Monday, December 1, 2014

once and always

The sex offender registry is often touted as a way to protect children. Which children? Not the children who end up on the sex offender registry. In 2013, Human Rights Watch published Raised on the Registry, a report about children on the registry.
Throughout the United States, children as young as nine years old who are adjudicated delinquent may be subject to sex offender registration laws. For example, in Delaware in 2011, there were approximately 639 children on the sex offender registry, 55 of whom were under the age of 12. In 2010, Michigan counted a total of 3,563 youth offenders adjudicated delinquent on its registry, a figure that does not include Michigan’s youth offenders convicted in adult court. In 2010, Michigan’s youngest registered sex offenders were nine years old. A 2009 Department of Justice study, which focused only on sex crimes committed by children in which other children were the victims, found that one out of eight youth sex offenders committing crimes against other children was younger than 12.
For a child, the psychological impact of being on the registry can be devastating. Deadly, in fact.
Nearly a fifth of those interviewed (58 people, or 19.6 percent) said they had attempted suicide; three of the registrants whose cases we examined did commit suicide.
Josh Gravens, a young man who was on the registry beginning at age 13, talks about being labeled a sex offender. 
Three and a half years in Texas juvenile prisons and four years after that on parole, intensive and abusive sex offender “treatment.” While none of those things should be done to a child or adolescent, by far the worst penalty I experienced was being placed on the Texas Sex Offender Registry. I would not realize the life-changing consequences of being registered until I grew up and had children of my own. ...
Speaking from personal experience, I can say that once my juvenile record was public, there was no way to restore privacy protections. Even though I was removed from the public registry, my information was still readily available on for-profit websites. In this day and age, once online, always online. 
We warn kids about sexting because once online, always online and yet kids are listed on the registry with little thought about what that label will do to them.

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