Collateral damage — learning to live without regret: Part VII-Conclusion

See also: Part I  Part II  Part III  Part IV  Part V  Part VI

Part VII: Getting Better

By Daisy . . . I am so proud of my husband for what he has achieved in the face of all of the difficulties and challenges that have confronted him over the past 16 years. Just six years ago, I would not have believed that it would be possible for him to obtain and keep a full-time job. But it was possible. In fact, since he entered the workforce in early 2013, he has had three jobs—each with a higher pay and more responsibility, including management. Even with his criminal record, he has exceeded my salary by a decent sum. I firmly believe that the key to this was the fact that he attended a community college that did not discriminate based on criminal history. Additionally, his time at school truly allowed him to flourish as he joined student groups and made friends.

After graduating, he felt like he had finally accomplished something, and he set upon trying to get his life back on track. There have been job interviews that he completely bombed because he had to talk about his criminal record. Businesses aren’t always too happy to have a “pedophile” on their payroll or to have their company address on the list. Over time, Alan became more comfortable (if one can ever be comfortable talking about his sex offense crime) with talking about his criminal history with prospective employers. Of the three who hired him over the last six years, there were probably five that outright rejected him because of his past. There were several more that he never even told.

I admire Alan for his ability to talk to a prospective employer about his crime—though he certainly does not enjoy doing it. On the other hand, our lips have been completely sealed when it comes to family and friends. I’m not even sure if the lovely neighbor of ours knows. The thing is that the conviction is so incongruent with the person Alan is at his core that I cannot possibly bear to tell anyone—except the one special friend whom I grew to trust and the landlord ten years ago that I felt I had to tell. Other than that, no one knows our story. I don’t want to burden them with the knowledge of our painful and difficult experience, but mostly I fear that I will not receive sympathy—and that’s a risk I’m not willing to take. I have heard many hurtful words and generalizations about sex offenders, and they cut deeply into the definition of who I am and who Alan is. I would rather have everyone in my family and circle of friends think that we were both lazy and directionless in our 20s and early 30s instead of stricken and traumatized by a sex offense conviction.

Therefore, I wear an impermeable mask of privacy. I excel at throttling all of my feelings so no one is aware of the acute pain inside. I share very little about my life with others while instead devouring every minute detail of their lives. It’s a defense mechanism that works quite well in social services since I’m charged with listening anyway, so I slide by truly unnoticed. My story remains locked away because no matter how articulate I am or how eloquently I regale others with my journey, I know that there will be a crushing amount of judgment.

I know not to minimize his crime, but it is so difficult because I know that Alan is a good person. I know that he would never hurt anyone, much less a child. I know his intentions were not due to a sexually deviant perversion indicative of a desire to sexually molest children. But, on the other hand, I have heard people in professional positions—such as probation officers and county-appointed therapists and landlords in addition to random people full of outrage on the internet—say that people like Alan are incorrigible predators who should be sent to an island. So, while I try my darnedest not to minimize his offense, I also attempt to prevent the outside from polluting my empathy and ability to understand why someone would do something that is out of character, and that is why I do not share my story. I know Alan is not some demon predator and, likewise, I am not one myself for supporting and loving him. I am sure that there are other family members of convicted sex offenders who feel this exact same way.

In many ways, it seems that I do not actually deserve this very private pain that I feel because it just cannot be understood by so many. There is an absence of sympathy around this type of crime, so I build my walls high. Not only am I attempting to rebuild my toppled inner building, but I have already pre-built a fortress around it—one that nothing can penetrate. I’m always vigilant—as I’m sure most sex offenders and their family members have trained themselves to be. I’m always ready for the next law to swoop in and change my life even though Alan hasn’t been on the registry for over a year. I’m always prepared to put up my defenses in case someone finds out. It’s hard to live life on a knife edge like this—and it has abated to a small degree since he was removed from the registry—but it has come to be part of who I am as a person.

However, I always try to take something positive from all of the experiences in my life, and at least I can say that this constant awareness and vigilance that I feel has truly made me understand the absolute need for privacy. In my job in social services and as a human being in general, I respect others’ confidentiality and privacy to an unbelievable degree. I say nothing negative, I don’t pry, and I keep secrets forever. I know what it’s like to completely lose any semblance of privacy, which is why I recognize how profoundly important and precious it is.

