This past Easter weekend, the television news was full of Easter Egg hunts, scrambles, and rolls. The screen was full of happy children, gleefully bouncing through the parks and lawns, searching for candy-filled eggs, with their parents laughing, smiling, encouraging, and helping. I'm sure that more than a few pictures were snapped, and many memories were made. These are the happy moments that make up childhood, memories and pictures to last a lifetime.
Sadly, some of those memories and pictures won't include dad - not because dad didn't want to be there, but because he wasn't allowed to be.
Far too often, we focus on the continued punishment and persecution of the sex offender, righteously defending their exclusion from parks and playgrounds where children may be with the oft-repeated mantra of "if it saves one child..." Rarely do we consider that there are children being harmed - innocent children, whose only crime was to be fathered by a sex offender, who don't understand why daddy can't be there, but only that daddy wasn't there, and equate that lack of presence with lack of love.
"If it saves one child...all children deserve a happy childhood full of love and security." Except the child of a sex offender. They don't count.
When advocates for Sex Offender Law reform speak of "collateral damage", this is what they mean. Children whose sex offender parent is absent not from a lack of desire to participate, but because they are legally prevented. Easter egg rolls. Summer days at the beach. A picnic in the park. Visits to the zoo. Trick-or-treat. School plays. School sports. School field trips. Father-daughter dances. Graduation. The things that bind a child to a father, the shared experiences that build a happy, healthy childhood.
And those are just the passive modes of collateral damage. There's also the whispers and rumors. Teasing. Outright bullying and verbal and physical assaults for being the child of a sex offender. The fear that comes with drive-by harassment of their parent by vigilantes. Vandalism of their home or the family car. Being shunned and ostracized at school and in the neighborhood.
"All children deserve a happy childhood full of love and security."