Something we must remember: We have no reason to be ashamed of the sex offenders in our families.
Some of them have done things they ought to be and probably are ashamed of doing. Repentance and atonement can alleviate that shame but harsh sentences that include a lifetime on the public shaming registry make it difficult for offenders ever to feel that relief.
Other offenders have done nothing that should result in cruel public shaming. I'm thinking of a young man who had sex with a fifteen-year-old girl when he was seventeen. When a mandated reporter heard that the young woman had had sex with a young man, he called law enforcement. The young man is awaiting sentencing on multiple felony charges, one of which is rape. His unwise but natural choice about sex--a choice made by countless others--should not leave him shadowed by shame for years to come.
Families of sex offenders have nothing to be ashamed of. Carrying love and hope in our hearts for troubled friends and family members is good. Could we be wrong in thinking that the offender deserves all the love and hope we offer? Of course; just as we can be wrong offering our love to those who aren't sex offenders.
When family members carry the burden of shame for someone else's crimes and misdeeds, it is difficult for them to reach out for the help they may need desperately. When family members are treated as if they are supposed to carry that shame, the family suffers in cruel isolation.
I urge families and friends to stand tall and remember they did nothing to deserve the public shaming that comes with sex offenses. Do not let the imposed shame stop you from asking for the help you need. Tell your story and ask for help.
Shake off those who want you to feel shame for what someone else did. Shake off their certainty that you deserve what you are getting. Tell your story and ask for support.
Give someone the chance to do the right thing. Give them the information they need to understand what is the right thing. Remind them that they can do good by loving and hoping. Tell your story and ask them to stand with you.
Your story is different from the offender's story. Your story doesn't include wrongdoing. I hope it doesn't include the painful remorse and self-loathing so often part of the offender's struggle to return to society.
You have chosen to love someone who is or has been in terrible trouble.
Tell your story.
Registered citizens reoffend only rarely, even when love and hope are withheld. Even when housing is difficult to find, even when employment is elusive, even when families have abandoned them...yes, even then the rate of reoffense remains low. Sex offenders can be redeemed.
Love and hope redeem. Pile it on.