“I’m a child rapist” — a story in four parts: Part I

See also: Part IIPart III – Part IV

Part I: Introduction

I had the opportunity to share my story recently as a speaker at a Restorative Justice conference. It was the first time outside of treatment that I’ve shared this much of my story and the first time sharing it with an audience in a safe but public environment. By all accounts, it was well received, so I thought perhaps others might benefit from hearing it.

It is the personal struggle of my family and me in and through the pain of darkness and abuse out the other side into the sunshine of love and forgiveness. It is the story of abusers, victims, and, most importantly, those who triumphed over it all.

I hope that it brings encouragement to a long-suffering community of registered citizens, their family and friends, and all those who struggle alongside us in one of the most under-appreciated civil rights movements in modern-time.

In order to protect myself and my family, both past and present, the name Joe Smith is a pseudonym.

 

I’m Joe Smith, and I’m a child rapist.

This statement was the state’s idea of what was needed for restorative justice. It was not what was needed by those who needed restoring the most – my family, especially my stepdaughter, and myself.

I’m a child rapist; this is what offenders had to stand up and say in front of their spouses and other group members weekly while attending group therapy sessions mandated by the state and child protective services (CPS), and neither the introductory statement nor attendance were optional. If you wanted to reunite your family, you had to attend, introduce yourself this way, and comply with a host of other requirements. Proclaiming I’m a child rapist over and over is not restorative. It is rather the epitome of shame and labeling.

I am many things. I wear many labels; foremost among them is “convicted sex offender” and “pedophile.” I was originally clinically diagnosed with pedophilia, but after several years of real and honest treatment, I was assessed again using the Abel Test and certified free from all inappropriate predilections. Unfortunately, the label remains. In today’s vernacular or conversation, it seems “pedophile” is used as a descriptor or label for almost everyone convicted or accused of a sexual offense, whether or not a minor was involved. It’s used as a derogatory statement meant to isolate, push people away, and belittle. I have thick skin and don’t pay it much attention, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t hurt.

I am so much more than just those labels:

  • I’m a retired Navy chief petty officer with 20 years of honorable service;
  • I’m a college graduate with an associate in finance, a bachelors in business management, and currently working on an MBA;
  • At work, I’m a director of product operations with a six-figure income (I mention my income not to brag but rather to offer hope that financial success is possible);
  • I’m a husband to a wife of almost 30 years;
  • I’m a father to a son and stepfather to a daughter;
  • I’m a grandfather to my daughter’s two children, my grandchildren;
  • I’m the son of a sexual abuser, my father;
  • I’m the brother of a sexual abuser sister and a sexual abuser brother;
  • I’m the child of an untreated, closeted, incestuous family with a taboo upbringing;
  • And lastly, I’m a sexual abuse survivor as well as a sexual abuser.

See also: Part II – Part III – Part IV

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    • #54663 Reply
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      Constance Stannard

      The so-called treatment today is so I’ll informed that it is often counterproductive. I look forward to the rest of your story.

      • #54665 Reply
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        Margaret

        I am curious as to how you rose above all. It seems to me they are taking Alcohol Anonymous “I am an Alcoholic” to other levels. As an alcoholic I know this can be a road to recovery, but not sure how it works for registrants. My son is on the registry and we are well aware of the all the suffering that goes with it. I am interested in II article. Too many of registrants constitutional rights are taken away. Yes you are more than a label, I know that. Your right about society, as soon as they hear the word rape your a pedophile. People are ill informed and do not know the pain families go through. I support my son, and I have friends that support me. I do get a lot of unwanted advice from my well meaning family. My sons brother is the worst. He tells everyone his brother is a pediphile and is just plan mean even though he has a checkered past. I chose to become informed and stand by my son, and get more support from friends than relatives. The registry needs to go. I pray everyday. I live in a state that is not as bad as others. When we lived in MA it was a night mare, people would not leave us alone. Police, neighbors etc. Sincerely Margaret

        • #54838 Reply
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          Joseph

          Hello Margaret,
          I was just wondering what state you’re in. I’m half way through my parole “fingers crossed” and am looking to move from the place I’ve lived most of my life.

