Friday, December 30, 2016

Sex offenders and the YMCA

I will from time to time receive columns or op-eds written by others with requests to print them on my blog. I have complied a time or two, but generally I do not. This one can be added to the times I complied.

I received an email from someone requesting anonymity. He explained that he was a registrant in New Jersey. He included this link, which led to a message to “the community” in the form of an open letter from the executive director of the West Essex YMCA, which is in Livingston, New Jersey. It is the standard public relations fare put out by businesses in order to familiarize communities with their products and services.

My anonymous correspondent included his own open letter with a request that I try to have it printed in the same online neighborhood newsletter that printed the one from the YMCA. I found the request valid, and I zipped it off to the editor the same day. After several days of no response, I emailed her again telling her that if she would not be using it, I would be printing it elsewhere and asking for an acknowledgment. I received none, and therefore I am printing his letter to the ED of the West Essex YMCA.

Ms. Helen Flores
Executive Director, West Essex YMCA

Dear Ms. Flores,

My family and I have recently moved to your community. I was pleased to see your letter to the community about what your facility offers. My wife and I have three children, and we have been recently discussing the value of the many programs that YMCAs offer. In fact, we had reached the conclusion that a family membership would be a good investment, and then I read something that stopped me in my tracks.

Apparently you have installed a program that screens for sex offenders for the purpose of preventing their entry into the Y and, I presume, preventing their becoming members.

Since the vast majority of those who are currently engaged in sexual offending, especially against children, have never been identified or charged, this confused me. How could your system alert on them? And then I realized that you mean those who are required to register on a sex offender registry, almost none of whom are still sex offenders.

Let me tell you my story. When I was a high school senior, 18 for a portion of my senior year, my girlfriend was a sophomore and 15. We became sexually active and became pregnant with our first child. I was charged with sexual crimes against a child and required to register as a sexual offender.

Sadly, we lost that child in a miscarriage. Her parents moved away, taking her with them, to prevent our seeing each other. Of course we communicated, and after she graduated from high school and I from college, we dated again and then married. Today we have a wonderful marriage and three great children. It took a while, but her parents forgave our bad beginning. I, however, am required to register as a sex offender for life.

Everyone where we lived knew our story, and we were fortunate to suffer only minimal collateral consequences from being registered. Our wonderful family more than made it worthwhile.

My work has now brought me here, and we have had some rocky patches. I am sure though that we will work through them. We cleared a big hurdle recently when we finally found a church who would accept us as a family.

If my wife or I applies for a family membership at your YMCA, what will the outcome be? Will you accept our application? Will you exclude me? If so, will I be allowed to enter to pick up the children on those occasions where my wife’s business takes her out of town and one of our children may have an activity at the Y?

I would very much like to know. I don’t want to put my children in the position of facing embarrassment or ridicule if their father is treated like a criminal and refused entry.

Thank you for your time.

A very concerned father who is NOT a sexual offender.

Shelly here – I have nothing to add.


  1. I too was a member of the Y in North Las Vegas but they used some program called Razor or something like that to look me and my son up. I am the SOR that have been on for about 2 years but 1 here in NV, and I didn't do anything against anyone except a vindictive wife who ruined my military life and my personal one also. But I digress. I live with my parents and had my mother sign up with me also. We received a message on out answering machine and she went down there to find out what the issue was. Once she found out and talked to the program manager it didn't matter. It's thier policy to keep SOR's away from thier establishments regardless of the level, or the results of the court. So I told them basically to shove it and that it basically is not what the Y should be as its supposed to follow the learnings of the Bible. I wish this fellow well but don't get your hopes up. They will deny you and try to ostracize you due to your status. Which basically sucks. Good luck regardless.

  2. It amazes me the things we find out as we go in the life of a registrant. I would like to put together a list of all that we cannot do since being on the registry.

    I was surprised that here in Oklahoma, I cannot go to a park. A park does not mean a place with swings and playground equipment... it means ANY park, State Park included. I really wanted to buy a boat, and I can, but I would have no place in Oklahoma to use it.

    A few years ago, I went to Silver Dollar City in Branson, Mo. I grew up in Missouri and SDC was always a favorite of mine. I bought season tickets for my wife and daughter. After visiting one time, I received a letter in the mail stating that they were refunding my ticket fee and basically told me not to come back again, or I would be arrested! These people think that I come there to check out the children? It can be very discouraging, for sure. We like to say that we are a society that gives second chances, but so far, we just say it. We don't really mean it.


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Thank you.