In Defense of Sex Offenders

I’m thinking of dropping out of my Mommy group because of their reaction to sex offenders.

I received an email via the group’s mailing list last week containing a link to a “new” tracking system for sex offenders living in the State of Florida. Basically, you go to the web page, type in your address, and panic ensues as you count up all the “perverts” who live within a 15 mile radius of you.

The email responses started immediately.

“OMG, there is one on my street!”

The hysteria was hard to miss as many of these women imagined rapists and child molesters prowling the playgrounds in their neighborhoods.

In an effort to calm what I considered unnecessary panic, I responded to the group and assured them that “not everyone listed on the sex offender registry is a baby raper. People have to register as a sex offender if they get caught peeing outside for Pete’s sake.” I encouraged them to do some digging before they egged the neighbor’s house.

I didn’t receive a single response to my email. Instead, I watched as emails littered with fear and lynching flew back and forth across the Internet.

“They should all be stuck on an island somewhere!”

“I can’t believe my neighbor! The world isn’t safe!”

“Screw the island, they should all be castrated!”

The last one I read warned that this was exactly why “you can’t ever let your kids out of your sight”.

*sigh* I shook my head and closed the thread in my inbox. I was frustrated that no one seemed interested in a voice of reason. I was disheartened to see how easy it was for the mob mentality to set in. I imagined rallies and marches complete with pitch forks and torches. And baby strollers.

And something about that didn’t sit well with me.

It’s not that I’m pro sex offender.

God knows, I would kill any son of a bitch who ever laid a hand on my child. The innocence of children should be protected, and the idea that anyone would violate that makes me want to puke. Ugh. I get nauseous just writing those words.

But…

I’m informed enough to know that the sex offender registry is not an accurate list of people who would do harm to your children. In fact, it’s so woefully inaccurate that it’s useless.

I know that because of the way laws are written, a person who is given a ticket at 21 for stopping to urinate on the sidewalk on their walk home from the bars… may be registered as a sex offender.

A 17 year old boy who has sex with his 14 year old girlfriend and is discovered by his girlfriend’s pissed off father… is registered as a sex offender. For life. Even if he grows up and marries that girl and has children with them.

A girl who had oral sex at 15 with a 17 year old is required to register as a sex offender… and 11 years later can be evicted from her home because she’s too close to a day care center.

And these people are shunned from society for the rest of their lives. They have difficulty finding jobs and it’s becoming increasingly impossible for them to find places to live. And for what? Because they are painted with the same brush as someone who willfully molests a child?

That’s ludicrous. And it’s not fair. It’s not right. It’s not OK to run around slandering people who are only guilty of committing actions that damn near all of us have done ourselves.

Furthermore, I refuse to live in fear.

I can’t stand fear mongering. I hate the entire Fear Of The Big Bad World mentality. That kind of thinking is not only limiting, but dangerous. It is the mentality that leads to witch hunts and concentration camps and unclassified wars.

I understand that there are things and people out there who could harm me and/or my children. Of course, I do. I’m not a naive Pollyanna.

But I also believe, I know, that there is a great big wonderful world out there that you will completely miss if you are constantly on the look out for the boogie man.

There is a balance between tip toeing blindly through the tulips and hiding out in a bunker because OMG THERE ARE SICKOS OUT THERE! There are precautions you can take. There is value in being aware of your surroundings.

And, most importantly, there is value in educating yourself. The only real way to protect yourself from the dangers that may lurk is to be informed, so that you can take appropriate precautions. And then, you know what? Shit can still happen.

It’s scary to think that no matter what we do, we can still have bad things happen to us. Or worse, to our children. But it’s wishful thinking at best to imagine that we can fully eliminate all of the Bad in life by becoming vigilantes.

I can’t live in fear. I can’t nod my head over punch and pretend that I agree with the idea that our kids have to be sheltered from the Big Bad World. I can’t allow a virtual List of Perverts to easily make my decisions for me about who should be feared and who can be trusted.

And I can’t in good conscience sweep a bunch of relatively innocent people under the same rug as vile, predatory criminals. Or sit around a park with a smile on my face, acting like I’m OK with it.

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