Lenore Skenazy: Bogus ‘Sex Offender’ Labels are Ruining Lives
Virginia State Police (official monitor and manager of Virginia RSO’s) does NOT
track the number of juveniles on the VSP Sex Offender Registry which means the
number of children each year mandated to publicly register as Violent Sex
Offenders for life is unknown.
past Saturday I sent an email to all 138 (2 vacant
seatsat the moment) Virginia
Legislators with a rundown of how other States handle juveniles convicted of
sex crimes and 2 proposals to reform juvenile registration in Virginia, I
received some positive replies that same day.
We must continue to work towards reform in Virginia!
Bogus ‘sex offender’ labels are
July 25, 2016
a trick question, but unless you follow this stuff closely you’ll almost
certainly answer wrong.
most people are shocked to learn that the most common age of people charged
with a sex offense isn’t a creepy 39, or 51.
right. As the US Bureau of Justice reports: “The single age with the greatest
number of offenders from the perspective of law enforcement was age 14.”
young? Because people tend to have sex with people around their own age, which
means young people tend to have sex with other young people. And much under-age
sex is illegal.
keep throwing kids on the registry and labeling them sex offenders, as if
they’re incorrigible monsters. But in Britain, a study recently
commissioned by Parliament has recommended a totally different course: Trying
to understand, treat and refrain from labeling the kids, since children often
“make mistakes as they start to understand their sexuality and experiment with
happens when we turn teens and even tweens into sex offenders?
punishment and stigma can follow them for years, even decades. A study by Human
Rights Watch gave the example of Jacob, a boy found guilty of inappropriately
touching his sister when he was 11.
this got him placed on the sex offender registry, he was not allowed to live
near other children, including siblings. So he was sent to live in a juvenile
home, and eventually placed with foster parents.
Jacob is still on the sex-offender registry, still unable to live near a school,
playground or park.
though study after study has shown these residency restrictions do not make the
public any safer.)
he has had a hard time finding work, because who wants to hire a sex offender?
concluded Human Rights Watch, “his life continues to be defined by an offense
he committed at age 11” — an offense that most likely didn’t indicate anything
other than a young man in need of guidance.
another story I haven’t been able to forget since I heard about it a few years
back. In 2008, two 14-year-old New
Jersey boys pulled down their pants and sat on the
faces of two 12-year-old boys. As one of the 14-year-olds later explained to
the judge: “I thought it was funny, and I was trying to get my friends to
was pretty stupid, right? It sounds like disgusting horseplay. The boys surely
needed some disciplining. But since the case involved “criminal sexual contact”
with intent to “humiliate or degrade,” it fell under Megan’s Law. And under
Megan’s Law, offenders as young as 13 have to register.
appellate court upheld the sentence in 2011, so both young men will be on the
sex-offender registry until they die. As 40-year-olds, heck, as 80-year-olds,
they’ll be treated as perennial perverts for something they did in junior high.
not only horrifying, it flies in the face of what we have learned about sex
offenders (and not just the young ones), which is that contrary to public
perception, the vast majority of people on the registry never offend again.
Britain, where they’re just as concerned about sexual violence as we are — but
perhaps ready to rethink whether the punishments are fitting the crimes — the
parliamentary report concluded that while public safety is of course paramount,
young offenders should be “treated as children first and offenders second.”
sounds so much better than the draconian approach we’ve been taking in America, under
which a quarter of all the people convicted of sex offenses are juveniles.
800,000 people on the list, that means literally hundreds of thousands of
people under 18 were labeled monsters.
is really our goal, let’s start considering the safety of young people who play
doctor, experiment with their sexuality or roughhouse without realizing that
they are putting their entire future in danger, even at age 14.