Sex offender registries — instruments of oppression

By Michael Rosenberg . . . I see little in life that looks like a sex offender registry with its incumbent restrictions. School was tough when I didn’t have friends, and life can look a little bleak when I look around now at my limited social experiences. Yet while I have to skip many events that take place within shouting distance of businesses designed with children in mind, my days are not empty.

Sex offender therapy, while a requirement of my probation, is a weekly trip to twelve friends. I have even come to accept changes when they come in the form of suggestions from the group; they say what they feel, and they feel more than most — in part because they have been treated like the worst. Just like me, they come to group to pay their fees and talk about their last week’s thoughts and behaviors. Just like anyone, they desire a community: work; friends; lovers; a sense of joy from time to time. Unlike others, they (and I) suspend ourselves from much of the physical and cyber world because of flawed legislation which supposes that registrants are a) all alike in their likelihood to recidivate, b) innately flawed humans who do not regret their choices c) unworthy of a second look – hence, the registry’s treatment of a class of folks much the way toxic waste is treated.

If you saw my mother and step-father standing there, speaking up on my behalf week after week, fully supporting my good decisions and frowning at my mistakes, you would think twice about keeping me away from the farmer’s market on the weekends simply because on the weekdays people in there do administrative work for the parks department. I still manage to have nice meals with my parents and with friends; I just have to have my veggies picked up for me sometimes.

Few friends I had before I was arrested for a sex offense have stood with me and risked further association with the worst kind of outcast. Those who continue to stick with me exhibit a quietly fierce courage I cannot with certainty say I would possess in their situation.

There is no bravery in lambasting registrants with angry, inaccurate names. It is not a hero who, in assuming the kind of moral superiority that ends with violent words and even violent acts, puts down hundreds of thousands of American citizens who have committed a sex crime. Putting that in words, it doesn’t seem it should need to be said, but it does. It does because in my therapy group, the guys are some of the most caring, sensitive, impressively attuned folks I have run into in a long while, and recently at least two of them have spoken reservedly about feeling like giving up.

I am not trained in interpreting law, but I feel confident in feeling that legislation is supposed to have a purpose, and when this purpose is not achieved, when real harm is being done, those are the types of laws that some of my favorite thinkers speak of when they rail against oppression. A song in particular comes to mind when I think of the madness of following laws that even police officers speak against openly and harshly.

Cutting any group of people off from broad swaths of society creates irrational fears. Like a danger or warning label which few are qualified to read but everyone assumes they understand, the registry engenders a false sense of fear.

I learned something this week in my group therapy. I learned that I am no better than anyone else; I have much to learn about what causes me to fulfill my emotional needs in unhealthy ways. Even after years of therapy, some prison, and lots of alone time, I am surprised to find that people do want to know me; new people at times do want to know more about me, but they first have to overcome the registry.


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

9 Thoughts to “Sex offender registries — instruments of oppression”

  1. AvatarGrace Imburgia

    I agree with you and understand your frustration, your loneliness and non acceptance. I see my son go through this everyday. It is over ten years and he is classified low risk. He is it a danger to society. Just one wring choice and someone who lied about her age has labeled him for life. It not only affects his but his family as well.

  2. AvatarJ.

    A DUI registry would make more sense. Perhaps pushing for one would invite the ridiculousness of registries.
    I was recently a victim of a dui hit and run, was lucky to walk away unharmed.
    In recent news a woman drunk driving in the highway the wrong way killed a 20yo and was sentenced to 5 years in prison. When she gets out I assume she’ll be a felon but not on any registries.
    I think knowing you live next to an alcoholic who has murdered someone is of bigger value than the teenager who mooned someone or hooked up with his hs gf.

    1. AvatarDavid

      DUI offences kill allot more people then sex offences do. I think you have a good point J. If there were a bunch of American citizens who were forbidden to Drink ever again or for 10 years, Forbidden to be in bars, or anywhere alcoholic beverages were served, not aloud to drive for 10 years or for life, And had their names added to a government shame web site, may be the idiocy of the registry would become apparent to more people.

    2. AvatarThere is a drunk driving registry....

      There is a DUI registry in Ohio already….you can search for it online

    3. AvatarH n H

      Did that and came up with the following

      The last sentence of that article should make everyone reading this LIVID! Beings most won’t, here it is:

      And there’s nothing wrong with shaming someone into driving sober.

      That’s the entire unspoken purpose and intent behind the registry!

      Reposting, forgot the captcha

  3. AvatarTim

    There was supposed to be a decision to abolish or change the registry for low risk offenders back in January in Ohio and other states, but I haven’t heard anything about it since then. Has the decision been made?

    1. AvatarLori Bates

      I know nothing about this decision having never heard of it; however, it could apply to my son. Could you please give me the source so that I may find more information?

  4. AvatarPhys Ed

    De jure bills of attainder are outlawed under the constitution of the U.S., but the whole system of sex offender registries legitimizes the same results in a de facto fashion of any “bill of attainder” that is labeled as SORNA on the federal level or just plain SO registration on the state level where states don’t want to pick up the tab for running the federal’s program. Whole families who happen to share a last name with an offender are punished and shunned with public online registration. How just is this? The DOJ has become the DOIJ.

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