This whole voyage through my adult life has been, to a great degree, an out-of-body experience where part of me is on the outside simply observing the occurrence of everything in a sort of astonished daze. I have become humbled. Extremely humbled. I am a much different person than I was in 2003. Alan is a much different person—probably even more so than I. I would be amiss to say that I’m not terribly damaged, but I proved to myself that I was stronger than I ever knew I could be, and we proved that our love for each other is absolutely impervious. And the love we have for each other is what keeps me going every single day. I hope others in my situation have something like that to get them through as well.

My life has been really confusing and disorienting and painful and destructive. But it has also been beautiful and educative and profound and full of love. I know that there must be so many others out there who have helplessly stood by as I have or who have been directly affected by a similar ordeal while feeling the same series of emotions that I have felt. I know from my personal experience that you feel lost, hollow, angry, sad, depressed, anxious, hopeless, and despondent. I know that you feel undeserving of your pain. I know that you feel the need to put up barriers of mental protection because you know that no one else could possibly understand and accept the burden of your situation. You know you are a good person deep down, but you feel like no one will believe you.

I can tell you that I am at least one real person in this world who can empathize with you—whether you’re a family member or an offender. We all make stupid, idiotic, thoughtless decisions without realizing the consequences of our actions. I bet there are a lot of people out there like us who thought they were smart and special, and maybe they were a little over-confident in their ability to navigate this world and reach their goals without hitting any major obstacles. I’m speaking to those people who thought they had it made but were so ignorant to the fact that just one small mistake could have the power to derail their whole life as it did mine and Alan’s. I truly empathize with you, and it breaks my heart to know that this happens to others.

Just know that life does get better. It takes a lot of time and patience, but it does get better. And by writing those words, I am forcing myself to believe it—though I do see it in my life now every single day. Things do get better if you let them. An experience like this tests your strength. It tests your resolve to actually live your life instead of just floating through it like a defeated shell of a person hanging on to a deflated balloon while a soul-shaking earthquake topples the inner scaffolding of what makes you you. It’s hard to not let that big ocean gobble you up and pull you to the very bottom. Hopefully, you can prove to yourself that you can survive this.

Like me, you are stronger than you realize.

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This topic contains 13 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by Avatar David Higham 2 weeks, 3 days ago.

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  • #57529 Reply
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    admin

    See also: Part I  Part II  Part III  Part IV  Part V  Part VI Part VII: Getting Better By Daisy . . . I am so proud of my husband for what he has achi
    [See the full post at: Collateral damage — learning to live without regret: Part VII-Conclusion]

  • #57552 Reply
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    John Rackman

    If there is one takeaway at the end of this, it is that we as offenders absolutely cannot let what (in some cases) was a mistake define who we are today. What we did was indicative of who we were at the time of the act; for those of us who have indeed bettered ourselves and redeemed ourselves to ourselves and our loved ones, we have the ability to move on with grace and dignity, to show character, and to exhibit strength in the face of what are, in some jurisdictions, hellish circumstances.

  • #57559 Reply
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    Alan

    Without muting the point Daisy is trying to make, I would like to clarify the use of the word “friends” in the first paragraph.

    I did not then, and do not now, have “friends”. I have a very small list of people with whom I am friendly, but that isn’t the same thing as having friends. I feel its important for the reality of my situation (and for many others’) to clarify this.

    I function well in a professional setting; I’m knowledgeable, polite, and hardworking. People like me and think I’m nice–and normal. But I am damaged. While I am hopeful that in the future I may have a real friend again, I believe this damage is permanent. Try as I might to overcome it, I am always pulled back into being vigilantly cautious and untrusting.

    Thank you all for letting us share our journey with you!

