Dear Members and Advocates,
I felt nauseous the second I read the headline.
“Florida sex offender tries to abduct 11-year-old girl at bus stop” was the title of the article in the NY Post. The story began, “An 11-year-old girl fought off a knife-wielding would-be kidnapper at her bus stop Tuesday morning… The 30-year-old unidentified sex offender was arrested eight hours after.” As a parent of school-aged children, any attempted abduction of a child would ordinarily make me feel queasy, but as a registrant, this made me downright sick to my stomach because I was led to believe the person was a “sex offender” (or as the term has come to often be confused; someone required to register as a sex offender).
As someone required to register as a sex offender, I know that when a person on the registry commits a sexual re-offense, it’s not them, but the 97% of people on the registry who do not re-offend who will pay the price for it. While this guy will likely be in prison forever, it’s the other 74,000+ people on the Florida registry who will be subjected to whatever new legislation named after this poor 11-year-old, that will unquestionably be introduced in the coming legislative term. What new collateral consequence, additional requirement, further restriction, or lets call it what it is… punishment, will be imposed on me because of this tragedy I had no responsibility for? I lay awake all last night worrying about the consequences that will befall our population, angry at the perpetrator (both for what he did and for setting our work back years), but also wondering how to address this proverbial ‘elephant in the room’ in this week’s update.
This morning, I ran to the computer to find out exactly who this “unidentified sex offender” was. His name is Jared Stanga. Hmmm… nothing on the FDLE registry? But the article said, “Florida sex offender…”. Maybe the NY Post made a mistake? The Fox News headline was “11-year-old Florida girl fights off sex offender at bus stop”, so maybe he was a sex offender from another state? Let me check the Dru Sjodin website. Hmmm… “0 records from a national search including all states, territories and Indian Country for First Name begins with Jared, Last Name begins with Stanga”. Wait… what? The guy WAS NOT on any Sex Offender registry!
It seems news outlets just jumped to a conclusion. Guy in a white van (I know… couldn’t get more stereotypical if he had candy) attempts to abduct an 11-year-old girl from a school bus stop and everyone assumes that it’s a “sex offender” because that’s what we’re always doing, right? Fortunately they caught the guy, otherwise everyone on the registry in Escambia County Florida would become the number one suspect. Now I’m angrier! Still angry at the perpetrator, but angry at the news outlets for implying this guy was on the registry.
So I’m sitting here in an agitated state wondering what to do about this. Do we write a scathing letter to the news outlets saying, “how dare you besmirch the ‘sex offender’ label by associating us with this guy”? Or, do we take a deep breath, say thankfully the girl is safe, thankfully the guy was caught, thankfully he was not on the registry, and now let’s take a thoughtful rational look at what happened.
The sex offender registry did absolutely nothing to prevent the attempted abduction of this girl, except point the finger at a population that had nothing to do with it and potentially divert the focus of law enforcement had they not captured the perpetrator. It also illustrated how incendiary the “sex offender” label is and how being on a “sex offender registry” carries such a debilitating stigma that just the term itself conjures up images that are every parent’s worst nightmare.
Again, we’re really thankful that the girl is safe. With that, when the politicians and the media use this tragedy to try to expand the registry or enact proximity ordinances around bus stops, let’s remind them that the sex offender registry did nothing to prevent this, as it did nothing to prevent the abduction of Jacob Wetterling and as it did nothing to prevent the abduction of Adam Walsh. If anything, it was a diversion. If everyone would just take a deep breath and rational look at these policies, they will see they are ineffective and should be abolished.
The Florida Action Committee
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June 3 Thursday at 8:00pm ET – Monthly Membership Call. Topic: Restorative Justice with Guest Dr Alissa Ackerman. Phone 319-527-3487. If unable to connect, text “CALL ME” to same number to receive call back and be joined to the meeting.
June 10 Thursday at 8:00pm ET – New Member Orientation Call – phone 319-527-3487. If unable to connect, text “CALL ME” to same number to receive call back and be joined to the meeting.
June 12 Saturday – 11:00am-1:00pm ET. Therapist-led Family Support Session via Zoom. Limited participation. Email [email protected] or leave message at 833-273-7325 Option 1 for access to the Monthly group session.
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May 29 Saturday 1:00-3:00pm Fort Myers – Meet and Greet. For location, text “RSVP Ft Myers” with your name and number of attendees to 941-315-8253 or email [email protected].
June 26 Saturday 1:00-3:00pm Apopka – Local FAC Meeting. For location, text “RSVP Apopka” with your name and number of attendees to 904-452-8322 or email [email protected].
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SOME HEADLINES FROM THE WEEK
Lauren Book, the newly anointed leader of Florida’s Senate Democrats, has a financial conflict of interest that’s raising questions about her loyalties… For the past two years, House and Senate Republicans decisively showered the Senate Minority Leader’s charity –…
If you regularly read our weekly updates you might remember one from a couple months ago, in which we wrote about a oral arguments in a case having nothing to do with Sex Offender laws, but still critically important for those on the registry because it dealt with the…
Troopers responded to the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in the town of Smyrna at about 8:13 a.m. on Monday, police said. Authorities determined that Cameron killed Philip Langell, 69, who was serving a 20-year sentence for rape in the first degree against a…
From a member in Polk: Polk County has changed their registration location without telling anyone. I went to the old office to update vehicle registration and found it closed with a sign on the door. The new location, 7101 Decastro Road, Winter Haven, Fl, 33880, is…