    • #54667 Reply
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      Ericca

      I eagerly await the rest of your story. I am a sexual abuse survivor as well as the mother of a daughter who was sexually abused by my now ex husband. I would especially be interested in hearing from your wife. I commend your bravery and honesty and thank you for publishing your story

      • #54730 Reply
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        Joe

        I will encourage my wife to share; however, she is as one might suspect guarded and not totally open to sharing – even anonymously.

    • #54668 Reply
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      Don Mann

      I think your journey and subsequent bravery in speaking out is admirable and lends evidence of an individual walking away and healing from a season of poor life choices.

      I used to be seated among those that put in place the mandates to require you to self-label, classify and systemically subject yourself to shame, embarrassment, nd guilt in the midst of what’s already a very unpleasant place.

      A career in law enforcement required me to judge the behaviors and choices of others countless times everyday. It’s easy to justify that behavior when you receive compensation for carrying out your duties and the assumption that society as a whole not only needs me to do so, but I was convinced that I was taking on a vital role.

      I felt like a hero. I was never more wrong. Unfortunately, in my story I didn’t have the luxury of easing into a more compassionate and forgiving mindset that would hopefully lead to change in my approach and treatment of others. No, my story did not involve anything slow or circumstances that would allow for a peaceful transition and the gain of a priceless perspective.

      I still shudder at the impact from my journey. I’m nonetheless thankful to have survived the trip. I’m even more thankful for the truth in my new gained perspective that caused character changes to my core.

      I used to be a decorated law enforcement officer with many hours of study in Criminal Justice Administration; a D.A.R.E. Officer who taught our youth skills to avoid drug and alcohol use & abuse; a Security Specialist with the Federal Government who appreciated high level security clearance; a Nationally Certified Surgical Technologist; had a degree in Practical Nursing; who was living life happily married and father of four great children.

      Three years later I remember waking up looking at a man whose poor life choices stemming from early teen trauma resulted in consequences from alcohol abuse and multiple DWI convictions; career loss; divorce; child custody loss; culminating with a suicide attempt, a 7 month stay in the country jail and about 4 months of living in a homeless shelter.

      We’ve all heard the suggestion to walk in someone else’s shoes. My story afforded me the perspective gained in that choice only much much faster and much more dramatically.

      Labels or titles that carry negative or damaging characteristics often do not come with a time limit; an appeal board; or explanation. They simply serve to demean and devalue a human life based on choices made during a chapter of a much larger book that also has many more chapters of great times and choices.

      If our goal is to help an individual find their path to healing from the issues that lead to their poor choices, in order that they may take on the identity and role they were originally and intentionally designed for, we cannot ignore that current best practices have shown to sabotage an individual’s intrinsic desire to improve and prevent any amount of healing or restoration.

      I’m excited to see change in the making.

    • #54670 Reply
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      Andy Hudak III

      As a provider for people that act out sexually, (and their families) I just wanted to congratulate you on your work.
      I also want to apologize for for the 10-15 or so years that I blindly followed the toxic training that I received in 1982 that encouraged me to have clients say the shaming “My name is ______, and I am a sex offender” meme that you call out in Part 1 herein.
      I knew all that I needed to know about identity and shame to have rejected that toxic process, and yet some (wounded, co-dependent) part of me gave up power to the large “group think” message that I became a destructive part of. I will remain sorry forever re this, and use my pain to also bring awareness to the destructiveness of this old, and, I believe “dying” approach.
      I DID stop that practice in the mid-90’s, but not before I influenced many clients in the exact opposite way that my general goal of helping them and their families heal should have dictated.
      I send you good thoughts and feelings of support for your message and mission to help people see you, and your fellow clients, as not only low risks to re-offend, but moreover, people who have allowed the pain of their betrayal to fuel an admirable walk of redemption.
      It is one of my (ironic) awarenesses that those that condemn people like you have often been passed on the continuum of health by the very people they condemn… people like you that have grown immensely through facing the pain of the betrayals of your loved ones …
      I want to honor that you appear to be, like many of my clients, one that has benefited immensely by honestly engaging their destructive behavior, with openness to alternative approaches in relationships to the various fight and flight patterning made necessary by their own childhood abusive histories!
      With your permission, I will circulate your story among past, present and future people that walk what my Indian friends call “The Red Road”, what my Christian clients call “The Path of Redemption”, and what my agnostic and atheist clients simply call being a good human being.
      We all need courageous role models like you!

