Being Fearless

Getting past the shame people try to pile on you, writes Paul Hanley in LifeTimes magazine, can be as easy as looking at yourself through the eyes of people you meet at Fearless Groups.

By Paul Hanley . . . When I attended court-ordered therapy for a sexually-based offense, I wasn’t interested in making friends. I’m a survivor of long-term childhood sexual abuse, and I didn’t want to be hurt again by dangerous people. I thought I was different than the other group members, that I was better than “them.”

Flash forward twenty-two years, to 2017. I was invited to speak about my book Roller Coaster to Hell and Back at a “Fearless” meeting. Fearless Groups are a mix of the 12-step structure familiar to many and Circles of Support, which have proven very helpful in allowing former offenders of all sorts to successfully reintegrate into society. Brenda Jones, executive director of NARSOL, introduced Fearless Groups in 2016, though some groups have been around longer.

Here I was again, dealing with “them.” This time, though, I didn’t judge. By now, I knew that all people have a core of precious humanity in their hearts, no matter their past. Still, I was afraid to give the talk. I never dreamed that soon after my presentation I would join the Fearless group, knowing that “they” are now my brothers and sisters.

I soon learned I was not the only one who felt this way. Terri has been attending Fearless groups almost from their beginning.

“When you have a loved one convicted of any crime and sentenced to years away from you, it is devastating,” Terri told me, “But when it is a sexual offense, you lose so many people in your life—even other family members—because those are the crimes nobody wants to address. Your only hope for people to talk to who can understand all of what you’re dealing with is in a group of people feeling and dealing with the same issues.”

“Along with the support and friendship is a great deal of education,” Terri continued. “We regularly have guest speakers who have direct knowledge of what our loved ones face while incarcerated as well as the difficulties faced when released. The Fearless group is invaluable to me and I see so many others benefiting from the group.”

Our Fearless meetings start with a reading of the “courtesies,” which are the rules we follow to keep the meetings safe for everyone. Then comes a presentation by a speaker. A member named Vicky, who had been attending Fearless meetings for about six months, said she is excited that she has already heard from many speakers who are experts in their respective areas of criminal justice.

“We have heard from public defenders, probation officials, and former inmates, all of whom have provided insight into navigating life on the registry,” Vicky told me.

After the presentation, members can share about themselves and their situation to the extent they feel comfortable. One of the founders of our Fearless group explained, “I learned about the Fearless groups when I lived in another state. I felt very alone with a son in prison, and learning about the registry and terms of release was overwhelming. It was at the Fearless meeting that I met the most wonderful and supportive people. I found that we were all in this together, and we were able to share our feelings and learn from each other. I remember crying on the way home after my first meeting because I felt as though I finally had a safe place to talk with others facing the same hurdles and challenges.”

I have grown tremendously attending and speaking at Fearless groups. At one time, I didn’t see past the shame people piled on me for “letting” myself get sexually abused, and then abusing someone else. Only when I looked for my value in my own eyes did I see past the shame to the real, precious human inside me.

The power of mirror work comes from seeing the goodness and beauty in yourself. The strength. The creativity. The wonder. From seeing a fantastic person in the mirror to acting like a fantastic person is a very small step.

Talking to people at Fearless meetings can be like looking in a mirror that shows you your true, good self. With time, your PO, coworkers, and others critical to your success can’t help but see what your fellow Fearless members see radiating from you, because you are acting like the wonderful person you are.

A Fearless group could be the start of the most powerful support network you will ever have. You can make friends with people who are going through what you are, and you can help each other succeed.

NARSOL encourages individuals and organizations to launch local, independent Fearless groups. For more information about starting a Fearless group in your area, visit NARSOL’s Fearless page at and contact NARSOL at

Adapted from a longer article that originally appeared in LifeTimes magazine, Spring 2019. Used with permission.

Help us reach more people by Sharing or Liking this post.


Viewing 4 reply threads
  • Author
    • #56093 Reply

      When I found NARSOL I finally found a place to learn. When I volunteered for NARSOL, I found deeper purpose beyond being part of an audience. When Brenda asked me if I would be willing to launch a Fearless Group in my area, I was reluctant at first. The “what if’s” of justified paranoia ran through my head. But I realized, if I want to see real change, and find real connection, I had to take a bigger leap forward. Six weeks into our new Fearless group I feel like I’m actually giving back and joining the fight!
      It is a modest group to date, but I admire the others for their own courage to seek connection. It’s like I’ve known them forever because, where it counts the most, their story is my story. I’m not feeling alone anymore.
      I would encourage everyone who follows NARSOLs awesome efforts to inform, connect, and advocate to join a Fearless group if on exists near you. If there is none, then start one. It’s not hard, anyone can do it, including family members or friends who support you and your struggle. There are nearly one million of us, and most all have one to five family or friends who would want to help if they could. Imagine 5million Fearless Fighters accross this country as a force of change. This may be our best opportunity to contribute to change. Charlie, NARSOL moderator.

    • #56099 Reply

      Inspiring post. And great back up from Charlie. May everyone continue to heal.

    • #56140 Reply

      It strikes this follower of NARSOL as queer concept that in the HOME OF THE BRAVE, ” Fearless groups” are finding difficulty forming. The ” fearless” people do not exist. Databases are absolutely fearless as they are not human.

