and 10 years old MIGHT know the mechanics of sex and some clearly don’t. Either way, children that young have no construct for understanding sexuality. The harshest penalties are rightfully levied against adults who molest children that young. The reason is they are powerless and do not have the life experience or mental maturity to give informed consent to sexual activity.

      Let’s say I had molested that very 10-year-old boy and I went to court and proffered the following as my defense: “I told him how good it would feel to be touched sexually and he was curious. He let me try it and he liked it and wanted to do it again and again. I never forced or threatened him. I just appealed to his natural curiosity.” Rightfully the court would reply, “What kind of sick reasoning is that? This is a 10-year-old boy. He’s innocent of things sexual. He cannot under the law give informed consent. He doesn’t understand the consequences of his actions!! He doesn’t even have the cognitive constructs to put sexual activity in its proper context.”

      To reiterate, the court would be 100% right in rejecting my “defense”. So, with that rationale from the law in mind, how can a 10-year-old then be charged with a sex crime that requires registration as a sexual offender? On the one hand he doesn’t know what he’s doing and on the other he knows exactly what he’s doing to the point he can be punished criminally as a 10-year-old for “sexual” behavior????

      How can anyone sanely punish innocent exploration,WHICH IS 100% NORMAL as a sexual offense? Besides that, doesn’t one party have to be so many years older than the other for any sort of sexual crime to be charged?

      The parent who called the police should be tarred, feathered, and ran out of town on a rail. She’s a selfish idiot who ruined an innocent child’s life for no reason!! What did she do with her own child? What a cruel double standard!! The boys were only a year apart in age and were obviously friends. How could that younger boy’s mom turn on her son’s friend so viciously??

    • #39694 Reply
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      misdemeanor offender

      Excellent article Sandy Rozek!

      An issue I that has become apparent is how citizens have essentially outsourced disciplines to law enforcement authorities. A reason for this is because seeking advice regardless if it is professional, legal, medical, or even religious are now mandated that police must be notified “if” a potential crime or something deemed as a crime occurred. Police departments have an internal press release provided to news outlets providing what they wish to convey about an individual. Legal, medical, religious, and professionals may have the right to release a press statement but are guided by organizational protections that prohibit personal information from being released. Therefore, law enforcement authorities are somewhat guiding the press until there are reasons to call into question that overall authenticity of the claim. But a severe issue of the right to remain silent is used a weapon by both media and police to present an assumption of guilt. This leaves many citizens believing that what the press AND police are saying is fact and somewhat creates a parallel of fake news but in a realistic sense.

      In all honesty, society today is nothing more than the ‘social media lynch mob’ or suffer from “fickle crowd syndrome.” Let’s not lose focus that police are the only agent of destruction when it comes to the sex offender registry. The press, while intended to be impartial, do have a business plan to sell the news. That includes creating a viral-based headline to raise concern and alert. I don’t see reporters or large newsagents clamoring to cover those affected by the registry? But perhaps now is the time for registry advocates to push back and release our own press releases. Afterall, this is an advocacy group that does provide a platform to share stories and experiences. I envision NARSOL to become a more significant part of the registry discussion on-camera, in-print and stopping the machine of police, media, social tactics attempting to minimize our voices.

      • #39818 Reply
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        Facts should matter

        ” I don’t see reporters or large newsagents clamoring to cover those affected by the registry?”

        Why would they even want to? That would be like throwing water on a fire and it would risk changing the the public perception and garnering sympathy. They would never, ever risk humanizing us because they would lose > $$$$

        We’re a commodity to the media and the lawmakers!

        The media humanizing us? That narrative has no value to them. They would most likely even receive backlash and hate mail.

    • #39695 Reply
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      Big mack

      This didnt even exist when I was a teenager. Now 25 years later You get 10 times more prison time for a violation than you did for the original offence. I been a RSO for 25 years now. I can tell you from experience. Its punishment of the worst kind. And I see kids getting put on it
      That’s just heartbreaking. Because I know the hard times they are going to face. It’s so sad.

    • #39706 Reply
      Robin Vander Wall
      Robin Vander Wall
      Admin

      This is really a great piece, Sandy! Which, of course, we fully expect from your capable skills as a writer. Keep up the great work!

    • #39716 Reply
      Avatar
      T

      That’s all nothing but junk just to get everyone to trip off about the high rate of sexual offences and convincing the public about laws that are being passed in which they see in the media. The problem is there’s not one person with a critical mind that has the courage to want to investigate all this junk to find out if there’s any truth of this matter, and there needs to be someone that can speak out against these logical fallacies.

      • #39723 Reply
        Sandy Rozek
        Sandy Rozek
        Admin

        I understand your frustration, but if you think about what you have said, you will realize that it is not true. People with critical minds are investigating and are speaking out. Look at the videos of Emily Horowitz and of Catherine Carpenter posted on this site. They are both skilled researchers who present very strong cases against the registry. Read the research of Jill Levenson and Carl Hanson. They are just a few of many who have been investigating and speaking out for years. Read the pieces by journalists such as Steve Yoder, Joshua Vaughn, Robby Souve, Elizabeth Nolan Brown, Jacob Sullum, Lenore Skenazy, and many more. This entire site is about investigating and speaking the truth. It is being done. And people are hearing, not enough of the right people, not yet, but it is happening.

        • #39784 Reply
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          misdemeanor offender

          Well said Sandy!