      • #54731 Reply
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        Joe

        In Luke 17:3 (New International Version) Jesus said, “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them.” From your comments, it would appear that a rebuke has occurred in your life and practice and that you have turned (repented). On and for this, I accept your apology. You have my permission to circulate my full story in your practice for your clients on the “The Red Road,” “The Path of Redemption,” or in their simple efforts to be good human beings.

      • #54749 Reply
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        John

        Wow. Just, wow. I am sorry for your trevails but heartened by your insight and understanding. What a journey!

        Many never live as long as we have; using our remaining time to heal our victims and highlight the hypocrisy of law enforcement and unconstitutional persecution of registered humans is a worthy endeavor IMHO. Keep speaking up, keep speaking out.

        Real people speaking up and out change minds…

    • #54688 Reply
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      Tyrus Young

      Interesting and positive story… congratulations on your ability to rise above the situation that occurred earlier in your life. The entire nomenclature is inaccurate and perpetuates a myth about those that have offended. The majority of those on the registry have one conviction and statistically will not re-offend, particularly if they have had proper behavior counseling. It is grammatically inaccurate to refer to them as a sex offender. Yes, they committed a sexual offense. If you are arrested for a DUI when you are 22… completely reform yourself and give up alcohol… 20 years later are you still referred to as a drunk? Saying someone is a sex offender indicates a current condition or practice. Statistics support that that is not the rule. But the media hype keeps reinforcing the idea in people’s minds that there is a risk. And as you point out… too many hear “sex offender” and assume you are a pedophile.

      WE MUST EDUCATE THE PUBLIC… they are being misled.

      • #54706 Reply
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        Charles Polinger

        Agreed 100% with your comments.
        Our elected “protectors of the population” feel vindicated by passing onerous laws, arguing that “once a —–, always a —–. Few elected officials would have the courage to say, everyone deserves a second chance. Lets look at a case-by-case situation.

    • #54695 Reply
      Charlie
      Charlie
      Moderator

      I remember years ago, when I led a foster agency, and we wanted to create a program for juveniles who were adjudicated as sexual offenders, the direct advice we got from those in authority. “The best treatment” (so they claimed) “was to have victims if sexual assualt and rape confront the boys en masse in as aggressive language as possible, to make it clear to these boys (mostly 13-15 years of age) how evil their actions were.” Of course, we didn’t do this. But it was the prevailing mindset of the state “Redirecting Sexual Aggression” modality. What it really was was vigilantism with state approval. The psychological damage that comes from hate us never curative, if we allow ourselves to use that word. Sure, it makes hose who can’t let their anger go feel empowered in the moment, but serves no one, victim, perpetrator, or society one bit.
      In counseling, I use a tool that shows and “anger chain” to help people understand the origins and the outcomes of anger out of control. In the chain we showed that hurt leads to anger and anger when it festers results in either anger turned inward which equals depression, or anger turned outward which equals aggression. Otherwise known as bitterness and rage. For human to take place enraging the victims and the perpetrator is the opposite a good mental health.

    • #54696 Reply
      Timothy D.
      Timothy Davich

      Well “Joe” I am in the same shoes as you. I was sexually abused as a child starting at age 8 and it continued until 16, by nine different offenders, one of which was my Mother. So I know where you come from and relate. I had to attend treatment as well and was put in the denial group, and was told every week (paying $40.00) to have a so called therapist tell me I was not worth the ground I walked on, that I was a piece of Sh_t, along with several others.
      What this did was make me even more backed in the corner and withdrawn. I never wanted to deal with this “therapist” ever again, but guess who the DOC upon my release decided to have me do treatment with. Yep you guessed it, I told them I did not want to do therapy with them but that didn’t matter, after several years in prison I and doing therapy there I had a little better feeling about treatment but still even though I was honest, I was being told I was lying. this went on for the entire 24 months I was in the program, and finally at the end I was given a polygraph and passed it, I said told you so, then was told that Polygraphs are not proof positive. Funny, when guys would fail, they gave them hell and said they were lying, I pass and feel like I’m still being told I’m lying. How does that work. Non the less I finally got the chance to get true honest therapy and well, I made lots of changes in my life. I’m the best person ever. I like you Joe have several labels, the one I don’t say much about or live my life by is the Felon, Sex Offender Etc, Etc.
      I tell everyone, I am a person first, there is NO label that can tell anyone about who I am in just a few words. I like you and many thousands of others more then any label. I’m a person first, and the best person ever now that I know about myself and how to be better then the distorted thoughts and feelings I used to have about myself. I think like you we should have more people come forward and well their stories, I have learned so much from talking to others, and I hope others have learned from me.
      I mentor several guys both on and off paper, I even hire them to work with me on a regular basis. I look forward to the next installment of your story. Thanks for sharing!!

