During a trial for any offense against a person, and most definitely when the charge is of a sexual nature, the testimony from the victim is the strongest factor in conviction. At sentencing, much credence is given to victim impact statements. When an inmate is eligible for parole, statements from the victim can make the difference between parole being granted or not.
But how about when former victims are involved with legislation affecting persons totally unrelated to the harm done to them and with the potential to affect persons far into the future? Sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? Yet with the victims of sexual crime, it happens. Lauren Book has built a career by being involved with legislation, not only that which is appropriately focused on prevention but also that which targets registered sex offenders even though her abuser was not on the registry.
One has only to look at the alphabet soup listing of bills and legislation named after children who were murdered to see the impact that victims' families have. Yet the legislation pushed by these people do not target those who murder but rather those who commit sexual offenses, and there is no evidence that the motivation for the most notorious of these, the Adam Walsh Act, was even connected to a sexual crime.
And now a victims' group is protesting that the "victim's viewpoint" was not given enough consideration in a thorough examination that was done by an independent agency into the Colorado sex offender management program and procedures. The report emphasizes that facts and empirical research were not considered or followed and that, therefore, a great deal of money was wasted monitoring low level former offenders who didn't need it. At least one victims' advocacy group takes umbrage at this finding.
I would ask what valuable input former victims have in helping develop policy for the future? Virtually all of them were victimized by those who weren't on the registry. Virtually all of them were victimized by those who were in their lives in a trusted capacity. Two or three may have been the victims of prior offenders but most likely no more.
What would they be bringing to the table other than a desire for revenge against the generic group of registered persons? If they wish to be truthful and admit that nothing that affects former offenders would have made any difference to their victimization, a statement to that effect could be submitted. If they want to be honest and say that nothing that affects former offenders will prevent 97% or more of future sexual offenses from occurring, they can issue a statement to that effect. If they want to be honest and say what the Kansas SOMB said in a report to its legislature, that “Right now, it appears that the best alternatives are in the form of community wide education and training regarding steps that can be taken to educate parents . . .," the Colorado report already suggests that.
Former offenders were included because they were able to answer questions pertinent to the investigation. Former victims have no such ability. Former victims who haven't healed and are seeking something to help them feel better will not find it in negating the fact that they were victims of people in their lives that they trusted and quite possibly loved, not of people who were on a registry. That was true yesterday. It will be true tomorrow.
The people that these laws will affect tomorrow are not the people who will be committing tomorrow's crimes.