The second day of NARSOL’s 2021 Houston conference opened with attorney Paul Dubbeling. Mr. Dubbeling addressed the audience on the topic of affecting change using an integrated approach. The initial step, he stressed was education. This lays the groundwork and therefore can be considered the most important. Education, explained Paul, consists of three forms, and all must be utilized. Education about sexual offense issues must be factual, it must be logical, and it must also have an emotional component. The next step in the integrated system is litigation, and Paul emphasized that there is no such thing as a small win. Every win, he said, is significant; others are built on it, which in turn lays the groundwork for more. The third and final component is legislation which, he says, will follow when the first two have been optimized. Paul made clear that his presentation and the steps outlined were in response to so the question asked by so many advocates: What can I do today; what can I do right now? Paul’s presentation gives us some answers.
The afternoon session began with a presentation by researcher and scholar Emily Horowitz, and she spoke about how to challenge sexual offense laws and policies during a prolonged period of panic. Dr. Horowitz believes that the false claims of a Satanic influence resulting in sexual abuse of children in day care in the 1980s ushered in a prolonged period of sexual panic and hysteria that has grown into what we have today. It is the nature of prolonged panics that they build over time. The results are seen today in the MeToo movement, in public, shaming sexual offense registries, and in the myriad restrictions and laws negatively affecting persons required to register. Some of the most harmful are policies that prohibit registrants from being on a college campus and exclusions on ban-the-box initiatives for those with a sexual conviction.
What many consider the highlight of the conference, the awards banquet, was graced by Mary Sue Molnar as the speaker. She took us on a journey, back to the beginning of RSOL, back to the first conference, and brought us forward through each year, each conference. This was not just the journey of NARSOL; it was also Mary Sue’s own journey, that of a woman who had no resources, no knowledge of laws or sexual offense issues, and no clear idea of how to get what she needed to what she is today: A seasoned advocate, executive director of Texas Voices, and a knowledgeable, effective, tireless soldier in our fight against unjust, ineffective sexual offense laws. At the end of her presentation, conference MC Robin Vander Wall presented Mary Sue with NARSOL’s prestigious Paul Shannon Lifetime Achievement Award. This award represents many years of work and dedication in furtherance of NARSOL’s vision, mission, and goals; this is the third year it has been awarded.
Sandy, a NARSOL board member, 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.