      • #54704 Reply
        Charlie
        Charlie
        Moderator

        Have you, or anyone else here, thought about helping to launch a Fearless Group in your area? The most effective way we can all help is to support those who are still stuck in the well of despair by giving stories of hope, sharing skills and best practices, and supporting one another. NARSOLs Fearless Project is doing just that, and anyone with the motivation can launch one and be a catalyst of hope. I’m working with Brenda at NARSOL to expand this outreach because I too have been weighted down by what feels like hopelessness from the registry. in Fearless and other similar activities, I’m feeling empowered once more, despite the horrific treatment protocols, institutionalized shaming, and public ignorance. There are nearly one million of us, plus families, which if activated, would make a significant force of action.
        Check out https://narsol.org/projects/support/fearless/ and if you want help launching, email me at secretary@safervirginia.org.

        • #54732 Reply
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          Joe

          I wholeheartedly support the NARSOL initiated Fearless project, and yes, I’m personally involved today in supporting its success! Thanks for sharing.

    • #54698 Reply
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      Former Offender

      I appreciate “Joe” taking the time to share your story with us. The more people I hear about like you, the more convinced I am that the treatment of people convicted of sex offenses will have to be looked at and treated differently. The majority of the people like us deserve a second chance after going through the legal process and serving time even if a person is on parole.

      While my background is a little different, what I did after prison was very much similar to “Joe”. Seven months after I was released I started working on my undergraduate degree. After graduating I worked as a manager for two retail stores and then as a customer service supervisor for a regional department store. I went back to college and finished my MBA. After not being able to find work I settled overseas. Eventually I went back to school again and earned my DBA in International Business finishing four years ago this week. I now teach business at the university level.

      I have to believe that there are many more success stories out there that need to be told to combat the lies about sex offenders.

    • #54699 Reply
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      Old Offender

      My State mandated “treatment “ was not this shaming, but it was more punishment than treatment. They laid out more rules than my PO and if you broke the smallest of them you were required to attend additional “treatment” sessions, sometimes as many as 5 a week, at 50 dollars each. The treatment consisted of a lot of confessions and definitely were great at fostering shame and guilt. Then there were the polygraphs. Getting a deceptive or even an inconclusive on these resulted in being forced to attend more “treatment” sessions and retake the polygraphs until you passed (at 240 dollars a poly). I and many others had great difficulty passing a poly. Anyone who thinks they really are lie detectors doesn’t know what they are talking about. I failed dozens and not once was I being untruthful. I believe the guilt and shame re-forced in treatment carried over into the polygraphs. Between the sessions and the polys , I completed “treatment” in 3-1/2 years and the only thing I gained from it was thousands of dollars in debt.

    • #54705 Reply
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      Brandon

      Dear Joe,

      I must admit that your courage to write, and even speak about the things you have done means a lot about who you are as a person.

      You saying you had to say I am a “child rapist” really does not sit well with me. As there is power in our words, and to have to speak that over yourself each time you had to attend group seems counterproductive. However, you rose, and now your standing. As I read all the things you have accomplished I could not help but wonder why someone who seemed to have it all throw it all away for temporarily pleasure?
      I am sure there were various reasons that the crime took place. What matters now is the fact you are a new person, and have the ability to help others from making the decisions you once made. I look forward to the next part of your story. Until next time…

      Brandon

    • #54709 Reply
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      joseph gurczynski

      I look forward to reading more of your story. Most of the time our side of the story goes unheard and not notice.Any abuse is wrong. It take courage to admit to being wrong. I lost my family because like other people who got to register as well It is a public shaming!

