Suffocating on the sex offender registry

By Dolley Madison….

I stepped outside after another week’s end. It was Friday afternoon, and I took my coffee to sit at one of my favorite spots–the back porch. The air was warm, humid, and still, without even a hint of a refreshing breeze.

And I was feeling suffocated–but not because of the weather.

As I sat to collect my thoughts about the coming weekend, I was interrupted by a little voice–my daughter’s–asking if she could ride her bike around the cul-de-sac. She’d finished the two-page “report” we’d had her write about why she must tell her mom and dad where she’s going–that was after being grounded for the better part of a week for not doing so.

I thought it was time to let her play outside again. So I told her to go tell her dad where she was going and reminded her to stay nearby. And she left on her bike.

That’s when I saw the truck–it was driving past our house toward the cul-de-sac. Then it turned around and headed back in our direction, lingering as it reached our house. I quickly went inside and asked my husband whether he could see our daughter through the window. He said he could–she was riding with the other kids.

Everything was fine. But a decent parent has an instinct about when to pay attention while also learning to trust their child.

I have reason to wonder about a truck is cruising slowly by our house. My husband is on our state sex offender registry for a crime committed in 1982. Are they being nosy? Do they want to take pictures? Do they want know how we live? Do they want to hurt us?

And I think about the restrictions that keep us from easily relocating. It’s not because we don’t have the money or because we’re tied to a house, to family who live locally, or to local jobs. Exploring other options would be wonderful–my husband was recently laid off because of a slowdown in manufacturing, and the economy and the opportunities are better elsewhere.

But packing up and moving isn’t a viable option. It would mean literally hundreds of phone calls to prospective landlords. It would mean having to again overcome a negative reputation with new neighbors–after years, we’ve finally established some level of trust with our current ones.

It also would mean a new police department that could decide to target us by knocking at any hour to inspect our house. That might mean waking up my daughter late on a school night, as our current department has done. They might stop my husband in his driveway with our daughter strapped into the carseat, which they’ve also done.

My mom lives with us too, and I think of the new people that we’d meet if we moved. That should be a positive thought, but it would be a risk and burden to explain our situation to new acquaintances. We’d want to be up front so that people could respect and accept us. But there’s no guarantee they would.

And there would be even more of the nagging feeling that we’re being left out because of our situation. We never know whether one or all of us weren’t invited to something for some innocent reason or because they want nothing to do with us. I question and scrutinize other people’s intentions three times as much as I used to. I generally enjoy people and am a communicative person. But I don’t feel as relaxed in getting to know people as I once did.

The thick mid-summer air gives just a little, and I look over my shoulder to watch our beautiful, carefree child pedal down the road, her hair blowing against the wind, free to ride. A brief uninterrupted feeling of privacy, normalcy, and peace takes over.

And then I comprehend that there isn’t the slightest chance of being as free as I once was. The next strange vehicle will pass by, the next episode of police pounding at the door will begin, we’ll turn down the next job opportunity because we can’t move, and the next acquaintance or friend will pull away, and we’ll wonder why.

It’s not paranoia. I’m far from paranoid. It’s life when your family’s address shows up publicly as the place where someone portrayed as a monster lives, and it’s truly suffocating. How long will this much of my own and my family’s freedom be sacrificed?

A decent society holds people accountable for poor decisions. And once they’ve paid their debt, a good society restores their freedoms.


reprinted with permission from Dolley Madison and Steve Yoder, Life on the List.

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7 Thoughts to “Suffocating on the sex offender registry”

  1. AvatarChris

    Life certainly does not seem fair, just or rational sometimes. I lived in a sober house where there were a number of guys caught up in the registry as a result of mistakes they made. I got to know them, some were fathers, brothers, sons; all had one thing in common, they had alcohol and drug abuse issues at the root of their skewed mental functioning. They were all convicted of misdemeanors, mostly with victims near the age of 18, simple assault and such. Now that they are sober, the consequences of these mistakes haunts them for the rest of their lives. It has prevented them from further drug and alcohol treatments should they relapse, because anyone on the registry is barred from these programs, most cannot find work, some cannot pay their child support nor support their families. The registry is truly a misleading idea and ruins people for life, no matter what their future behavior. Some simply give up living, and this is a dangerous attitude that seems to fester, which can lead to further dangerous behaviors. There must be a change that motivates people to redeem themselves and live a righteous sober life.

  2. AvatarBell

    The registry has created an instant mailing list for porn companies.

  3. AvatarEd

    All of what the author says is true…but I am wondering why SO FEW of all the facts associated with “sex offenders” are reaching the ears of political movers and shakers!! And even more to this, the judicial authorities of the land seem to have forgotten their sacred oathes of office to uphold the United States Constitution!! ALL sex offenders in the U.S. have been reduced to ‘three-fifths of a person’ status and the 13th Amendment’s slavery prohibition’s fig leaf about “due process of law” does not cover the naked truth about the RANK INJUSTICE deliberately afflicted on almost a million citizens of the country.

  4. AvatarScott

    Till the lies stop on how often sex offenders reoffend the law will remain a huge cluster of misleading info. They are human lives that are been ruined due to misleading law. A good example for this is person convicted if sex crime having been sentenced to no jail time and listed as low risk.

  5. AvatarScott

    Then one day your all of sudden listed as high risk without having broken any law or failing to folow the sex offender law. You get told its due to the new adam walsh law that states was forced into adopting this law or face a lost in funds. So you did what you was orderd to do only to face having life destoryed due to lies been used to write the new law.

  6. Avatarjonathan garza

    i was on the sor for many years. it make your feel dirty and like a monster. you always wonder who knows what about. so people use your past to get proctive orders against when you have done nothing to this person. i try to contact old friend. she found out about my past. she went to court and lie to them. say i want to hurt her and her kids in two letters i wrote her. i have the police report which states she never read the letters or got them. so how would she know what was in them? secondly when she went to court she put the wrong address. this address is next to park which i could not live next to. i think she was trying to get me throw in prison again. sometime i still feel like i’m a monster or bad. because of my past.

  7. AvatarJoe

    This is exactly what happened to me. I yelled out a car window while on meth and then i was put in jail and convicted and my life is ruined because i yelled a derogatory comment out my window while on drugs to teen girls who by the way did not even know what i said.

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