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Media sex offender stories: missed opportunities to do some good

By Sandy Rozek . . . “I’d like to talk to you about a situation involving a sex offender here in Georgia.” It was similar to dozens of calls I receive as communications director of NARSOL, and the soft voice explained what the situation was.

A man in Cochran, Georgia, a man on that state’s sexual offense registry, was being harassed by a neighbor who had signs in front of her property identifying him and his crime, signs with words like “pedophile” and “pervert” in them. The man was breaking no laws, explained the soft-spoken young reporter, and she asked me what I thought about the situation.

I told her about the research showing that the safest communities were created when former offenders were given the opportunity to re-assimilate and show their ability to be law-abiding, productive community members. I briefly referenced some of the more pertinent facts. I spoke of the lessening of safety when vigilante activities, such as putting up signs, existed.

When the reporter asked if I would do a Skype interview for a piece she was doing on the subject, I demurred — I don’t like the sound of my recorded voice; I am told no one does, but still — and referred her to Brenda, NARSOL’s executive director. They connected, Brenda was interviewed, and Feburary 12 the story hit the air on 13WMAZ’s eleven p.m. news. I am an early riser, and I heard it and read the accompanying text at 6:05 a.m. on February 13, about thirty minutes before I started writing this.

What a disappointment. What a missed opportunity to do an actual community service.

The piece is certainly not the worst I have read, as these pieces go, pieces designed to do nothing of any concrete value but only to agitate and raise the collective community level of fear, apprehension, and even hatred.

Brenda’s interview, reduced to a few sound-bite seconds, could and should have been the segue for some real and balanced reporting. If the reporter had done a little research, or asked me for some, and included some of it, she could have educated her readership and viewing community on some of the facts about persons required to register on a sexual offense registry and shared information about child sexual offending that could actually give parents legitimate information and useful tools with which to protect their children.

She could have referenced studies showing that behaviors and policies that isolate and ostracize former offenders only exacerbate conditions that lead to lessened community safety rather than greater. She could have pointed out the extremely low re-offense rate of persons on the registry living in the community. She could have quoted statistics showing that approximately 96% of new sexual offenses is committed by persons with no previous conviction for a sexual offense and that virtually all sexual crime against children is committed by persons who are in what is called the “circle of trust” of the family. This translates to the family members, peers, and authority figures of the victims.

Rather than touting the online registry, she could have cited the total lack of  evidence showing its value as a public safety tool and maybe even gotten into some of the studies showing the negative consequences and fallout that decrease public safety.

I would like to say, regarding the neighbor who for two years has maintained signs outside her home, I am very sorry for what she  suffered as a child. I am very sorry that she has not been able to get the help she needed and has not been able to move past that horrible time in her life.

I would like to point out to her, as the reporter did not, that her belief that those on the registry shouldn’t be allowed to live within certain distances of where children live is a preposterous suggestion. Residency restrictions and exclusionary zones — laws that do not have an iota of evidence supporting them as effective — already severely limit  locations where registrants can live to the point that they are often cut off from family and support systems and, in many places, are homeless.

I would also like to say, in reference to her statement, “We went from being a very relaxed, quiet, comfortable, happy place to being very on-guard, because having him here took away that sense of safety,” that she is blaming the wrong person.

A man who has lived there for two years without creating any problems or breaking any laws is not who took away the community’s sense of safety. She herself has done that, and now this media piece has contributed.

I see on WMAZ’s website that it is titled, “What are Georgia’s sex offender laws?” chapter 1.

Let us hope that chapter 2 and any others include information based on facts and evidence that can help restore that sense of safety.

Links to studies for all factual information and statistics given are found here.

The reporter and the station managers were not available for questions before the posting of this. Their comments will be welcomed if and when they would like to make them.

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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 contains 8 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  Saddles 2 days, 18 hours ago.

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  • #52025 Reply
    Sandy Rozek
    Sandy Rozek
    Admin

    By Sandy Rozek . . . “I’d like to talk to you about a situation involving a sex offender here in Georgia.” It was similar to dozens of calls I receive
    [See the full post at: Media sex offender stories: missed opportunities to do some good]

  • #52032 Reply

    d

    A sign in yard pointing toward another person’s house saying pervert is defamation of character unless they can prove that you are indeed currently a pervert in the court of law. Pervert is not past tense they are saying that you still are and will be given the opportunity. What you did in the past cannot be assumed to be your present state in the court of law in a defamation lawsuit anyway we all know they have chosen to ignore this for other uses. Why could a good lawyer not make it stick?

  • #52043 Reply

    Timothy

    File for restraint order. Judges disparage instigators. Sandy please inform the gentleman to make a video record of the harrasment. Every time Cops or DOC show up at my door, nor near it a video results. Derek at oncefallen gave me that tip. It isn’t even NECESSARY to turn it on only point it. Cell phones work too. Just the thought of videotape evidence deters. He could post signs giving notice of video surveillance, if actually in place of not. I got a bad feeling of he was afraid enough to call you.
    SORNA = Bad juju!

  • #52041 Reply

    JR

    Hello folks. I just wanted to say that its a lot easier to spread negativity about others especially about Sex Offenders than anything Positive. Its like many think that once a person is a Sex Offender, they are doomed for LIFE and are not able to be reintegrated back into society. WRONG. It just seems that no matter what GOOD a Sex Offender does in life, just being on the registry and for having that on their criminal record for anyone to look up is a lifetime of punishment. They are denied work, place to live, and etc. There are so many ways a person can become a Sex Offender and be required to register. Negative minds will not produce a Positive result. It saddens me to think our society, even Christians, will condemn anyone who is a Sex Offender no matter what happened. But to display any sign or signs with a Sex Offenders name and offense(s) in public is disturbing to me. This is why we have so much crime and problems in our society. Instead of finding positive solutions to these problems they are only adding to it. Lets ALL stop this degrading of Sex Offenders and try to help them have a normal life again to rebuild trust back into our society with out making things worse. If God can forgive, we can to.

