Florida Senator Lauren Book, the state’s most vocal proponent for harsh sex offender restrictions, has made some interesting comments lately.

In a feature she wrote for Social Miami about children wearing masks to prevent the spread of COVID, she wrote that “stranger danger” is usually not a factor in child abductions or sexual assaults. While most laws restrict those required to register from living or even coming near places like schools and playgrounds, it’s curious that Sen. Book would now write, “Kids are virtually never grabbed off the street and pulled into an unmarked van.”  Isn’t that precisely the scenario that these exclusion zones are intended to prevent?!?

In July, she was interviewed for a Florida Daily story on the dangers of Social Media Platform “Tik Tok”. There she was quoted as saying, “The reality is that 95 percent of sexual abuse is preventable through education and awareness” WOW! Don’t you think that if 95% of sexual abuse is preventable we should invest more money and other resources into prevention rather than punishment and focus on efforts that will prevent 95% of new sexual abuse victims rather than focusing on forever punishing individuals who offended decades ago?

Sex offender laws play into parents worst nightmare… that their child will become the next Jacob Wetterling or Adam Walsh. The laws are intended to prevent the types of cases that (as Lauren Book concedes) are not usually a factor when it comes to the overwhelming majority of sexual offenses against children. Most victims are like Sen. Book herself, where the perpetrator was a caregiver or had a preexisting relationship with the child. Not a stranger and in almost all cases, not someone on the registry!

We believe that current sex offender laws and policies are misguided and that we should focus on prevention rather than punishment. We believe the laws are misguided because they focus on the myth of “stranger danger”, the myth that offending is related to physical proximity rather than relational proximity and the myth that those on this “list” are the ones committing new sex offenses.  We believe that perpetually punishing someone who offended decades ago is a total waste of money and only serves to destabilize them by removing housing opportunities, employment opportunities and making it hard to successfully re-integrate into the community, thereby actually increasing their chance to re-offend. We also believe that instead of trying to forever re incarcerate people for technical violations of non-crimes, we should instead be investing in programs to stabilize former offenders, support victims and teach all children, parents and the general population to recognize, avoid, and stop abuse.

If Lauren Book means what she says, aren’t we saying the same thing?

Many times over the years we have offered to come to the table with Senator Book to discuss some of our synergies and see whether there is an opportunity to work collaboratively to meet our common goal of implementing measures that are based on empirical research and will actually reduce sexual offending and make our communities safer. As a Florida-Based group with more than 2000 members, you would think she would be willing to hear us out, but she has yet to accept the offer.

The invitation remains open, Sen. Book.

 

 

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