      SOR evolved out of an errant promise by our leadership that the USE of the machine was going to be a panacea for prevention of sexual attack. Justified by fear itself. Undoubtedly intentionally promoted by LEO, and associates downstream evidenced via Byrne Grants, to advance the causes of big data surveillance saints. It failed precisely because ” intentions ” we’re not saleable nor salient in the first cause.
      Thus the notorious RBG noted the queered nature of “the presumption that recidivism can be a legislative statutory concern” at all. Her point being the textual basis of ex post lies in the limit on the ONLY ONE BRANCH.

      • #56682 Reply
        Paul Hanley

        Hi Timothy,

        I sympathize with your sentiments on how ironic it is that in “The Home of the Brave,” Fearless groups are finding difficulty forming. You make a good point too that the machines are “fearless.” Yes, but they also lack courage. All machines can do is programmed into them by perfectly imperfect humans. The people I meet in Fearless groups are not “Fearless” in some abstract, mathematical sense of the term. They are better than that: Fearless members feel fear, but again and again act fearlessly in spite of this viscerally, paralyzingly, primordially challenging emotion.

        I submit that the main difficulty forming Fearless groups is that most people on the registry, and most of our loved ones, are not even aware Fearless groups exist, let alone what Fearless groups are and how they can be formed and maintained. I further submit that all we need to do to fix this problem is get the word out together with links to further information such as my article above, as well as a contact email for NARSOL at: – The amazing people at NARSOL, with their years of experience, can then help potential Fearless groups overcome the other practical obstacles to setting up and running these groups.

        Yes, the “enemy,” if that’s what you want to call the registry machine, is fearless. But only in an eviscerated, emotionally empty meaning of the word “fearless.” More and more HUMAN Fearless meetings are springing up around the country. We will only be defeated if we stop trying.

    • #56143 Reply

      Heel ! I guess Sometimes one find’s out what intials stand for such as “Military Police” or PA as in Public Attorney, course dont’ quote me on intials as letters or initials mean something to someone, but what is the letter of ther law or is man’s law the main authority in a lot of this hodge pouge of Justice…?

      A lot of this whole ordeal is like a “Murder she wrote” of a TV series, Do we all have warning signs in many of these ordeals. Yes their are two side’s to every story but healing is the best.

      We already have “Hate” Crimes in America in many ordeals of bias Law and Order, even the black list from the past several decades. Someone even brought up the Jim Crow law. Is the Sex offender the topper of all this murder with a cause, or an overt inducement with a cause, or is it a way to sway a man or woman with this unethical means. Could a lot of us look at the sex registry as “inducement type of punishment” or is it justified by callous actions on both party’s.

      Everything works if you work it. At times one wonders if one is a panalist of a game show such as “Whats my line”, “I’ve got a secert” or “To tell the Truth” so either one wins at jepordy or we take it to People’s Court. Who wants to go up to anothe and say I’m a sex offender in general public or are they the bias one? We all face struggles and barriers in many endeavors of life at times.

      My dad once said “if you can’t say anything good about anyone don’t say it at all. Politics, I try not to get involved or even vote because in the long run they say they are all crooks I never thought I would be on here or I’m sure Marilyn Manroe would be on the cover of Playboy in that era, but thats reality. Can we all look at some of this sex registry as invasion of the boty snatchers or I was a teenaged wearwolf. Protecting is good but putting a scarlet letter on someone isn’t feasible and more of a bondage type of issue that scar’s..

      Sure fearless groups are good for understanding and reasoning and to comfort each other . We all have our ups and downs with family matters and Hate issues but love and forgivness are the best medicine. One wonders if one “thinks” to highly of his or her person.

      While stepping out to help others is a blessing in disguise and it needs to be done properly. Fearless groups are good to help in many issues we all face with this sex offender encounter.

      Sure speaking out is good and so is watchig what one says or do people try words in many of these callous ordeal.

    • #79875 Reply
      Darryl Olver

      The There is a suggestion of possible groups being set up throughout the state. As a registered person, (I was going to say “registered citizen but I really do not feel like a citizen), I would certainly be interested in attending such meetings. I live in Gainesville, Florida, so if ever such a group would form here I would appreciate being notified. I am 74 years old and came to the area after 25+ years of incarceration. I have been “free?” For 12+ years now and a completely compliant registrant, yet I still live in constant fear, not of the public, nor my neighbors, but of somehow violating some new or unknown policy and losing all that I have gained over the years. I am a Viet Nam vet and former Marine and so American that I am now teary eyed watching the playing of the national anthem during the inauguration. Fear is not normal within me and never has been yet it is now a constant companion made manifest by every knock on my door and my occasional nightmares. So again, should such a group come into being in this area please do make it known to me.

Viewing 4 reply threads
Reply To: Being Fearless
We welcome a lively discussion with all view points provided that they stay on topic - keeping in mind...

  • *You must be 18 or older to comment.
  • *You must check the "I am not a robot" box and follow the recaptcha instructions.
  • *Your submission must be approved by a NARSOL moderator.
  • *Moderating decisions may be subjective.
  • *Comments arguing about political or religious preferences will be deleted.
  • *Excessively long replies will be rejected, without explanation.
  • *Be polite and courteous. This is a public forum.
  • *Do not post in ALL CAPS.
  • *Stay on topic.
  • *Do not post contact information for yourself or another person.
  • *Please enter a name that does not contain links to other websites.

Your information:

<a href="" title="" rel="" target=""> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <pre class=""> <em> <strong> <del datetime="" cite=""> <ins datetime="" cite=""> <ul> <ol start=""> <li> <img src="" border="" alt="" height="" width="">