  • #52047 Reply

    Phil

    2014: European Court Lets Users Erase Records on Web

    Europe’s highest court said on Tuesday that people had the right to influence what the world could learn about them through online searches, a ruling that rejected long-established notions about the free flow of information on the Internet.

    • #52062 Reply

      Timothy

      Phil,
      Some intellectual groups are gaining strength with privacy in personal information concerns against the big data brokers utilizing person information for profit and without permission from those being exploited.
      Identity theft is going to run amuck thus identity protection MUST now be purchased.

  • #52054 Reply

    Saddles

    Sandy I have to admit you do come up with some good articles and food for thought about a lot of this whole ordeal. I wonder what is worst being on the registry or being a around humans in todays touch and go world at the clck of a button. Its that quick click to that quick fix. I’ve said on here I’d rather be wrong 100% of the time than rather be right. Sure there is good and bad about this data base stuff but a lot of this fact vs truth is that we are all carnal by nature. Sure touching kids is a no no and those that get rapped up in all that well its a bit crazy but the flesh is weak.

    Even our President is coming to light a bit about this abortion thing but thats a different subject all together, so someone may have a conscience. Of course nobody likes to have their consciense invaded by someone scamming someone or one could say blackmail or blackballing one.

    Sure the article was good but reporters dont’ do that much study on this specific topic as the sex offender registry and the suffering some go thru. I know people always want to be right but than again who listens to foolish talk. Its like the newscastor is doing a report without much study as to the effects and the discrimination and hardships that are involved in all this.

    Sure safety is good but when one is on the registry it appears to bring a person self-esteem down to a low level. So giving the true facts of some of this registry jazz doesn’t cut it for the general populas. I think the populus would rather vote for the over dog than the under dog.

  • #52083 Reply

    Mp

    I did not see a place to comment on the story. I don’t use FB, I did send the following email:

    What was the point of this story? I found it very disturbing actually. My heart truly breaks for this woman, but also for the guy across the street. And what about the people and children who live on this street? It is noted that he lives next door to children. These children have to see this sign every day. How does this affect their mental health? Basically being told they should live in fear because this woman says they should? The parents of the children should best decide how they want to handle having a registrant living next door and what they do and do not tell their children. Not the neighbor across the street deciding for them with these signs. (I truly mean no disrespect to her)

    All registrants are not the same. Case in point it was her father that harmed her. Most crimes of that nature are by family or people known to the child. Not the guy across the street. There are consequences for your actions and there should be! I don’t want a child hurt, I know up close what that is like, but to target someone like this is not healthy either. I know she means well and I can truly appreciate that and would never tell her how she should feel, but we need a balanced approach as a society.

    Statistically “sex offenders” have one of the lowest recidivism rates. If you were to take a journalistic approach then this would be explored wouldn’t it? We would also explore just who are all these registrants. They vary tremendously. And why are we not doing more to educate people on signs of what to look for if their child is being abused by someone they know. And how to best talk to our young children in a healthy way to tell them to share with a trusted family member if someone asks them to do something uncomfortable or touches them.

    This is a mental health problem and with the internet, on line sex crimes are increasing.…why? How best to help to stop this? This is what we need to talk about and get educated about so we can hopefully stop the cycle.

    Purposefully setting out to publicly hate on a group of people, to almost assure they become unemployable, good shot at being homeless, that their families and children are harassed and shamed and separated says more about those who promote this than it does about the registrant. Instead of outreach to break the cycle after they have most likely served prison time, the government tells you, your local news tells you, you are forever a worthless person, not redeemable….and the whole world gets permission to do the same. That is a society moving backwards, not forward.

  • #52094 Reply

    Saddles

    @ mp

    I’m glad you brought that up about this internet thing vs the actual physical ordeal. A violator [is defined as] anyone who ‘persuades, induces, entices or coerces any minor to engage in’ a visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct.” I wonder at times who is violating who if thats the case. If they want to get naughty and say that than they broke the law.

    Its as if someone is tresspassing against someone or playing the bounty hunter without a conscience. Call government fake news if thats the case or are they juswt doing a devilishing job in all this. Excuse me for my language but I didn’t know gang banging for bucks was legal by law enforcment or inducing for bucks.Sounds a bit crass via the internet and downgrades those upstanding law enfocement that really deceive others..I wonder who was pursuading in a lot of this. Talk about trying and effort and who killed my cat someone is making big bucks out of this.

    Sandy I think that should be a topic also in all this various type of sexual battery of the mind if you want to call it that.. I don’t think ministers of Justice are ordained to deceive people but who knows what’s going on in America today.

  • #52132 Reply

    Casey

    Personal experience can appear to be such compelling evidence, that some people completely ignore data and facts. Whatever happened to Martin to make her so fearful and hateful of sex offenders I’m sure was very traumatic, but she and so many others like her need serious help to learn how to think critically of their own biases and preconceived notions. I’m glad the reporter interviewed Jones and at least put some of her quotes in the article, but regardless, this was definitely a missed opportunity. There’s no reason why the media can’t be both empathetic to victims and challenge their biases at the same time.

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