The extreme difficulty of living as a name on a sexual offense registry

By Sandy . . . Once again, I will receive negative comments about this piece. Once again, I will be reminded that many on the registry live fulfilling, happy lives. Thank God that they do. But they seldom are the focus of the media or write to me or post anguished comments on our websites.

This is the reality of many on a registry, of those who wear the label of “sex offender,” and this is for them.

Even for those who have found a place in life where they are giving back to the community and have found love and acceptance, the registry rears its ugly head with accusations. David Pearson is a pastor of a church in Mercer County, Pennsylvania and has been so for 18 years. He is also listed on the Florida sex offender registry due to a 1993 conviction in Texas. He is not on Pennsylvania’s registry nor on Texas’s. His congregation knows about his past and, embracing the doctrine of forgiveness of sins upon which their church is founded, fully accepts him as the man he is today. The problem comes from the outside. Others in the community publicize his background, taking their complaints to the local press. David Pearson’s life is successful now, but his life, in the eyes of those outside his congregation, is summed up in this one sentence from a community member: “It doesn’t matter when you get convicted, you’re always going to be registered as a sex offender.”

The consequences of life on the registry are shown to be more critical in this comment on a NARSOL post from a reader.

I really don’t want to live this life I’ve been handed by this thing society now wields, and calls justice. I went to prison for two years, and got out because I won my appeal. I knew where I stood in prison, better than I do serving a lifetime on [the registry]. Every 6 months I’m subjected to a polygraph that costs me $150. The messed-up thing, it’s like paying for services that somebody else gets to use against me. I pay for an internet nanny that watches my web browsing, at another $15 a month.

I was fired from my superintendent job at a golf course after working there for 11 years. [They said] I was deceptive on my polygraph, so they gave me another; I was thrown in jail after freaking out on that one too. After 10 years of working my way up in the golf industry, one year of college, and buying my own condo, the judge didn’t know why they threw me in jail, and she threw out the case before I stepped foot in her court room.

My CCO of 5 years was furious  . . .  I don’t know what else I have to do to prove my worth in this messed up society, but I’m never going to stop fighting. I’m 58 years old, and my body isn’t working like it used to, and I’m afraid of what the DOC might do next. It continually feels like they hold my head under water, and I fight to find the surface to take a breath.

But the most desperate, the most heart-and-gut-wrenching in a long, long time came in this comment on a post on our Tales from the Registry website. The post was an objective account of a young man who, in the words of the writer, “. . . departed this life at 24 years old. Given the choice between death and the sex registry, he chose death. This is the impact of what the registry means in real life.”

And this is a portion of Jessica’s reply.

I think of death every day and I can’t wait for it to happen, whether I do it myself or something happens . . . I know that I am a kind, compassionate, empathetic, intelligent person who has so much to give. But it doesn’t matter. Everyone outside my family hates me . . .

I am lucky that my husband of 20 years forgave me for [my involvement with] a 17-year-old boy (whose family repeatedly told authorities that they did not want me prosecuted and that they feel I was manipulated by their confused son) . . .

I have never been in trouble in my life until age 32. Never been arrested, fired, reprimanded, or anything before I made the decisions that I made. I am now considered a violent rapist, less than human, and I have been told to kill myself. I really want to. I am tired of being scared. I am tired of being punished for one mistake. I am tired of being out of work, even though I have several college degrees. I am tired of being a disappointment to my family.

I want to die, and I truly feel that it would inevitably increase the quality of life for everyone I know . . .  My daughter and I will have nothing if something were to ever happen to my husband because I haven’t even been able to get an interview in 8 years. I am scared every second of every day that I am going to do something that I don’t realize that I am not supposed to do.

For example, what if I missed something when listing my internet accounts? The lady who was in charge with helping me register called me a nasty b*%#@ and said that she wasn’t there to answer my ridiculous questions when I asked for clarity.

Is it just social media accounts or is it everything? Do they need to know my Amazon account or what I buy online at Target? I don’t know because I have no one to ask.

I have a 15-year-old kiddo who I love very much. Many of her friend’s parents know about what happened and know that I would never hurt their children. They are fine with their children coming over. So, will the cops show up? Will I get to be a part of my grandchildren’s lives, since I am so apparently violent? Why do I even exist anymore? I am doing nothing but sitting here . . .  taking money from the government while endlessly searching for a job that will never come.

I want to die.

I should have done it 7 years ago (or before). My existence is almost pointless; I am a waste of space. Society has let me know that I don’t belong and that I shouldn’t live. So why am I still here? My kiddo, I guess. During the worst times, I try to figure out when it would be easiest on her for me to go . . .

I want to die. I am so tired of being afraid and of hurting everyone.

There is nothing left for me to say. Nothing.

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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.

