Monday, March 21, 2016

With sex offender issues, many media outlets don't want both sides

UPDATE: After this was sent to the publisher and editor, and after W.A.R. contacted them, I received an email yesterday -- 23rd -- saying the rebuttal would run "later this week." Today, the 24th, they ran a reiteration of their position. That means that this one should see print tomorrow, the 25th, or Saturday the 26th. Watch this spot for updates.

A May 13 editorial in the Longview, WA News Online proclaimed, "Laws Help Keep Children Safe." The editorial was essentially an expression of outrage that the organization W.A.R. -- and by extension all such-minded advocacy organizations-- even existed. "It takes a moment to digest that such a group exists...." Apparently the news outlet had received a brochure and some factual information from W.A.R. after a vigilante incident occurred in Longview.

The editorial angered me as it included several references that are blatantly untrue. I wrote the online editor inquiring whether she would consider for publication a rebuttal piece that I had started working on. By the time she responded that I could send it to her, I had finished it and immediately did so as this was a time-sensitive issue. That was over a week ago. Two separate inquiries to her as to whether
she had made a decision yet went unacknowledged.

A week is enough time to decide to print or not print submitted material. Besides, I have experienced this too many times to count: journalism, which once long, long ago in a place far, far away, would almost always respond favorably to a request for "equal time," no longer feels the necessity to do that.

And so I print it here, and I will send a link to the publisher and online editor of the Daily News.

In response to your editorial of March 13, "Laws help keep children safe," I would first like to thank you for your condemnation of vigilante activity. Fully agreeing with the title of your op-ed, I too want laws that help keep children safe, and there is nothing about vengeance-motivated activity that works toward that goal.
The organization you criticize, WAR, or Women Against Registry, is one of several organizations that advocate for laws that do just that -- keep children safe. Another is SOSEN, Sex Offender Solutions and Education Network. And yet another is RSOL, Reform Sex Offender Laws, Inc. These organizations agree with what research studies show: laws that keep children -- and indeed everyone -- safe must, in order to do that, be based on facts and empirical evidence.
The public registry system is not based on empirical evidence, and, in your defense of it, you say that the murder of Adam Walsh is "not uncommon." Actually, it is very rare. Whether or not Adam's kidnapping and subsequent murder were sexually motivated will never be known, but it was a heinous crime as was the murder of Megan Kanka and another handful of horrific child murders at the hands of murderers.
Your statement that WAR grew out of murders such as these is untrue. WAR, SOSEN, and RSOL grew out of a realization, based on research, that public registration of those who had previously committed a sexual offense -- not murdered, not decapitated, but committed an offense ranging from the trivial to the serious -- actually was not deterring sexual crimes against children at all. It was in some cases increasing the risk for re-offense, and it was and is creating conditions that seriously interfere with mandated rehabilitative efforts. 
It was and does negatively impact the lives of family members, especially the children of registrants. This is well documented through research studies. 
According to yet another study, "These policies have led to multiple collateral consequences, creating an ominous environment that inhibits successful reintegration and may contribute to an increasing risk for recidivism. In fact, evidence on the effectiveness of these laws suggests that they may not prevent recidivism or sexual violence and result in more harm than good." 
Reform organizations do not defend the actions that have triggered registration, and we recognize appropriate punishment as desirable and necessary, but it is difficult to claim that, in all cases, the children suffer through the actions of the registrant family members rather than the effects of public registration. Many situations exist where the offense was committed when the registrant was a child or juvenile himself. A number of cases involve premarital sex where the offender and "victim" later married and had a family, yet the offender remains on a public registry, often for life, and his children suffer greatly due to it. This continuation of punishment long after a sentence has been completed is but another form of vengeance and amounts to legalized, governmental vigilante action, exacting punishment far beyond what the courts assessed.
The impotency of the public registry to deter re-offense and to protect children is well documented also. Dr. Bill O'Leary is a forensic psychologist and longtime critic of  public notification and tracking. He notes, "95 percent of sexual abuse occurs between a victim and a known acquaintance, not a stranger living down the street. One of the most unethical pieces of the situation has been saying that we need to do this to prevent sexual abuse when we know statistically that this has nothing to do with preventing sexual abuse.”
According to the United States Department of Justice, from 1992 to 2010 there was a steep decline in all major crime. There is no evidence that a decrease in sexual crime is due to our current policies, and that theory is actually negated by research.  
Many people and organizations advocate every day for policies that will keep children safe, but we know that until the focus is put on the victims and the actual facts about child sexual abuse, that is highly unlikely to occur.


