I have not previously used this forum to discuss or deal with any personal involvement in the issue. It is said that for every "not ever," there is an exception. This is mine.
A person close to me, a person I will call Lee, was adjudicated for a sexual crime, inappropriate sexual behavior, almost nine years ago. The victim was an older teenager and Lee was in a position of authority. The victim was sexually aggressive and coercive. Lee was the adult, knew better, and was wrong. It was a one-time situation, and they were caught.
Lee's probationary conditions are standard for one-size-fits-all sex offender management.
Ten years of probation.
No contact with anyone under the age of 18, not even young family members.
No internet access except for job searches and for work itself.
No going out of the county, not even just across the county line for a family gathering following Lee's sister's funeral. Lee was allowed to attend the funeral; it was in the county Lee is confined to.
Mandated sex offender "therapy" sessions once a week, every week, for ten years.
Lee has and has always had mental health issues: medically diagnosed depression and anxiety; poor decision making and coping skills; very little self-confidence in spite of a great deal of talent and ability. Lee is on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum.
Lee has always had difficulty establishing and maintaining relationships. The publicity surrounding the sexual offense destroyed hopes of having a normal social life. Career in ruins, other attempts at jobs were futile. One was denied by probation because it was on the same block as a building that served as a children's theater.
Family gatherings were denied because Lee's siblings had young children, infants and toddlers--nieces and nephews to whom Lee had been close.
Church was denied until Lee disclosed the crime to the congregational leader, something Lee was too ashamed to do.
Lee's only outlet was and is the weekly "therapy" session.
I cannot use the word "therapy" in context with this treatment without enclosing it in quotation marks. Whatever definition the word "therapy" conveys does not exist among the state-sanctioned, mandated sex offender treatment models in the state where Lee lives. Every single session focuses on the vileness and the guilt of the attendees. One assignment required Lee to list 40 people who were affected by Lee's offense and to write an essay for each of the 40 detailing all of the ways that person was or could have been harmed by the offense. If the group leader felt the account was not thorough enough, it had to be redone with Lee imagining even more ways the offense might possibly have hurt the person.
Lee's mental health has declined not just significantly but dramatically. Any attempts to seek outside therapy, even autism-specific therapy, were denied by the treatment group on the grounds that it might "un-do" the work they were doing.
Any attempts to be released early from probation were shot down by the judge who yelled at Lee from the bench that sex offenders didn't get early release in her court.
Any appeals to the probation officer resulted in an automatic repetition of what the treatment provider had said.
Over the years Lee has become more and more isolated, desperate, and suicidal. The end of the year, with Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays and family gatherings that cannot be attended, exacerbates Lee's depression and isolation.
The "therapy" group, the one place where sharing of negative feelings and the offering of positive support should be a given, is the opposite. Lee knows that such sharing of negative feelings and fears invites the reinforcement of them: one who has committed a sexual crime should be depressed.
The thing that should be helpful is the most hurtful. And that is surely, to paraphrase Shakespeare, the cruelest cut of all.