Shame

By a daughter seeking kindness

Part I: How it started

If you have a parent or sibling convicted of a crime that requires them to have their name with personal information listed on a sex offense registry, you at some point will almost certainly be in danger or shamed beyond comprehension. I have suffered silently from shame for 37 years, and I will no longer do so. I am speaking out about how everyone has treated the daughter of a person who is a registered sexual offender.

I am America’s example of constant shame. If you share the same DNA with someone on the registry, prepare to put your amour on as you will need it. I have endured situations no one should ever go through as an adult, let alone a ten-year-old child.

This is my personal story of shame and miscommunication. I ask you not to respond to this article with any negativity. I shouldn’t have to defend myself. I hope to encourage families to cry out and share their stories explaining the cost of having a loved one on this hit list.

I call it a hit list because the act of putting personal information accessible online for anyone to have makes it exactly that. Family members, those related to registrants, especially those living with registrants, did nothing to deserve the fall-out that results from public registration. It opens the doors to angry neighbors, to those filled with hate, to vigilantes, and to scammers of every sort.

The beginning of my story has deep roots.

As a child, I watched someone I love suffering from the after-effects of the Vietnam war where he saw unspeakable things, things that can never be unseen. The child that I was, of course, understood none of it except the resultant shame. My dad had a mental breakdown in 1983. The term posttraumatic stress disorder was in its infancy, and its connection to war conditions and horrors would come too late to help my father.

My dad was accused of doing something awful that no one could comprehend, not even him. He has no memory of the crime they say he committed, but he was a military man, a law-abiding military man. Due to his mental illness, he did not dispute the charges, so he served his time in prison. I had no idea then of the abuse my father had endured; we were always hushed when we asked questions. I know now that he suffered abuse in childhood, in Vietnam, and in the hospital. I know now that my family members themselves were struggling with what happened and did not know how to communicate such an accusation against their dad to young children. I was the eldest of four.

I am tired of people telling me I play a victim’s role. It’s judgmental, wrong, and psychologically damaging. I lived through the Vietnam War in my home, years after its ending, and now I am living an American War called, “Let’s shame people until there is nothing left of them.”  We will shame people until we destroy their homes, their workplaces (if they are lucky enough to have one), their families, even until they ultimately end their own lives.

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