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    • #82979 Reply

      Registered Citizen

      Thank you for this article. It’s so very important to share the pain we live in every day. I’m a good person, who found some illegal images online. They should have not been there, but I found them. Now I’m looked at as a pervert sick-o. I have no friends, no love in my life, nothing. I haven’t had a hug in months, no one calls me. I feel I will just disappear at some point. Life lost. More than sad.

      • #82986 Reply
        Admin

        Sandy Rozek

        Registered citizen, can you tell me what state you are in?

      • #83018 Reply

        Steve323

        Big Hug here.

        I am on the registry for the same crime, and I feel for you. Out of all the people I knew, only my daughter has stood by my side. Even people who might want to reach out don’t–what if it became known they had a cup of coffee with me?

        I’m not going to tell you it all will get better and all that stuff because when people say it, I’m like, why don’t you stand in my footsteps for awhile and then we’ll talk.

        But I can tell you what helped me:
        1) finding a therapist. I’ve got to get my life together, and even if a therapist can’t solve all my problems, he or she can help. Mine has also helped me to understand why I did what I did.
        2) Get a cat or dog. Pets don’t care about what you’ve done.
        3) See if you have skills where you can be your own boss. There are ways to create a business where your name is not associated to the business.

        Hope that helps. Stay strong, brother.

    • #82981 Reply

      truthisdarkness

      Thank Kalifornia. They built an entrenched system and forgot that this country was built by those ESCAPING tyranny.

      AB 268

    • #82994 Reply

      Tim in WI

      Sandy,
      You really are storming the beach. You know, silicate IS sand, and yes there are bullets whizzing from every angle. That ” the ground” you cross has yet to be recognized for the war zone it is, as a defender to free human republics, guided by God and foremost faith in the common endurance of human liberty against all enemies of meaningful social contract, is tough sledding you still go on.

      If no liberty at stake; who would complain?- J.P. Stevens.

      Obviously, the database driven infrastructure should have never been aloud to be used to marginalize any human population. That immediately upon it’s birth it was indeed politically used for precisely that very purpose is a keen insight into both human nature and the nature of authoritarian power and emerging markets. Sometimes unfettered access to data is dangerous, and nearly all the states had rules, laws, statutes, to limit disclosure for good reasons.

    • #83000 Reply

      A Mistake They Made

      You are not alone big hug to you!

    • #83040 Reply

      Mike

      Wow Sandy, that’s powerful, i still have a hard time understanding how those in society treats people on the registry. People have done from yelling & outing you in public to some wait in your home for you to get home to brutally beat you til your dead. What happened to real rehabilitation instead of throwing them in prison where they still commit crimes locked up. Nobody is a waste of space or should be dead, no. You & me are worth it, it’s those people that treat another human being like crud on the bottom of his shoe. It’s those people who have the problem, they forget that they make mistakes and act like if you make a mistake you can’t be forgiven. But the majority of all religions has a creator and if you ask the creator to forgive you and you are truly sorry, he will forgive you but you can’t forgive another. Some of those people claim to be close to the creator, but cannot forgive? Anyone thinking of suicide Don’t! I know it’s tough I’m on the registry and I’m truly innocent but most don’t believe me. You are important, caring, hardworking, and so much more, we all are Worth it.

    • #83061 Reply

      nobody in particular

      In most of the “success stories” I’ve read, the individual had both the means, and the support network to overcome, or work around the numerous conditions imposed on “registrants”. And in some cases, they actually had very few, much less intrusive conditions. It’s those of us furthest beneath the boot of the regime, who are completely alone, that must shoulder the full brunt of this animus. And, as I recently experienced, it doesn’t matter whether you do anything wrong, or nothing wrong at all, because once you’ve been branded with That Label, in American society, you are no longer regarded as a human being. You are nothing more than a walking, breathing ‘liability’. I’m not a rapist, or a child molester. I don’t spend my days lurking around parks, or prowling social media in an attempt to lure unsuspecting youth to my den of depravity. In fact, I am so far removed, physically, emotionally, and intellectually, from every community, that it is logistically laughable that I could, or would ever present any danger whatsoever to children, or anyone else at all, for that matter. Such being said, my greatest motivation for simply being alive, is that my very existence is an insult to this entire nation, and I’ve spent so much of my life trying to appease everyone else, that I want to spend the last part of it tending to my own needs and well-being. So, for anyone feeling the pressure this eternal Label carries, my best advise is to give American society the proverbial middle finger, by surviving, staying out of prison, and scraping every last bit of happiness out of whatever bleak little corner you find it. Cherish your family if they still accept and love you, because, in most cases, that is all you may ever have.

    • #83133 Reply

      Edward Nightingale

      This story resonates with me. I have support, but consider myself to be a burden. I so very feel much
      just like the 2nd woman. Why am I here? So that I don’t cause anymore grieving for my mom, otherwise, the faster I pass on, the better.

