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September|October 2003
The Practitioner By Benjamin Smith
The Real Harm By Gabrielle S. Friedman
Standard bearer By Fred Strebeigh
A Bigger Tent By Katharine Mieszkowski
Profiling's Gender Gap By Daniel Brook
Coming Out to America By Tyler Maroney
The Love Charm A Story By Eugene Volokh
Ex Offender By Robert J.
In Defense Of Prostitution By Heidi Fleiss as told to Nadya Labi
My Gay Divorce By Laurie Essig

Ex Offender

By Robert J.

FOR MORE THAN A DECADE I WAS A FLASHER. I exposed myself to women and sometimes teenagers and masturbated. I have only a general idea about how or why I started doing it back when I was in college, but once I was doing it I had no desire to stop. I needed help to stop. For me that help was being arrested. It was a very rough way to do it: Though I never laid a hand on anyone, I was forced to plead to sexual battery. My punishment was two months in jail, the loss of a good job, and the loss of my family. I have not offended since my arrest in 1998.

Though I register as a sex offender, Sex Offender Registration has never been a deterrent to me—but it has been punitive. I live in a nice subdivision with seemingly friendly neighbors. But none of them speak to me. My children are ostracized. As an ex-offender you learn to adapt—they don't come on my property, I don't go on theirs. I have a whole other life outside that neighborhood where my being an ex-offender never affects anything. I have read some news articles recently where registration supporters have stated that registration is beneficial because of the "community policing" aspect registration enables. Supposedly, the ex-offender's neighbors can keep a watchful eye on him and report any problems to law enforcement, and an ex-offender will be less likely to re-offend knowing that he is being closely watched. These arguments are laughable. My neighbors have no idea what I do and never will.

Registration prevents ex-offenders from being good citizens: They aren't wanted in their communities, so they have no interest in being part of a community. I have had to hire an attorney several times—to deal with harassment from an apartment complex, the police, and a probation officer. I have been soundly vindicated in each instance, but as a result of all of this I don't support the government at all. I don't support the police at all. I will never, ever do anything to assist any of them.

I've been kept out of apartment complexes only because I register. The management at one place that I was kicked out of told me that the crime was not the problem, the registration was. One apartment complex where I lived didn't even ask about criminal convictions on its rental applications, but would take action when it discovered that someone registered. I've started a number of jobs where the crime apparently was not an issue until it was discovered that I register. Then it was an issue—or the people complaining about me were.

Many ex-offenders have never committed any type of offense against their neighbors or near where they work and will never have the inclination to do so. I never committed any offenses against my neighbors or against anyone near where I worked, or frequented. I never did or would, for the very simple reason that I did not want to be caught and arrested. Registered ex-offenders who decide that they will continue to commit offenses will likely do so much farther away from where they live, work, or frequent. The more they think that they are being observed, the further they will remove themselves from observation. They will commit the crimes in a much more random manner, in places where they have no ties or associations.

Why don't we register murderers? Drunk drivers? Batterers? People who have committed fraud?
I can't understand why people think I need to know about the guy next door who might expose his penis to my daughters but I don't need to know about the guy who went into his last neighbor's driveway and beat her with a baseball bat. Or the guy who has a drunk-driving conviction and just might come driving home drunk one day and drive through my front yard, killing someone. It defies reason. I've read recent studies that say that sexual abuse constitutes around 10 percent of all child abuse. Where is the rampant emotional hysteria about the real abuse? Let's register the emotional and physical abusers.

Let's register no one. The level of precaution that you take and direct your children to take should be based on how well you truly know someone. It does not matter if the person has committed a sex crime in the past or not. I have successfully raised my children into their teenage years with absolutely no need for knowledge of registered ex-offenders. That's because they and I know that anybody can commit a sex offense. Understanding that makes an ex-offender registry unnecessary. Not understanding that and relying on a registry to target a few individuals is what puts you at risk.

Robert J. is a registered sex offender.

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