I was recently on one of the city Facebook pages and noticed a posting that someone had discovered they have a registered sex-offender in their neighborhood.
What I found disturbing is that the poster made a generalized statement with no details on the registrant other than that they are “Tier 3 most dangerous and most likely to offend.”
Nothing was stated as to what the crime was, how long ago, or the registrant’s age at the time the crime was committed. I doubt they ever looked at or considered any of those factors. They made an assumption based on that person being on the registration list, nothing else.
Without knowing any information or details about the reason that person is on the sex offender registry, people who read the post immediately jumped to conclusions and formulated in their own minds what this registered person must be like. Comments included “child molester,” “Scum,” “Sexual Assault,” and “So many people like that in this town it is sickening.”
What I find sickening is the vigilante-like, discriminatory attitude so many people took after simply hearing the words “registered sex offender.”
The sex offender registry was designed to be a list of those people we truly need to fear, pedophiles who prey on innocent children and violent rapists. What it has become is a joke — a catch-all of anyone and everyone who has committed anything from a minor error in judgment to a serious, horrendous sexual crime.
This does not provide us with protection. What it does is protect the predators amongst hundreds of people who are not a true danger to society but are also on the registry.
Keep in mind that a registered sex offender could be someone who did nothing more heinous than public urination; a 16-year old who had sex with his 15-year-old girlfriend and the couple is now married and raising a family, but he legally remains on the registry as a sex offender; a person who at age 10 was playing “doctor” with cousins and siblings and is now a 30-year-old successful business person; or a child that ran up and kissed another child on the playground, now deemed to be a sexual assault, and the list goes on.
It is important to remember that the victim never ages, but the perpetrator does. What does this mean? It means when you look at a registration and see the photo of a 35-year-old man registered for having sex with a person under 15, have you looked to see how long ago the crime was committed? That registered offender may have also been 15 years of age at the time of the crime.
Remember, everyone makes mistakes. Sex offenders have a lower recidivism rate than any other type of criminal. Most people who make the news for having committed a sexual offense have never been charged before.
If you have someone living near you on the list, instead of making assumptions about the type of person they are or what they did, ask. Approach them in a polite manner and say, “I see you are on the sex offender registry; would you mind telling me what happened?” Some registrants may not want to talk about the events that took place, but many will be grateful you asked rather than making incorrect assumptions about the type of person they are. As every registrant knows, incorrect assumptions by others can lead to violence.
Grace Grogan 4:56 p.m. EDT May 2, 2016
Times Herald community columnist Grace Grogan lives in St. Clair.