    Alan

    • #57608 Reply
      Charlie
      Charlie
      Moderator

      The belief that you are damaged is just that, a belief. And what we beleive about ourselves drives all our thoughts, feelings, decisions, actions, and character, which all brings us to outcomes. I, like you, once bought into the lie that I was damaged. But real overcoming, freedom, restoration, whatever you would choose to call it must be proceeded by an adjustment of belief. Don’t let external forces determine who you are. You are the author of your life and outcomes. remember hurting people hurt other people. So if you’re damaged your prone to hurt others. But if you are recovered and restored you are able to heal others. I understand that you must put up a boundary between yourself and would be friends. But don’t put up a wall around your heart and call yourself damage. As a counselor I can tell you that what happened in the past is really in the past. It’s what you do in the here and now that counts. Labels from the past exist only in the mind. The person that you were when you did the crime, or were convicted of the crime, or accused of a crime, no longer exists. We are a combination of our experiences. I’m a psychodynamic point of view we are the outcome of an enormity of input and actions. We are not defined by a singular event. No external force can legitimately cause you to be damaged if you don’t want to be. This goes for victims of sexual violence as well. as long as you are considering yourself damage, or as long as they are considering themselves victims, you will never really have full authorship of your life. Being a victim of circumstances or other people gives a piece of someone else’s control. It is up to you to complete the job that you so masterfully started and take back control over who you are. Charlie

      • #57613 Reply
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        Alan

        Charlie,

        Thank you! I will try to actively process your advice.

        Alan

  • #57561 Reply
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    Ernest B Tucker

    I consider myself blessed as I am well over 65 and retired and not forced to deal with so many issues that the younger people are faced with. Your disclosure gives me hope. The efforts of the members of this group are so greatly appreciated.
    But I must think back to the days when I was a patriot. Maybe I still am as I love what this country used to be before our senators and representatives ceased to be so and became “Law Makers. ”
    With each of these draconian indefensible laws that are cratered we lose another freedom.
    The registry is the most destructive of these unjustified laws.
    Now with Tennessee’s recent decision it is like the gates of Hell have opened.
    I want to express my thanks to all of you, both advocates and registrants. We on the registry and on supervised release have our hands tied. It is only through forums such as this that we can be heard and feel free to express our selves and obtain a sense of hope.
    I used to light my flag 24/7 to show my pride and patriotism. Now I can’t even go to a public display for the celebration of Independence Day. I can’t go outside of my house because of the children on the street celebrating. I want to quote a line from an iconic movie from a earlier time which was adapted from a very famous work of prose.
    “We will not go quietly into the night! We will not go without a fight!”
    To win this war, we must win the battles. We must change the laws that these statutes are based upon. But how does one eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
    The courant laws that we are subject to are indefensible as contrary to popular belief. if you are indicted, you are considered guilty by the court and must prove your innocence. This is exactly what the public defender told me as I fought my case. One day I would like the freedom to tell my story in its entirety. But not now.
    May God love and keep each and every one of you.

  • #57575 Reply
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    Rhonda

    I appreciate you taking the time to put into words each step of this process. I do feel you are slightly more enlightened because your husband is no longer on the Registry. That in itself is a little twinkle of relief.
    But as a parent, and older, I see no hope for our son. He’s a very likable person. Great personality, attractive and avid outdoorsman. But it is a lonely walk. It’s lonely as a parent, too. In some ways more so. If people learn to know him, they truly like him and know they can depend on him. But otherwise, they turn and run away. When we moved a few years ago, people would be friendly until they did their usual neighborhood watch “search”. And once again we are all alone.
    We are presently in the middle of a lawsuit fighting for his freedom….
    But even our attorney says the laws will never change because lawmakers don’t care and they don’t want it on their record to side against this.
    It’s been 16 long, lonely years. And I’m sorry I don’t see it ever changing.

    • #57609 Reply
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      Donna S

      Thank you so much for sharing your story. It takes a very brave and confident person to share their story. I pray for each and every person on the registry. I can’t do much more than doing that and donating a small amount every month but I feel like it is something. I wish you and your husband all the best and may you continue to thrive.

  • #57590 Reply
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    PS

    Very encouraging. I own my own business and and a freelancer at the same time. Between these two things I have been able to firewall my work. This story makes me want to focus even harder to be successful, thank you…

  • #57591 Reply
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    Beate Trottman

    I can relate in many ways. Met my husband in 2013…married for two years. Right now he’s being held in jail (and we are fighting).
    This is our third time being apart…
    Still I am here and stand beside him. Why? Because he WAS a sex offender and is the best man I could ask for. If it wasn’t that he had the burden of his past and probation, many woman would want him, and I am sure he would have found someone better than me. So, from that perspective it is my fortune that I can look beyond his past.
    But I am bold and stand behind him, share with certain people at work my husbands past and take careful steps in educating people. I find more people who are understanding and open to learn and less opinionated than one would think. Many agree when they hear about the reality and restrictions etc, that it’s out of control.
    Up to this day nobody turned away from me or gave me a hard time.
    I am being encouraged and guided to move up within my job!
    Stand behind your partner or family member!

