The Sex Offender Registry and the Collateral Damage to Families
On May 17, 1996, President Bill Clinton signed federal Megan’s Law, an amendment to the Jacob Wetterling Act. That set the guidelines for the state statutes, requiring states to notify the public of registrants. According to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, as of 2016, there were 859,500 registered sex offenders in the United States.
This important podcast episode discusses the collateral damage to children and families of registrants. Are children and shamed because their loved one is on the registry? Are families harassed by neighbors? These questions and more are answered and discussed on this episode of The Outspoken Offender.
It’s the Outspoken Offender Podcast.
[00:00:07] My hope is to encourage registered citizens, former inmates in anyone facing stereotypes and social ostracism to move beyond societies’ labels. Welcome to the show.
[00:00:27] The sex offender registry and the collateral damage to families. This is the topic on today’s podcast, episode four. My name is The Outspoken Offender, and I want to thank everybody following and downloading these podcasts. That means a lot to me and a lot of people as well out there involved in the registry and having to be registered on the list.
[00:00:50] So what type of collateral damage are we talking about? How does somebody on the sex offender registry affect other people, other you know, their families, their friends, their children. Well, that’s what I want to talk about today. And I want to step back just for a second to briefly explain that in 1996 Congress passed, what’s called Megan’s Law.
[00:01:15] I’m sure you’re familiar with that. This allowed states to publicize the names of those convicted of sex offenses, a wave of federal, and then state laws followed, and it created online sex offender registries, as we know them today. It also broadened who is listed and restricted where registrants can live.
[00:01:34] So basically 1996 was a big turning point in the sex offender registry. If you are listed on the registry, if you’re a registrant, you probably know what effects it can have on your life and your family. Perhaps you’re listening today and you are a father of a registrant, or a mother of a registered, or a child of a registrant…a child or an adult child.
[00:02:03] The registry has a lot of collateral damage involved. So first I want to discuss how the sex offender registry can have collateral damage for children, children of parents on the list, on the blacklist or the hit list. Research says that registries and residency bans leave children of sex offenders, vulnerable to bullying and homelessness.
[00:02:31] I was looking over this article today and it’s called “Collateral Damage, Harsh Sex Offender Laws May Put Whole Families at Risk.” It’s by the reporter, Steven Yoder. And I want to just briefly summarize this story that was in this article and the girl who goes by “Kat.” She’s a 16 year old girl who left the United States with her family for a different country.
[00:02:54] She won’t name the country she moved to for fear that she will become a target of intimidation or worse. Now her father is on a state sex offender registry after being found guilty 31 years ago of molesting a ten-year-old boy. In February, 2007, when Kat was eight, her school district sent out a pamphlet with the names, the photos of the addresses of all registrants in the area, including her fathers.
[00:03:20] I couldn’t imagine having to go through that as an eight-year old girl, knowing that your father, his information where he lives, what he did, is going to be passed around to your peers, to your friends, to your teachers. Oh my goodness. And this is just one of, one of many examples. So the story goes on.
[00:03:43] It didn’t take long for her to feel the fallout of this. She was disinvited from a birthday party that weekend. She says the following week, a friend’s mother stopped her daughter from talking to Kat on the street and told her never again, to go near Kat or her house. From that point forward, she lost nearly all her friends.
[00:04:06] Now when Kat hit middle school in the fall of 2009, the isolation turned into sexual harassment. Boys would approach her in the hall and on the street with lewd suggestions. A group of boys crowded her up against a wall. One day in school, quote, “Since you’re screwing your dad, you shouldn’t mind screwing us.” After more isolation and bullying, on March, 2013, the family uprooted and left the country.
[00:04:35] What devastation for that family. What does this solve? Absolutely nothing. A crime committed 31 years prior. And the daughter of the man is feeling the collateral effects. She’s innocent. She has never done anything wrong and she’s getting harassed, sexually harassed, teased so bad that the family had to leave the country. Outrageous, outrageous.
[00:05:07] There’s another report that you may be familiar with. It’s a pretty well known it’s called “Collateral Damage: Family Members of Registered Sex Offenders.” It was put together and written by Jill Levinson and Richard Tewksbury. If you’re not familiar with this study, I’m going to go ahead and put a link on my blog post on my website. It’s going to be a PDF. You can download it for free.
