Friday, November 18, 2016

Being on the VSP Sex Offender Registry Means You /Your Family Can’t Even Mourn in Private

For 8 years I have been contacted by RSO’s, their spouses, their parents, their children, their significant others, their grandparents and even their roommates. I have been told stories of inopportune VSP residency checks that have spoiled birthday parties, graduation gatherings, picnics, Halloween and the list goes on.  

In Virginia the Virginia State Police (the official monitor and manager of Registered Sex Offenders who are NOT incarcerated and who are NOT under VA-DOC Probation supervision) per VA Code must physically verify each Registered Sex Offender’s residence semi-annually (twice a year) and these checks are unannounced. 

Over the last 9 years at my home these checks have been done on weekdays and on weekends, they’ve occurred from 10:30AM to as late as 8:45PM; I keep a list of the day, the time and any specifics that may have occurred. Sometimes we’ve been home, sometimes we haven’t.  

The surprise of these VSP visits immediately takes us back to 2007 and reminds us how my husband who is a Non-Violent RSO really is collateral damage of politicians lowering the burden of proof while raising the penalties because they’ve rewritten our laws under the guise of protecting Virginians from “Sexual Predators” with almost no opposition. Why is he a Registered Sex Offender? Because in May 2007 a neighbor needed to put their elderly and frail dog down and they asked us to help the following week. In an effort to stop that euthanasia the neighbor’s teenage daughter hatched a lie to save her dog. The teenagers plan worked that dog was not put-down and instead her lie made my husband an RSO and me an advocate for reform. 

These VSP residency visits always put a damper on the rest of the day even though the VSP Trooper assigned to him is very professional, courteous and kind. But seeing the VSP Trooper in our driveway or at our front door (sometimes surrounded by our Christmas display) just reminds of the injustice that occurred and how both of our lives (not just his) have been so drastically changed by this public label of shame. Some days the cloud-of-shame is not just mentally draining but physically draining. 

Our second VSP visit for 2016 happened yesterday and it may be the one that hurts the most. Not because the Trooper did anything wrong but the unannounced timing was so incredibly bad. 
We were pulling down the street returning home at 12:15PM when we saw his Trooper pass us by in their vehicle, they waved at us and I stopped my vehicle and waited for them to turn around, pulling up to my door they said hello and through my tears I told them we had just taken one of our dogs to be put-down and were returning at that very moment from the vet. The Trooper was obviously taken aback and said how sorry they were, waved and drove off. Still crying I then pulled into our driveway and we made our way inside with the blanket our red hound had died on so our other dogs could sniff it and know she was gone. 

My husband said to me as I was removing all personal items of the now deceased dog, “well at least they didn’t show up as we were leaving with her to go to the vet”. And I contemplated what THAT would have been like and how I might have reacted towards the Trooper, who is just doing their job. 

I understand why Virginia lawmakers think a surprise visit twice a year to confirm compliance of Registered Sex Offenders sounds good but the reality of these visits is a different thing. The VSP Troopers and Compliance Officers are walking directly into people lives as they are unfolding. The good, the bad, the joy, the anger, the depressing, the frustrating and the mourning of life is being trespassed upon by the Virginia State Police onto people who have served their court ordered sentenced and who are NOT under VA-DOC Probation supervision. 

I lost a member of my family yesterday, a dog that was silly and even sometimes annoying but we loved her for 12 years and we had to make a very difficult decision yesterday to spare her from the pain and the agony that would have been her future and instead of being able to mourn in private we were forced to be reminded that my husband is a Registered Sex Offender.  

This is the reality of being on the VSP Registry, our lives will never be our own and the public thinks somehow these restrictions, regulations and mandates keep them safe, they don’t. But these “rules” do make the lives of the RSO and their family members 100% miserable, which I truly believe is the real goal of the Registry........ punitive, eternal misery and shame masked as public safety. 

Mary Devoy