Source: The Sydney Morning Herald
To many, “sex offender” conjures a specific image: stranger abduction, child victim, sexual assault, murder. Such horrible things do happen but’s it extraordinarily rare. It’s so horrible that it makes the news. And it happens so rarely that it makes the news every time it happens, and when it happens it shakes us to our core.
In the US, in the wake of the murders of Adam Walsh, Jacob Wetterling, Megan Kanka, Jessica Lunsford and others, states passed various pieces of memorial legislation named for these victims (Megan’s Law, Jessica’s Law, and so on). Fast-forward to the present day and that nation’s publicly available sex offender register is about to reach one million people.
The outcome of these laws has irreparably distorted what constitutes a “sex offender”. The unfortunate and unintended consequences of this legislation are far-reaching and permanent. Those individuals branded with this label include the handful of (mostly) men who have been convicted of abhorrent sexual crimes against stranger children. But it also includes a 34-year-old Florida mother convicted of indecent exposure for publicly breastfeeding and a Massachusetts man who was 18 when he had a consensual sexual relationship with his girlfriend who was just shy of 16 at the time. It’s gone too far.