    • #83183 Reply

      vinny

      I feel like everyone here, and i feel like no one here! I have a job,a place to live!. for the past 20 years i have not progressed i have not made the most out of my situation i have lived everyday in the prison of my mind waiting for my time to end and hopefully soon i am 62 been on this list since 1995 and thank god i have heart disease! canceled bypass surgery a month ago and all i have that i love is my cat!

    • #83289 Reply

      Matt

      I feel the same as all of you. I’ve just recently been released from incarceration and am still at the halfway house, but every job I apply to stops the interview when they learn of my felony conviction or my charge.
      The biggest drawback I’m seeing isn’t necessarily the registry, but the wording the website uses. Where the plea deals we sign have a simple to the point charge, the registry shows the charge with a complex of words that create the imagery of a ‘monster’. Does it get better?

      • #83297 Reply

        nobody in particular

        Matt,
        I can’t speak for anyone else, but my experience so far is that rather than expect some kind of massive revolution, or a complete revision of the current laws and policies, the best any of Us can do, is attempt to survive within the narrow confines of the current scheme, and whenever possible, chip away a bit more breathing room with the meager tools we have (if any at all). I don’t think it gets any better, but maybe you could get better at coping with it. One thing everyone on this List *must* realize, sooner or later, is that whatever your loved ones, or a few advocacy groups, or your pets may think of you, the sad, simple fact is that this country *does not* want any one of Us, *at all*. We are all the “non-persons” described in George Orwell’s “1984”. Be kind, be generous, be compassionate.. but don’t *ever* expect the same in return from your own government, or the general population, and there is no “reward” for any amount of “good behavior”, whereas one little mistake will be brutally punished without a second thought. Stay strong. America wants you to suffer and die…don’t give the “real” people what they want.

      • #83344 Reply

        Facts should matter

        Matt

        It doesn’t get better, much less easier. Find a way to tolerate and live with the hate.

    • #83340 Reply

      Paul

      I feel so very similar to many of you. I was arrested in an internet sting operation and was told I had no choice but to take a plea. If I knew what that really meant at the time, I more than likely would have chosen differently. I am grateful that I have a home, family and a job. I have been on the registry for 3 years at this point. There’s not a day that goes by where I am not reminded that I am. I struggle with many of the same thoughts and the difficulties I create for my family with me being on the registry. At times, I want to disappear, be at a distance from my family so they can enjoy many of the things they cannot with the consequences I live with. My wife struggles with my consequences and those around her, however chooses to stay by my side. My daughter brought home a writing the other day where she wrote about her hero – which she wrote about me, bringing tears to my eyes, however she has no clue about the pain I live with every day. I am terrified of the day I need to tell her about my consequences and how she will respond. She asks to have friends over and I always avoid the question. I live in fear of telling her friends parents about the registry at the cost of my daughters losing friends and the small talk it could stir. Friends are few and far between. I have learned through this what true friendship is really like. Of the friends we do have, they are accepting and don’t look at me any different than any other individual. We are surviving, however on a minimal budget. I have applied to over 50 jobs, making it many times to the point of being offered positions, however when disclosing the registry, the offer is retracted. I currently drive 2 hours each way to work. I am fortunate that my current employer gave me a chance and I am grateful for that. There’s so many things my family and I used to do that we are no longer comfortable putting ourselves out there. I don’t go places, I don’t travel, and I stay quiet and humble. The county sherriff checks on me twice a year, and I can see the fear in my wife’s eyes each time they drive in the yard. I continue to pray for some sort of relief of this burden, accepting there probably isn’t any in sight, as where I live, the registry is for a lifetime. I strongly desire to get involved in helping drive change to law, regulation, the shame, and stigma, however fear how this would impact me and my family. All that said, I am not living the horrifying stories I have heard about and read about so many times, yet the pain, shaming, and the struggles are all so very similar.

    • #83349 Reply

      Adam

      You are right; you will (and should) get negative comments because of this article. You are engaging in the same practice that those who would oppose sex offenders willingly engage in: taking the worst-case scenarios and shoving it down people’s throats. It is those same tactics by police/politicians/the media that created the registry in the first place.

      Look, as a registrant, I get it – it can be hard. At times, it is hard. The registry should go away… but until it does, a public display of ‘it isn’t fair’ is a bad look. Focus on the unconstitutionality, because that is where the real issues are. Life isn’t fair, even for those who are not offenders and who are not on the registry. You know which way public perception runs – no matter the offense, sex offense = BAD. If you want public support, then this is not the way.

    • #83630 Reply

      Ed

      Can’t give in or give up; find your first small victory, make more of them happen, and then string them together. Be smarter than those “keeping the public safe from you.” This is your role in the battle that is being fought, and the war is being won, but the battles are 60/40 and long. We will get there. NARSOL and its state affiliates and nonprofits are key.

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