By Mike W . . . In response to an online media story hyping fear over registered sex offenders voting in schools in New York and “having access” to children, Mike W. wrote and NARSOL sent the following to the journalist and the editor of the news outlet.
To: Spectrum News
Attn: Editor and Vince Briga
RE: Could Sex Offenders Be Voting in our Schools?
We want to be safe. We want to know that our streets are reasonably safe from danger, from people who might have intentions to harm us. This extends to our homes, our institutions, our schools, and our places of worship. It doubly applies to classes of people that may be vulnerable, such as the elderly, the mentally ill, or children.
Your article “Could Sex Offenders Be Voting in our Schools?” seems to imply that the very presence of a person who is on a sex offense registry and goes to vote constitutes a situation in which the public is endangered and “student safety could be at risk.” This assumes that these persons are likely to re-offend.
What we know about this type of crime is that “…95% of all sex offenses …were committed by first-time offenders” (p. 15). We know that it is not those who have offended and are on registries that need to be feared, then. It is people who have not been identified as being potential threats to our young people.
In fact, we also know that sex offenders have the lowest rate of recidivism as shown in this comparison to other rates of re-offense:
- 13.4% of released robbers
- 22.0% of released assaulters
- 23.4% of released burglars
- 33.9% of released larcenists
- 19.0% of released defrauders
- 41.2% of released drug offender
- 2.5% of released rapists
Another underlying premise in the article is the myth of “Stranger Danger.” To be sure, our children need to be taught what to do when adults unknown to them approach them. But the myth that there is danger everywhere there is an unknown adult is misleading at best. What we know about people who have committed sexual offenses is this:
The vast majority of crimes against children are committed not by released sex offenders, but instead by the victim’s own family, church clergy, and family friends. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, ‘[B]ased on what we know about those who harm children, the danger to children is greater from someone they or their family knows than from a stranger.’ If lawmakers and the public are serious about wanting to protect children, they should not be misled by ‘stranger danger’ myths and instead focus on the much larger threat inside the home.
The best solution, then, is to publish accurate information. Spectrum has the responsibility to make transparent widely held misunderstandings so that baseless fears are reduced and we have an educated public. The public deserves to be aware, but no benefit is derived from being afraid of the wrong things.
Mike W. for NARSOL