Our history: From RSOL to NARSOL
NARSOL.org is the website of a campaign by National Association for Rational Sexual Offense Laws. The campaign grew out of an effort in the late 1990’s by a Boston group of civil libertarians, educators, and other professionals who were concerned about a growing panic justified in the name of protecting children from sexual violation. This panic was generating ill-conceived laws that were eroding civil liberties, common sense, and normal social interactions. After more than a year of regular discussions, the group initiated a formal call to protect both our children as well as our liberties. It was signed by more than 100 Boston-area professionals. The Call was intended to generate further discussion about the real dangers posed to children and substantial attacks on the civil liberties of American citizens.
In 2006, some of the original signatories became concerned that the problem had worsened and began to circulate a revised document. In July 2007, Paul Shannon, a long time peace and social justice educator in the Boston area, published his article entitled It’s Time to Reform Sex Offender Laws: An Urgent Call to Support the Well-being of Children and the Rights of Us All in the online newsletter Counterpunch, and Reform Sex Offender Laws (RSOL) was officially born.
One of our founders, “Alex Marbury,” had been among the founders of several LGBTQ activist groups as well as an organization concerned with age of consent laws. Alex resigned from that organization several years prior to the launch of RSOL. While some see this past connection as a liability, his knowledge of the members of that organization proved invaluable during our early years, as he kept a special watch to make sure that none of its leaders publicly signed our statement. “Alex” chose to use a pseudonym to further disassociate his advocacy with RSOL from his earlier one. RSOL was founded and continues to focus on post-conviction treatment of persons convicted of sexual offenses. It has never taken any stand regarding age of consent.
RSOL, Inc. existed as an incorporated organization, and continued to grow in its influence. RSOL adopted a set of bylaws, a statement of vision, mission, and goals, a set of key assertions, and elected a board of directors as well as several working committees which move along its established agenda. RSOL’s national conferences continued to expand their influence with each additional year. And now there are affiliate organizations in an increasing number of states. Lobbying and litigation by these affiliates has proven extremely effective, while lobbying at the national, congressional level remains an important goal.
In the late 2016, in an effort to eliminate the use of the phrase "Sex Offender", RSOL became NARSOL (National Association of Rational Sexual Offense Laws). With the same mission and goals of RSOL, NARSOL continues the fight to bring change to the oppressive sexual offense laws under a different banner.
There is much reason for hope. We see and hear a greater number of legislators, journalists, and media sources, both at the local and national level, questioning and disputing the accepted myths that are the basis of today’s failed public registry. We have witnessed some promising judicial decisions in several states. We firmly believe that our hopes for substantial change aren’t far from a tipping point as more and more individuals, especially juveniles, are forced to register for behavior that was socially acceptable even less than 20 years ago.
We look back at our past and reflect on our history with immense pride. We embrace the promises the future holds, a future where a single transgression no longer results in a lifetime of loss in human dignity, respect, and fundamental rights; where those who are falsely accused may find true justice; and where those who have taken responsibility for the harm they have inflicted on others might discover again the hope for meaningful redemption.
A final note: NARSOL has always been clear about its fundamental mission and goals. It welcomes all who share these goals to participate in the organization’s work. NARSOL neither endorses nor condones the totality of beliefs held by anyone who chooses to associate with its work. It specifically embraces only such beliefs that form the basis of the organization’s work and which appear in our vision, mission, goals, and assertions.