Last night’s Florida Action Committee monthly member call was all about the family. Our guest, Shelley Kavanagh, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker currently working at the Centre for Offender Rehabilitation Education (CORE), is working on programs that aim to provide support for the families, and loved ones of registrants.
It’s important to acknowledge the victims of an underlying sexual offense, but there are other unintended victims that society has no problem trampling on; the family, friends and loved ones of registrants.
Like the person required to register, their family or anyone that lives with them suffer similar penalties. Their address is also a red dot on the sex offender map. Their vehicles are also registered and flagged in license plate scanners. Their associates and co-workers also shun them or question their judgment as if they’ve done something wrong.
The families, particularly the children of registrants, suffer. Their fathers (or mothers) can’t participate in their education, attend their sporting events or graduations. Visit them in hospitals. They cannot decorate for Halloween or Christmas. They cannot have parties or sleepovers.They grow up under a cloud of shame and isolation. It’s no wonder that children of registrants have such high rates of suicide.
Employers of sex offenders are also shamed. A few years ago, Miami’s ABC affiliate, Local10 news posted the employers of sex offenders. For what point? To hurt their business? To get them fired so that people who are trying to get their lives back on track are destabilized? All that does is hurt those willing to help someone reintegrate and take food out of the mouths of the families the registrant is working to support.
One hour ago, the New York Post posted an article about a man that sued Burger King. The article concludes, “[..] was convicted in 1994 of first-degree sexual abuse and first-degree sexual penetration and sentenced to about 6½ years in prison, according to Oregon Live. He was required to register as a sex offender for life. He told the site that the conviction is 25 years old and that he’s been a law-abiding citizen with no other convictions ever since.” The lawsuit that he brought has nothing to do with anything sexual. Why the NY Post and multiple other news outlets would even mention his conviction 25 years ago is completely irrelevant and unnecessary.
It’s one thing to impose the registry stigma where there’s a rational public safety interest – it’s completely different when the topic or target of the shame is irrelevant. When the line is crossed, you enter into the territory of intentionally causing emotional distress.
Let’s let 2019 be the year we start pushing back!