  • #57594 Reply
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    Connie

    Thank you very much for sharing your story. We are blessed to have a wonderful church who helps sex offenders by having Conquer and Seven Pillar groups meeting to overcome sexual addictions. The men learn to trust their groups and develop true friendships while they deal with serious problems and how to overcome them. I am thankful my husband now has friends who know him and care about him. Although it is hard and sad at times to endure the punishment of the registry, we have hope that some day the population will understand the truth of the damage the registry causes and laws will be changed.
    I truly believe the public would agree with us that in my husband’s case of wearing shorts without underwear and visually offending two adult women ( no minors ever offended) 20 years punishment is unjust! But, with no money to go to court and fight, we just have to suffer the registry punishments till the time is up. Our question is would we be free then to take our RV and visit other states without their registry punishments affecting us? Now we know of states that if you visit they put you on their registry and do not remove you!

  • #57611 Reply
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    Wearethepeople

    Thank you Daisy for writing this story. We are all in this together, me as a family member. I wrote a book because when I first went into the courtroom it was not at all what I would have thought it should have been. So I started to take notes and I wrote it all down. I talked daily to who is now labeled a SVP. I wrote the true story down and that is what I wrote in my book. I really want to hear more of the stories. I know how hard it is for a SO to find a job and housing. My door was opened wide and it has been wonderful to have him here. He is no longer my grandson, he is more like my son in my heart. I love him so much!

  • #57628 Reply
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    The Criminalized Man

    Alan, if I knew you in face-to-face life I’d be honored to be known as your friend.

  • #57634 Reply
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    David Higham

    Daisy,
    Very good story about being a sex offenders wife, my wife has stood by me though my ordeal,after this allegation came out about me molesting my step granddaughter I told my wife to go and file for a divorce which she said absolutely not she stay through my being arrested,during,my trial and my prison sentence which was 20 years to serve and then another 20 probation keep in mind this was a he say she say case with no physical evidence.
    I was also placed on the registry which I did not let it affect me in anyway shape or form,my attitude is if someone says something to me about being in the registry I go right at them and explain what has happened to me and I found that more honest I was with people the more respect I got even from probation officers because they are so used to people saying they are innocent but took a plea bargin,I don,t have a lot of money to challenge these laws and I also asked the aclu for help to no avail.So I guess the motel of the story is you have to be yourself and don’t let anyone push you around if they do not like the idear of you standing behind your husband then shame on them someday we will be able to repeal the so called sorna and the rest of these idiotic laws so keep your chin up and walk talk again very good and tragic story.

  • #57644 Reply
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    Saddles

    While I have to admit I had to go back and read some of the details to this ordeal and the pitfalls that this couple shared they stuck together thick and thin. Now thats standing by your man or loved one.

    While I’m somewhat like Ernest up their and going into my senior years I can see the change in America and government in a whole lot of ways. What is independance day today. America started off with Christian principals and the ten commandments and thats a done deal.

    Today many are still in bondage in a lot of this new age sex registry. Is this internet used as a form of ensnaring/entrapment, if one wants to call it or man’s way to combat crime in this mind over matter deceptive chrade. One wonders who’s protecting who or who gets the burden. Where is the sword of justice or the truth of justice. Who is stealing justice or instilling injustice? Yes in a lot of this sex registry a lot more needs to be addressed.

    If a man thinkest? I am sure others like to try and out think with logic. Is this a form of family feud to get along in a humanitian way. Is their any love thy neighbor today or a nobody tells me what to do authority. One wonders who wields the sword today, or is it eat or be eaten by a lot of this political game which one investigator has told me its all part of the game.

    Life is not a game. While downloading is one factor of this sex registry, the hardships and sufferings are another. So were do facts and truth collide. Somethings wrong and thats why due process is so important. Getting rid of this registry and its cracks and crumbling form is necesssary in a lot of ways. The registry is without warning and without warning is a form of greedy covetousness. and being rational is good if we rationalize with true understanding and wisdom.

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