If it saves one child – then and now

By Sandy . . . A handful of people know that I have an alternate personality. When I first became involved in this advocacy, I discovered an outlet for my need and ability to write. I’ve been writing my entire life, but now I had a world of subject matter from which to choose, and I did, but I had no place to publish what I wrote. I was involved with what was then RSOL but not with the website.

I wrote several things and sent one to a site called corrections.com, and a miracle happened; they wanted to publish it. I was being very protective of my name then, and I submitted it under the pen name of Shelly Stow, the name I used as part of RSOL’s Minutemen, a group organized in 2012 to comment on articles as part of an education and information initiative.

Amazingly, it was a success; I have to admit to a great deal of pride when “If it saves one child” was printed and distributed at the 2013 NARSOL conference in New Mexico.

Spurred on by this success, I decided to create my own blog. For those who remember E-advocate, he walked me through that process step by step. He was very patient with me, and I learned so much from him.

The blog “With justice for all” was born, and Shelly Stow wrote approximately 200 posts between 2013 and 2018. By then I was on the now-NARSOL board and writing for the NARSOL blog and the Digest. I had to leave Shelly and her blog, but I have not abandoned them. Periodically I will remember something I wrote then, something I want for a current piece, and I will go there and find it.

My purpose for writing this post is twofold: First, in case anyone is interested, I want to make the Shelly Stow blog posts available to NARSOL readers. There is a comprehensive index, both subject and chronology, on every page on the bottom of the right-hand side.

And secondly, I want to update “If it saves one child” for today. Some of the language is no longer in acceptable usage, and some of the links are dead and need replacing or other examples substituted.

If It Saves One Child
By Shelly Stow AKA Sandy Rozek
Published: 07/02/2012   Updated 01/07/2022

It would be difficult today to find a person who had no idea what the sex offender registry is. It would be equally difficult to find someone with only a passing interest who didn’t feel that it is a good thing to have. It started in most states as a law enforcement tool identifying repeat, sexually violent child predators. It now has approaching a million names on it and encompasses acts as varied as consensual teen sex, taking and sending a photo of one’s own breasts, and rape. And even though many with much more than a passing interest, including  researchers and experts in the field, are pronouncing the shaming roster to be an ineffective tool in fighting sexual crime, the battle cry of its supporters still resounds whenever the subject comes up: “If it saves one child…!”

“If it saves one child….” Even though we cannot know if “it” has, that statement is responsible for the abuse and even death of many children.

There is no actual evidence that the registry has saved even one child; however, we do know that many, many thousands have had their lives made a living hell because of it. These are the children of people on the registry, some of whom committed violent crimes, but many, even most, who did not. All on the registry, with their families, are subject to the whims of local and state restrictions including, but by no means limited to: severe restrictions on where they may live; denial of access to libraries, parks, and beaches; and restrictions barring the registered parent from often even being within 1000 feet of the school his child attends. Someone wrote me quite a while back about a woman who took a picture of a registrant that she printed from the internet to the school where the registrant’s five-year-old son was a kindergarten student; she showed it around, warning children about this man. His little boy stood and cried. The registry doesn’t differentiate. It doesn’t make clear to people who threaten, harass, and do physical violence to registrants, their property, and their families whether daddy raped someone or whether he had sex with mommy before they were married when she was a year too young or whether he looked at an illegal image on a computer or whether he was innocent and falsely accused. From the viewpoint of justice and the the illegality of vigilantism, it actually doesn’t matter, and most don’t really care. The perception is that everyone on the registry has committed a serious crime and that most if not all offended against children. And if they have children of their own who are harmed, as so many have been and so many more will be, it is just collateral damage because the registry might—MIGHT—save one child.

