Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Better Definition

A criticism often leveled at sex offenders is, "You made the choices that put you where you are, why should I feel sorry for you?"

On its face, this seems like a reasonable statement. Had I not done what I did, I wouldn't be subject to the registry, and all the myriad life difficulties that come with it. But this is flawed thinking, little better than the "victim blaming" so recently railed against in the wake of the Steubenville case. It's not right there, and it's not right here. Each of us is the sum of the decisions we make, each of us bears responsibility for our actions or inactions, and daily make choices that lead us to where we are.

Did I deserve to be punished for what I did? Unequivocally, yes. That's what prison is for, and I duly served my time — several long years of contemplation and reflection. When I was released from parole, my parole agent shook my hand, looked me in the eye, and told me to go out and live my life. I'm still waiting to do that.

Almost 26 years after my crime, with nothing worse than a speeding ticket in that time, one has to wonder how long is long enough to be listed on the registry? I have now been out of prison and off parole for twice as long as I was in. Shouldn't that qualify me for some consideration? Shouldn't we define the trustworthiness of an individual by how they have lived their lives every moment since that horrible mistake of judgement?

Lest you think that 16 years of being "monitored" by the registry is responsible for my never having offended again, let me assure you: a yearly visit to register and quarterly compliance check letters to make sure I'm living where I say I'm living isn't "monitoring" — not by a long shot. The big lie that the government wants you to believe is that they're sitting over my shoulder, watching my every move, keeping you safe. That those who live around me have me under their watchful surveillance, having been duly notified to my presence by a website.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

If 17 years of law-abiding citizenship doesn't speak volumes about my character, doesn't reflect a lesson learned, and doesn't earn me the right to live my life in relative security, peace, and freedom, then I would submit that the problem isn't me.

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