The extreme difficulty of living as a name on a sexual offense registry

By Sandy . . . Once again, I will receive negative comments about this piece. Once again, I will be reminded that many on the registry live fulfilling, happy lives. Thank God that they do. But they seldom are the focus of the media or write to me or post anguished comments on our websites.

This is the reality of many on a registry, of those who wear the label of “sex offender,” and this is for them.

Even for those who have found a place in life where they are giving back to the community and have found love and acceptance, the registry rears its ugly head with accusations. David Pearson is a pastor of a church in Mercer County, Pennsylvania and has been so for 18 years. He is also listed on the Florida sex offender registry due to a 1993 conviction in Texas. He is not on Pennsylvania’s registry nor on Texas’s. His congregation knows about his past and, embracing the doctrine of forgiveness of sins upon which their church is founded, fully accepts him as the man he is today. The problem comes from the outside. Others in the community publicize his background, taking their complaints to the local press. David Pearson’s life is successful now, but his life, in the eyes of those outside his congregation, is summed up in this one sentence from a community member: “It doesn’t matter when you get convicted, you’re always going to be registered as a sex offender.”

The consequences of life on the registry are shown to be more critical in this comment on a NARSOL post from a reader.

I really don’t want to live this life I’ve been handed by this thing society now wields, and calls justice. I went to prison for two years, and got out because I won my appeal. I knew where I stood in prison, better than I do serving a lifetime on [the registry]. Every 6 months I’m subjected to a polygraph that costs me $150. The messed-up thing, it’s like paying for services that somebody else gets to use against me. I pay for an internet nanny that watches my web browsing, at another $15 a month.

I was fired from my superintendent job at a golf course after working there for 11 years. [They said] I was deceptive on my polygraph, so they gave me another; I was thrown in jail after freaking out on that one too. After 10 years of working my way up in the golf industry, one year of college, and buying my own condo, the judge didn’t know why they threw me in jail, and she threw out the case before I stepped foot in her court room.

My CCO of 5 years was furious  . . .  I don’t know what else I have to do to prove my worth in this messed up society, but I’m never going to stop fighting. I’m 58 years old, and my body isn’t working like it used to, and I’m afraid of what the DOC might do next. It continually feels like they hold my head under water, and I fight to find the surface to take a breath.

But the most desperate, the most heart-and-gut-wrenching in a long, long time came in this comment on a post on our Tales from the Registry website. The post was an objective account of a young man who, in the words of the writer, “. . . departed this life at 24 years old. Given the choice between death and the sex registry, he chose death. This is the impact of what the registry means in real life.”

And this is a portion of Jessica’s reply.

I think of death every day and I can’t wait for it to happen, whether I do it myself or something happens . . . I know that I am a kind, compassionate, empathetic, intelligent person who has so much to give. But it doesn’t matter. Everyone outside my family hates me . . .

I am lucky that my husband of 20 years forgave me for [my involvement with] a 17-year-old boy (whose family repeatedly told authorities that they did not want me prosecuted and that they feel I was manipulated by their confused son) . . .

I have never been in trouble in my life until age 32. Never been arrested, fired, reprimanded, or anything before I made the decisions that I made. I am now considered a violent rapist, less than human, and I have been told to kill myself. I really want to. I am tired of being scared. I am tired of being punished for one mistake. I am tired of being out of work, even though I have several college degrees. I am tired of being a disappointment to my family.

I want to die, and I truly feel that it would inevitably increase the quality of life for everyone I know . . .  My daughter and I will have nothing if something were to ever happen to my husband because I haven’t even been able to get an interview in 8 years. I am scared every second of every day that I am going to do something that I don’t realize that I am not supposed to do.

For example, what if I missed something when listing my internet accounts? The lady who was in charge with helping me register called me a nasty b*%#@ and said that she wasn’t there to answer my ridiculous questions when I asked for clarity.

Is it just social media accounts or is it everything? Do they need to know my Amazon account or what I buy online at Target? I don’t know because I have no one to ask.

I have a 15-year-old kiddo who I love very much. Many of her friend’s parents know about what happened and know that I would never hurt their children. They are fine with their children coming over. So, will the cops show up? Will I get to be a part of my grandchildren’s lives, since I am so apparently violent? Why do I even exist anymore? I am doing nothing but sitting here . . .  taking money from the government while endlessly searching for a job that will never come.

I want to die.

I should have done it 7 years ago (or before). My existence is almost pointless; I am a waste of space. Society has let me know that I don’t belong and that I shouldn’t live. So why am I still here? My kiddo, I guess. During the worst times, I try to figure out when it would be easiest on her for me to go . . .

I want to die. I am so tired of being afraid and of hurting everyone.

There is nothing left for me to say. Nothing.

Sandy Rozek

Written by 

Sandy, a NARSOL board member, is communications director for NARSOL, editor-in-chief of the Digest, and a writer for the Digest and the NARSOL website. Additionally, she participates in updating and managing the website and assisting with a variety of organizational tasks.