          I too can get a bit emotional, at times, and convey my frustration about how media, people, and the machine of politics fail to understand the bigger picture. But I must always remember I cannot win a war on advocacy alone. I require a squad, battalion, or an army of citizens that can lay counterclaims and proof by examples. It is entirely justified to be angry, isolated, sad, frustrated, and blame assessed in our day-to-day feelings. After all, everyone on this website is either sharing or learning they are not alone when it comes to particular topic matters – and we are truly thankful for your contributions.

          What I am thankful for each day is that we are growing and slowly being heard. I am also grateful for those that look beyond the rhetoric and politized agenda returning to sound logic and academic data. While I am personally frustrated at the slow pace of change, I must remain optimistic or have at least a glimmer of hope not for myself, but for others affected by sex offender laws. Eventually, someone will listen. It may not be today or tomorrow. It will come and entirely by surprise.

          We live in a society filled with fake news, misleading headlines, shock journalism and fear-mongering social media random postings that even my mother questions as somewhat believable. Some websites, laws, and social media applications do not allow registered, convicted, or accused sex offenders to reasonably access equitable debate without violating terms of conditions. Thank god we have NARSOL and other supporting sites to help facilitate a platform to hopefully in time level the playing field.

          I may not be able to afford NARSOL conferences but my direction and passion to help change sex offender registry laws has become my new quest. I am engaged at voicing out opposition by writing short press responses in local news papers, and hopefully future writes for local NARSOL sites. I cannot sit idly by and wallow in shame. Instead, I think it is crucial to shrug the embarrassment and redirect the conversation to target the critical issues of how registry laws do more harm than good.

          Again, thank you Sandy and all the others in the background working diligent and hard to resourcefully arm those affected by the registry and educate those unschooled in opposition to the registry.

          • #39788 Reply
            Sandy Rozek
            Sandy Rozek
            Admin

            Good for you! “I cannot sit idly by…” That is the attitude that gets things done.
            Have you considered applying for a scholarship for the conference? Check it out here: https://conference.narsol.org/scholarships/
            And anytime you want to try your hand at writing something for NARSOL, send it to me at communications@narsol.org. I’ll give it a read and give you feedback.

        • #39815 Reply
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          T

          I apologize for my comment Sandy Rozek, and you are right that there are those with critical minds that are investigating and speaking out.

        • #40063 Reply
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          Jeremy from Indiana

          I watched that debate, if you can even call it that and the person arguing for the registry (against us) was far from a skilled debater or researcher. While Emily did a great job, it had to be frustrating arguing with a complete idiot.

    • #39732 Reply
      Avatar
      David Kennerly

      You really have to wonder how a mother’s natural impulse is to call the police on her son’s friend when they are interrupted in sex-play. How is that not a form of child abuse? How is the prosecution of that unfortunate ten-year-old boy not child abuse? When was the decision taken in our society that “sex abuse” was the only form of child abuse worth obsessing about? And how did we decide that children’s mutual sexual exploration was actual “sexual abuse?” Who makes these decisions? How did they arrive at them? Upon what are they based?

      We (all of us possessing sanity in the matter) know what they are based upon: ignorance and hatred. You can be sure that there is nothing scientific or rational about their hysteria because there is no science to support these horrendously damaging laws and social reactions, only rank stupidity and atavistic superstition.

      • #39839 Reply
        Avatar
        Joe123

        Well, when you have endless money pouring in to the government, into the whole ‘criminal justice system’ including the Prison Industrial Complex of America, you can see why asinine laws have to be passed at all times to keep the Machine running and gears turning. Where would all of these people work if the rate of criminal convictions actually started to fall!? They would have to go and actually find real jobs that are dictated by the private market. It’s much more comfortable to enjoy these government jobs, with the only stipulation being that new laws must be constantly put out into society. This is what many foreigners ‘get’ when they look at America. It is hard for the people living inside of their comfy US bubble to see this. Being everyone’s ‘Nanny’ and telling everyone how many steps they can walk left or right is the US government’s job. Where is this leading to? People will no longer have to think for themselves, or ever understand what ‘morals’ are, or ‘common good’. Their God is the US government. When people keep electing the only 2 sides of the same coin (republicans or democrats), the over-bloated government will continue to suck-in money from taxpayers and create more laws in the name of ‘public safety’ (while not actually tackling the major issues that actually affect the majority of citizens). You have to take a step back and look at the big picture friends!

    • #39781 Reply
      Avatar
      Saddles

      While Sandy has given a lot of scenerio’s in this grooming situation even the one about the boys sleep over situation and those who repeat these situations who is grooming who? That should be the question? While these so called police are grooming with this playing the harlot situation who is grooming with the opportunity that is internet based in a lot of respects. Who is baiting or enticing with the opportunity? The kids situation is a mother getting frantic about kid’s sexually poking one and feels that calling the police is the method of solving things insead of taking resoning actions in this issue and putting a stop to this. Are we all not responsible for others. Or are we a don’t care about other society when sexual issues come up. At least NARSOL and other groups are striving to bring all this to light.

      Now in these sex ordeals one has to say who is tempting who? or who is manurvering who to overcome them. Who is lying to who? And the answer is, I leave that up to you to decide. I wonder who is playing the devil in disguise, that girl in the bikini or that policeman on the other end of the computer. One can either come down from their ivory tower or just let civil law take control of others in this as it has already done and will keep on doing till we all stand up.

      I wonder in this day and age who is sexually immoral or if anyone of us have immoral thoughts. Maybe none of us is human. I wonder if we all still have thoughts about standing up and yes we can either investigate or procrastinate

    • #41682 Reply
      Avatar
      Sean

      Is anyone familiar with WV code? Is there any way to get off the lifetime registry? I was convicted of 3rd degree sexual assault in 2011.

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