[00:05:31] Now the sample was comprised of 584 participants. So the children of RSOs, registered sex offenders, are reported to be to most often exhibit anger, 80% said, yes. Depression, 77%. Anxiety, 73%. I mean, just imagine if you were a Kat in school, thinking, oh my God. People are gonna find out, you know, what kind of anxiety and depression that’s going to cause?
[00:05:59] Okay, so feeling left out by peers: 65% said yes. And fear, general fear: 63%. Additionally, more than one and eight, 13% of the children of RSOs were reported to exhibit suicidal tendencies.
[00:06:16] Here’s another result. From the same study, “My family member, the registered sex offender, or RSO had a very hard time finding a job because employers don’t want to hire a registered sex offender, and this has created financial hardship for my family.” 82% of the participants said yes.
[00:06:41] I can’t find a job. You might not be able to find a job. We all know how much discrimination in employment occurs when you’re on the registry. And that creates hardship for the family. And I’ll discuss my personal experiences in here in just a second.
[00:07:01] Another result from the study: “My family member of the RSO lost a job because a boss or coworkers found out through Megan’s law that he or she was a sex offender and this created financial hardship for my family.” 53% said yes. I’m surprised that’s not higher. Because honestly I think that’s one of the toughest things to deal with. Especially in a marriage when money is a very you know, a challenge. And if you have money problems, you’re going to have probably relationship problems.
[00:07:30] I’m going to give you one more here: “I have been threatened or harassed by neighbors after they found out that my family member is a sex offender.” How many people do you think? It’s pretty high… 44%. That’s going to vary too, depending on what state you live on. If the certain state has tiers and something like some states, especially along the West coast, they don’t put your information on the state registry if you’re a lower level.
[00:07:59]But still it happens. It happens a lot. Harassment from neighbors, especially when the y pass around flyers and all that bull crap. Since this is a shorter-form podcast. these are just quick examples. There are many, many more. If you’re interested in this topic, I encourage you to go to several sites.
[00:08:24] The first one is, is NARSOL. It stands for National Association for Rational Sexual Offense Laws. They have a blog. They have what’s called “Tales from the Registry.” Go there, check it out. Another site you can go to is Women Against Registry. It’s not just for women. It’s for everybody.
[00:08:49]Great resources, great support. Once again, womenagainstregistry.org. Vicki Henry, I know her personally, she does so much good work for making smarter laws and advocating for the families and the people on the registry. Also some great research can be found on oncefallen.org. Okay. I’m actually, I wanna make sure I have that right once fall in and I can’t seem to type I’m sorry.
[00:09:20] Okay. That will give you a lot of information. From Derek Logue, he’s been doing a lot of research and you’ll find good information there. I want to talk about my personal experiences and it goes back to what I was just talking about a second ago.
[00:09:44] Finances. You know, I think that’s the biggest issue that I’ve had, and really, it was a major reason for my divorce in 2016. My divorce had a lot to do with the stress of being on the sex offender registry due to the lack of a secure job and housing. Money was always an issue for us. We were evicted from our apartment twice in four years.
[00:10:15] There was always this fear of how are we going to make rent this month? In addition, it wasn’t just us. It was two kids, my stepchildren, her children, We were supporting, you know, a total of four people. So it was a huge challenge and eventually it just got so much the stress of me not being able to find a decent job, being turned down for, you know, jobs and being laid off and all that stuff.
[00:10:41] So it is tough. It is very tough. And we need to really think about the sex offender registry and how it affects families and children, not just the person on the list. That’s another topic. I mean, we know the negative effects of the registry, the shame and all that, but I wanted to really hit on how it affects the family and how it affects the children of the registrant’s.
[00:11:07] So. I hope this podcast helped you out a little bit. I really appreciate you listening. You can go to my website, theoutspokenoffender.com. I have lots of videos as well. Enjoy the new year. Let’s start this new year off, right. I’m really hoping for a better year. All right. Take care. And thanks for listening.
[00:11:32] It’s the Outspoken Offender Podcast.
[00:11:38] My hope is to encourage registered citizens, former inmates and anyone facing stereotypes and social ostracism to move beyond society’s labels. Thanks for listening to the podcast. I’m The Outspoken Offender. You can find me on YouTube and Twitter. Remember, you are NOT your label.