“If it saves one child….” Children themselves are registrants on sex offender registries. Nine years old is apparently the youngest at which children have been put on the registry (Delaware; Michigan). Several states, including but not limited to Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Kansas, Ohio, Michigan, and Texas, register children as sexual criminals at ages ten and eleven. By the time twelve is reached, it isn’t even a rarity. And the fifteen-year-old who is the child victim for having consensual sex with an eighteen-year-old partner becomes a predator and registered sexual offender when his or her partner is fourteen. In Pennsylvania a 15-year-old girl was arrested, charged, and faced registration for producing and distributing pornography. She had posted nude pictures of herself on the internet. Past situations include a twelve and a thirteen year old couple who were both put on Utah’s registry, each for sexual abuse of a victim under the age of fourteen and each named as the victim in the other’s case.

Some of these children, after several years of being on the registry and treated as monsters, have committed suicide. The registry didn’t save any of these children; it destroyed them.

“If it saves one child….” Children do need saving. According to the Justice Dept. and the CMEC, many thousands are sexually abused and molested every year. We pour everything into the registry, millions of dollars and uncountable hours. State after state has voiced complaints about the cost of keeping up with the ever-increasing expenses and strain on limited manpower hours to satisfy the requirements of the registry. The federal government, knowing this, has offered huge financial incentives to states to bring them into federal registry compliance. However, this is futile; the registry is not the answer. Children aren’t sexually abused and molested by nameless, faceless people on the registry. They are abused and molested by their family members and acquaintances, by those they know and trust and love, by those they see and interact with on a daily basis, often by those they live with. By the most conservative estimates, this is true for 94 out of every 100 children who are molested. Figures from the Justice Department’s Bureau of Juvenile Justice show these startling facts: For sexual crime against a child six or under, 58.7% is committed by family members, 39.7% by family acquaintances, and 1.8% by strangers; the registered sex offenders who are in that stranger pool are so few that it is virtually incalculable. As the age of the child increases, the figures alter, but only a little. The risk to children ages 12-17 is 94.3% from family and acquaintances, 5.7% from strangers, and, again, the percentage of registered offenders in the stranger pool is minuscule. Keeping the focus on those on the registry keeps us from dealing with these facts. It keeps us looking in another direction, and it leaves us nothing in the way of resources with which to deal with it.

“If it saves one child,” isn’t good enough. Thousands, hundreds of thousands, need saving. When and how and with what will we save them?

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10 Thoughts to “If it saves one child – then and now”

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  1. Lorraine

    Sandy, I thank you in my heart every time I read a story written by you.
    The registry has never been a help to anyone except the politicians who want to get elected.
    They never give one thought to the innocent lives that the registry hurts.
    I pray some day the registry will go away.

    1. Mack

      The registry has never been a help to anyone except the politicians who want to get elected.…………

      WELL SAID!

  2. Joe unger

    To quote my wife, “A lie is a lie even if everyone believes it, the truth is the truth even if no one believes it. “ She got that from her parents, who knows where they got it.

  3. Matt

    Sandy, what a brilliantly written article, with so many great points. I also appreciate that you included people who are innocent or falsely accused. I spent time in prison for crimes I didn’t commit, with some charges I wasn’t even accused of, and it’s rare I hear anyone acknowledge that there are people on the registry, suffering continually, perpetual victims of another person’s crime against them. Imagine if someone was raped, and not only did nobody believe them but they were added to a public registry that labeled them as people who had sex outside of marriage (because someone else raped them). This is what it feels like to be an innocent person on the registry.

  4. Robyn

    I love reading all of what you write about. I think those who are considered low level sex offenders should never be place on the registry at all. I think it is gives then a complete feeling of hopelessness, puts an unnecessary strain on their chase to reestablish life with their families and society, it causing Anxiety, depression and suicide. I think the money would be better spent on resources to help them better their lives psychologically, physically and financially as well as to help them reconnect with their families through family counseling. So the they can become productive loving human beings. Besides there are to many PO’s out there that add way more restrictions to the court ordered restrictions that were given to the offender. It’s as if they are trying to get them to reoffend so they can put them back in jail and the PO’s don’t care about the families their tearing apart along the way.keep pushing Sandy this excessive treatment after serving their time is cruel and abusive and double punishment for both the offender and the entire family. We are supposed to trust our justice system yet they make these offenders and their families spend the rest of their lives in prison. How is that Justice…