      • #54750 Reply
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        John

        Brandon,
        “Why would [Joe]” throw it all away for temporary pleasure? Why not ask Joe why he let himself be abused as a child.by his father? The first step in understanding the incomprehensible is to listen. Stop inputting other peoples outputs over your life experience and just empathize, or at least sympathize. I appreciate your honest questions though bc most readers would wonder the same, I am sure.

        Like Joe, I was assaulted. I was raped on a weekly basis for a year when i was 12 by a friend of the family. I hid that shit deep down and when my perfect little life, oh and it WAS perfect, showed signs of stress I responded by embracing my insecurity: I retreated to a den of fantasy by chasing the porn Gods down the rabbit hole until I woke up one day in federal prison.

        Did I think I was going to get caught? Did I think i was trading my life for a moment of sexual gratification? I didnt even think I was doing anything illegal. Wrong? Sure. You would not believe what the feds are charging these days. In any case, if I am being honest jail saved me however unjust it was and i have come out the other side stronger and a better person. Like Joe, I still have my wife and my two young boys and enjoy many labels that do not relate to what kind of porn I looked at a few years ago.

    • #54725 Reply
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      Kristen

      Thank you for your courage in speaking out Joe, I look forward to the rest of your story. It sounds like your wife and daughter chose a different path than what was (is) “prescribed” – I’m very interested in hearing your family’s story. Again, I just want to thank you. We need more voices, more stories.

    • #54751 Reply
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      Veronica Williams

      Thank you for sharing, this is truly compelling and well needed for families and victims, in an approach to heal from the devastation of this so needed sensitive topic. I am a mother of a family member who also is labeled for an offense done as a child but charged as an adult, ten years later. As a mother, along with many other mother’s I have spoken with, we to suffer in silence trying to give as much support as we can. But we too suffer with the shame that comes with this label as it does not help re-entry. I too hope that one day we can do away with the shame and look at this in another light and form other means to help individuals with hope and healing with redemptive measures, instead of shame and suffering. We must all begin to speak up, speak out and speak together on this topic that is so sensitive that has reaked havoc on our society and needs change at the very core of what was meant to be pure and meaningful between husband and wife. Thank you for sharing your story and I to look forward to part 2. As I also have begun to tell my story as a mother, you give courage and hope in this journey as we all have to heal. Blessings to you and your family and others in this Journey.

    • #54758 Reply
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      Mp

      I look forward to hearing more of your story. I am also very touched by all the comments here. It is so important for those who can and are willing to share their stories. I had no idea this was what the registry was about and I am frustrated by some of this therapy treatment as well. But as I learn I try to do my best to make others aware and help where I can.

      I always say…”I know enough to know, that I don’t know”. I don’t know what it is like to be in any one else shoes so it is not for me to judge how they react to life events in their life. There are consequences in life, but there should not be barriers to making amends. There should not be barriers to break what is a family cycle for many. I pray one day society sees as a whole you can not legislate people away and think that produces a safer society.

      Thank you to everyone who works so hard to move this issue forward in a positive way.

    • #54768 Reply
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      Michael

      I am right there with you but have not bounced back. My crime was invasion of privacy with no minors involved and they made me an SVP. A multiple life sentence for a misdemeanor. Treatment for life, polygraph testing for life, registering for life. I’ve been homeless, last everything and no one will hire me in spite of a good resume. I’m glad to hear at least some of us are able to do well for themselves in spite of being on that registry. I’m not as fortunate. Now I just love in a bad part of town and can’t move. Some one even tried to stab me because they thought I was a child molester because of the scary notifications that go out.

      • #54787 Reply
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        Joe

        I’d like to say that my prosperity has been due to equal measures of hard work and blessings, which wouldn’t be untrue, but which wouldn’t be the whole truth. Yes, I/we have worked hard, and yes, I/we have indeed been blessed, but I can’t discount that some if not a good deal of mine and my family’s prosperity was simply luck. And that’s where restorative justice should come in. Re-integration and restoration should not be left to the lucky; it should be a natural part of the defined process. Keep the faith brother; we’re praying for you and all the other unlucky registered citizens and families out there.

    • #54792 Reply
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      James

      Joe, thank you for opening your story to us, and I’m glad to see God blessing another brother on the path of redemption. Be blessed!
      James

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