  1. Awesome! I couldn't have said it any better. It is time to stop punishing and harassing our families that have loves ones on the registry. Everyone deserves a second chance. Every one makes mistakes. People who have DUIs, DWIs, addicts, thieves, murderers, arsonists, etc. all get a second chance but not a person who commits a sex offense. Society wants to dangle this mistake over your head forever because you might offend again. You don't hear of people who have committed sex offenses re-offending very often, do you? When was the last time you heard about a repeat sex offender in the news. Facts don't lie. People who commit a sex offense are very unlikely to commit another one if they have the proper positive support system in place that does not include residency restrictions. Many times you hear of sex offenders the first time they commit an offense and were never on the registry to start with like Sandusky. Prevention and education is the key to stop sexual abuse and assaults on children and adults.

  2. Thank you for this excellent response. I agree, the existence of the registry does not stop sexual abuse. Prevention education is the key. The vast majority of people who are currently required to be on the registry are just like you and me. They are human beings who made a mistake and deserve a second chance. The data unambiguously shows that given support, these friends and family members are very unlikely to reoffend. Based on the available evidence, it's inhumane for us to continue to punish them and their families by requiring them to register.

    1. I absolutely agree. Education and prevention programs are the key to stop and prevent sexual abuse.

      When I saw the retraction, I couldn't hold back and signed in, so I too could tell them how completely wrong they are. The registry doesn't help to prevent sexual abuse, it only gives parents like me a false sense of security, while their children are being abused by someone they know and trust.

  3. I have posted two comments, last night one on the original opinion article, and one this morning on the current reiteration of their stance. They did not approve my comment on their opinion last night, and now I am waiting to see if they approve this morning's post.I am a resident of Washington State,and I am very familiar with the demographics of this town. It is what I consider to be somewhat isolated, historically a logging mill town, and a town that has always made me uneasy. I applaud you for your effort to fight back with true statistics, but I am afraid they might have fallen on deaf ears. I do not intended to give up, I will get my opinion posted.

  4. Don't expect your rebuttal to get published when they just published the article linked below which does not help what you are trying to do with his recidivism despite the fact he was within the 95th percentile of those who commit these because he was a close family friend......

    I am still on our side and hope people will wake up to realize the truth as you state and how this guy is an aberration....

  5. Frankly, I'm pessimistic. A forensic psychologist named Laura Umfer, quoted in the Tampa Tribune, really nailed it. She said, in part, "I think people are in denial . . . At the end of the day you have to look inside your house, and people don't want to do that because it's terrifying."

    Until a critical mass of people experience first hand how the current policies have failed them, nothing will change. It makes me very sad that countless thousands more innocent people, children and adults alike, will have to suffer before they force our governments to finally adopt policies that actually reduce their chances of victimization.

    1. We are they --- and trying to do more than quoting . We are all victims--victims of life . The government of today is the most in denial, and yes it is terrifying .
      A question for the forensic psychologist ; do'nt the children of 20 more years become adults . Why not question the innosence of decissions at an older age the truth may be shocking but helpful and speed government for better policies and bring the legislators, parents for megans law unconstitutional laws in the united states before a court of law for the deaths of those hunted down and murderd from the public registry after time served .
      As a previous article from with justice for all . Parents for megans law not helping children . That went 404 what happend ? Was there a threat from the police chief

  6. No, no threats. If you can, give me the link for the missing page or the 404 page. Thank you.

  7. It is interesting to see the rebuttal you wrote finally get published on Mar 25, but not without making it difficult online to find. I did not see it until today, Apr 11, on NationalRSOL Tweet blurb. As you noted in the comments of the original editorial, it was hidden with unworking links, etc. Not surprising...

    Still nice to see it published though. Maybe someone in Longview will think.


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