  5. Mike

    Hello, this statement about ” if it just saves one child it’ll be worth it ” is one of the stupidest statement I’ve Heard of. Now don’t get me wrong children’s lives do matter and need help and guidance to avoid the dangers in this world. That statement is saying that children are the most important humans in the world and the adults are not important. By ruining adults lives, they are destroying the children lives that the statement claims to be more important than adults. Think about what would happen if by something mysterious circumstance all adults died what would happen to the children? The reason I’m say this is to say ” All Lives Matter, no Human is more important than any other Human.” All humans are equally as important than any other and your nationality or color of your skin or your gender doesn’t make you more important any other. We all (humans) are just as important as each other. That very statement is saying that adult lives don’t matter. Well I believe our government came up with these types of statements to climb the ladder in the government or get elected, this is what’s destroying lives. Don’t get me wrong, children’s lives are important and need guidance and help as they grow up. But by destroying adult lives with the corrupt laws they are destroying the very children they claim are most important. Children see everything adults do even if don’t think so. My parents used to say ” monkey see monkey do”. Where do you think your kids learn there behavioral characteristics & beliefs.

  6. Ryan

    The most damming part about the registry and those that commit these crimes are how many were raped and abused themselves growing up. This is not to justify anyone’s actions, but it most surely is a revelation. When these people’s worlds finally come crashing down and the truth is revealed. If any of these people who dare ask for help regarding their own trauma, they are denied such help, or the help provided focuses on their current case and crime. They never get help for their own hell and will never be allowed to forget. At therapy you can only talk about your case and your crime, and it’s engrained in your mind that you’re a horrid person. One of the therapists we had told a man he deserved what happened to him as a child because his actions as an adult showed he was not worth anything. I don’t believe the crime would have taken place if he were not abused as a child. I know what I went to prison for would certainly never have happened. This man was sorry for what he had done and wished to also get help for his own abuse that he had kept bottled inside. If you really start asking, you will find most registrants were abused as children and are very remorseful for the wrong they did. The registry I find is a lifetime punishment, a branding, for those who were abused themselves as Children and never received the help to deal with their warped perception on sex and age. Thank you for the article, I just wanted to provide my own insight on this subject.

  7. phil

    This seems to be the go to for every argument for the Reg, but they never bring it up for any other act that has caused harm to children. Great article, I just wish that one day the politicians will see things the same way as a lot of people are starting to.

  8. Tim in WI

    When? How? And with what are we going to save them?
    It sure will not be the internet. It certainly will not be the DDI! If anything, the DDI has made the people more vulnerable than ever to all sorts of attack. That outcome was inevitable when opting for unfettered use of the machine database. I read recently a registered person has been killed by a man wielding a deer antler. No doubt the killer looked up the guy and his address on the state’s registry database. Not all that different than the killer in the murder of ( NJ)federal judge Salas’ teen son on their own porch. Immediately subsequent a bill went to Congress which requested fed judges addresses be removed from the internet for their safety. Quite the inverse disposition between sex offender & federal judge.
    Last I read the bill was stuck in the Senate. Why it’s stuck is the interesting thing.

  9. Facts should matter

    The “if it saves one life” argument is disingenuous at best. It’s offensive to to make an argument that would validate all the hate, destruction and chaos as a result.

    Also, to play the devil’s advocate, even if ONE LIFE WAS SAVED as a result of the registry (which we all know will never happen) that “one life saved” is negated and canceled-out by the next child to be the victim off gun violence in a school classroom setting.

    It’s funny how lawmakers only pretend to care about protecting children. They’ll ban book, trans/drag and demonize sex offenders, but they WILL NOT touch guns, teen suicide or drugs.

    When was the last time you heard from a politician “Now is not the time to talk about “sex offenders” after an abduction, rape and killing?