Friday, October 07, 2005

The Other Victims

The local newspaper here in Western Maryland has an interesting series about the effectiveness of Maryland's sex offender registry.

The October 3rd issue reports on sexual abuse through the eyes of family members of it's victims and how one convicted sex offender views the registry law.

In the 1st part of the article the writer reports:

Twenty-two-year-old Shelly has faced the pain of being sexually abused for half of her life.

Her father, Thomas, feels it's only right that her molester, a middle-aged former family friend, spend the rest of his life facing it.

Thomas said he thinks convicted sex offenders should spend the rest of their lives listed on the sex offender registry, for the safety of others' children and for the contentment of his own.
Read more here.

From the offenders perspective comes this:

Ned wears a label imposed on him by a judge.

It's on the minds of those who know how it got there.

Ned knows even more people can find out.

His blurred photo, name and address have been posted on the Maryland Sex Offender Registry Web site for 20 months. Before that, Ned spent nine years in state prison for molesting his 7-year-old stepdaughter.

"Doesn't anybody forgive somebody?" Ned asked, perched on his living room couch. He answered his own question: "But they don't for this."
Read more here.

The articles chronicle life as has become for both the victims of these crimes and the offenders. It is indeed tragic that such reprehensible and unconscionable crimes occur. Now both the victim and the offender are scarred for life. I actually know some things about pedophilia, that you can read about here.

Perhaps for the offender, that's how it should be.

But what about the other victims? The ones that have been falsely imprisoned and still have to wear that label like a scarlet letter for the rest of their lives? Their story may be the most tragic of all.

Let me tell you of an example:

When I lived in Wichita, Kansas some years ago, I had a very close friend who was accused of a sexual crime.

Warren was married, and had 2 beautiful children, 1 boy, 6, and 1 girl 4. His wife had some mental problems. Because of her condition he sought out marital help.
And that's when the proverbial you-know-what hit the fan.

During a marriage counseling session, his wife dropped a bomb. In anger, and probably as a part of her delusion, she accused him of molesting his own children. Both of them. The counselor had no choice, by law but to report the accusation to the authorities. And before he had time to spit, he was arrested, interrogated, jailed, indicted and facing a maximum of 40 years in state prison.

Warren was so traumatized by the accusation, that he failed a polygraph test. He told me that everytime the test administrator asked him if he ever touched his kids in a sexual way, a wave of nausea and extreme nervousness went through him. The very suggestion that anything that horrible could have been done to his own children was repugnant to him. He is convinced that the way his heart jumped inside him when the administrator mentioned those words contributed to the reason he failed the test.

Polygraphs are not infallible.

In the 6 months between the time he was arraigned and the trial, he went through an excrutiating period of fear, anger, and even self doubt. He contacted and engaged the best lawyer he could find, who took the case even though it was clear he doubted his clients innocence himself. Warren even went to a psychiatrist and asked to be hypnotized to determine if maybe he had committed the crime and he just didn't remember. As I recall the shrink asked him if he remembered having any blackouts, and when Warren told him he hadn't, the psychiatrist assured him that he couldn't have done it and not remember.

The fact that there was no evidence of abuse either physical or emotional, had no effect on the prosecutor of the case. She prosecuted the case with gusto.

One by one witnesses stepped up to the stand. The arresting officer, the detective who did the interrogation, social services experts, child abuse experts, a medical doctor, and the childrens mother. Not one of them could be absolutely certain of his guilt, but all of them stated they were convinced he was. The head detective even stated that of all the alleged perpertrators he had arrested, 100% of them were guilty in his opinion. Asked how many of them were convicted, he said about 50%.

The children's mother's testimony was so disconnected from reality on the stand, she was asked to leave the witness stand and her testimony was stricken from the record. The Judge asked the jury to disregard her testimony.

There was one witness for the defense. Warren himself.

He handled the cross examination well, and was acquitted. But there were some jurors that still believed he was guilty.

20 years later the memory of that experience still haunts him. He cannot show affection for children, for he fears accusations of impropriety. Once he went to the airport to meet his brother and his family who had been out of the country for 2 years. His niece, about 6 years old at the time, attempted to give Warren a hug, and Warren pushed her away from him.

He will not discuss the incident except to tell me, personally, that it disturbs him to this day, that there may be some people who knew him then who will forever believe he is a child molester. Warren could never again bring himself to kiss his own kids, and it was many months after his trial that he was even able to hug them.

You see, Warren understands the social stigma associated with sexual offenders. He remembers with bitterness how his own brother said he wasn't so sure that he didn't do it.

He tells me he is fortunate that he isn't one of those other victims, the ones that were falsely accused and imprisoned for a very grievous crime they didn't commit. He is thankful that he escaped having to register as a sexual offender everywhere he goes for the rest of his life.

And he feels a certain empathy for the poor souls that didn't.


Toad734 said...

Not to be a dick but is there a point, or is this just a story? Are you asking how others feel?

Sure there are instances, I know someone, where people are falsely accused (yuppie parents are so protective and uptight these days) and that's where the law and burden of proof comes in. Fact remains that your friend is not on that list today.

As far as the list is concerned why is it that murderers and thieves don't have to register after serving a sentence for their crime? Why only sex offenders? Because it is a sickness and these people will strike again! Look at that John Couey guy in Florida.

What I don't understand is that if everyone knows they will strike again and they have to be registered; why would we let them out of jail? Or why wouldn't we fix their problem by castrating them?

If you know someone will strike again, don't let them out of jail.

Etchen said...

In response to Toad-we don't knwo for sure that they will indded strike again, but the recidivism rate is high, so we believe they will.I don't think that we can continue to keep someone in jail after they have served their time, just b/c there is a possibility that they "might" commit the crime again. It was interesting to see the perspective of someone who was falsely accused, and I'm glad you shared it.
I am extremely in favour of the sex offender registry. I currently know the names, faces and adresses of the 12 sex offenders in my town. I leave them alone, but it is nice to know who they are and where they live so I can be more aware. I let my God children,nieces and nephews and friend's children all play on my street, but with the knowledge that there are sex offenders in midst, I watch the children more diligently when they are out and impose more restrictions on their movements(the children's). I am personally all for the registry.

Do you think we should have a registry for murders, who have done their time and who are now out in society?

Sheila said...

In the United States there is a statistic that no one but who it has happened to and the law pay attention to. 6 out of 10 women are sexually molested as girls. Boys? It's even more illusive of a statistic and of course we know why.

For womenm,It's not reported unless it's couerced knowledge 9 out of 10 times.

No one wants to pay attention because frankly, it's a horrible subject. Too henous for most of us to think of.

I really believe that if we started paying attention and scared the !@#$#@! out of these fellows, there would be much less reoffending. AND YES I agree. Let's castrate them.

Erudite Redneck said...

Toad! Then why be one??? The nature of this forum is a standing invitation to comment. Not everything has to start out as a dang argument.

I think once you've served your time, you should be as free as anyone else who serves their time. If the sentences for child sexual abuse need to be longer, then the states should make them longer.



FrenziedFeline said...

I still like the idea of being registered as a sex offender just because the recidivism rate is high. It's just like kids, you can love all your kids, but in reality, you can't treat them all the exact same. Sex crimes are way up on my list of the worst crimes and the perpetrators need extra measures of punishment.

I supervised a friend on a visitation with her son after his step-father (her DH) had been accused of molestation. He was investigated and they determined it was a false charge, but it sure turned their world upside down for awhile and did a number on the son.

Even though I went through that with my friend, I still would like to throw the book at sex offenders, but I think they need to be more careful in jumping to conclusions.