RSOL Conference: Public Registration–Untold Collateral Damages

The Public Sex Offender Registry–A Perpetual Shame

Amanda Hess has written a brilliant piece about the re-emergence of public shaming using the tragic example of a father’s punishment of his daughter. For disobeying a house rule, he filmed his cutting off her hair, chastising her all the while, and posted it online. She was only 13, unable to deal with the humiliation, and she killed herself.

Hess then takes us back to the days when public shaming was the norm, into more modern times when it fell into disfavor and disuse, and forward into our electronic age, where it has emerged wild of eye and fierce of tooth.

I was struck by some of her phraseology. “Online, your shame can move instantly from your father’s cellphone to every important person from every stage and aspect of your life. And if you try to move on, your offense can be dialed up on Google and replayed for future acquaintances to see.”

“…social media has found a way to integrate total strangers in the shaming process. Digital villagers are no longer relegated to the sidelines; online, everybody gets a gavel.”

“…the only thing that some Internet gawkers know about you now is this one jerky thing you did.”

Substitute the registered sex offender for the disgraced teen, the sex offender laws for the father, and the world for…the world, and we have in a nutshell the destructive power of the public registry.

Approximately 95% of those on the registry will never commit another offense. An unknown but significant percentage have families, are raising children, and are doing so with the entire world looking on and condemning them for what was, for a great many, that “one jerky thing” they did. Even when the offense went beyond the jerky category, years of living a law-abiding life and doing everything possible to fit into a society all too ready to reject them counts for nothing as long as their names on a public registry shout to the world that they are dangerous and have to be watched and tracked and monitored, often for the rest of their lives.

Public hangings and pillorings faded from public usage as the reality of community changed and as the public lost their taste for such barbaric acts.

Those who use the Internet today to shame and disgrace a child who is in disfavor themselves risk the tide of public opinion–and even the law when they have gone too far–turning against them and condemning them for their actions.

But those on the registry remain. Against all facts, against all evidence, the public registry remains. The ultimate public shaming tool remains.


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This post was written by someone, or multiple people, within NARSOL.

4 Thoughts to “RSOL Conference: Public Registration–Untold Collateral Damages”

  1. From Chrysanthi (Santhi) Leon and Ashley Kilmer –University of Delaware: RSOL 2014 leads to New Reports on Impact of SO Laws

    Many thanks to those of you spoke with me at last year’s amazing RSOL conference or who participated in our research on family impact. Even though data collection is still ongoing:

    we have two papers that are just about ready to share, and we would love your feedback on whether we are “getting it right.” If you’d like to read and comment on our two works in progress, please email They are tentatively titled,

    “Nobody worries about our children”: Unseen Impacts of Sex Offender Registration on Families with School-Age Children


    “Sins of the Fathers: Stigma and the Secondary Registration of the Families of Sex Offenders”

    best wishes,


  2. Santhi, thank you for your support and for your very important work. We appreciate you so much.

  3. AvatarJay

    I give ode to all involved and included in this plight. As a nation the deterioration of alienable rights affored to us and betokened by our father’s has suffered a rip of the rug for the average american. We are groomed to think that we are entitled to know more in this inherited information age more so than any other time given in history. The right to know should not infringe on the individual liberties given to each and person, protected under reasonable expectation to privacy. But we tend to encroach our fellow citizens privacy by default. News, media, justice and the legislative systems are the biggest enablers and complicit to this debacle. I can give you cited occurrences of what accounts i habe endured myself and you would likely be amazed about the outcome. For nearly ten years now Ive worked in the department of defense and my family and I have suffered continual collateral and collective harassment and condoned vigilantism. My kids were exposed to searching for pedophiles during classroom projects, viewing their own father, internet pages place in the screen of my front door, car Windows smashed and so on. I made a mistake long ago and revamped my how life. I met a young woman i thought was of age and subsequently was convicted and allowed to stay in the military now i arrive to the point where the service wants to eradicate me time spent and circumvent giving me my retirement without due cause and justification. I am blessed to be able to fight the fight for it was a hard road to redemption. I am in legal challenges which seem unprecedented due to how ive served so long without the legality to discharge me, and now it comes to the pentagon shaping policy around my situation abusing political plights for self serving functions. Not one entity repsonsible for dealing with this carried it out the process without bias or fairness. I fought back and i am still fighting. You cant ever let the bureaucracy beat you down. It is a shame how the service disregarded my family and allowed abuse and ambiguity to take place at all angles. Registry doesn’t work, and neither does perpetual punishment.

    1. Avatarkenneth cornine

      I can wholeheartedly agree.. I live in Missouri& have bn on the Registry since 7-21-93..Then taken off.. Then put back on.. Because of AWA..& SORNA.. How disgusting this law has changed 4 ever the lives of us that have related our debt 2 society..

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