When you see Shawna’s name on the sex offender registry, you see she was found guilty of “Sexual Conduct with Minor.” (I am not using her last name intentionally.) But Shawna is not a pedophile or a rapist. She had a one night stand with a 14 year old friend on her 19th birthday. His mother filed charges, and she was faced with decades in prison. Now she faces the same strict restrictions that would be placed on a child molester.
Obviously, what Shawna did was not only wicked, it was a crime. Age of consent laws are good laws that protect underage teens from being exploited and abused. They should be enforced and there should be a penalty for breaking those laws. But should people like “Shawna” be on the sex offender registry next to violent pedophiles? No. We are ruining scores of people’s lives and in doing so we are not enhancing public safety.
The system needs to be reformed, and the sex offender registry needs to be used as originally intended – to notify the public that a truly dangerous individual might be living among them. We run the risk of these stories causing people to not take the registry seriously. But the current reality is not that people see the registry as “the boy who cried wolf” but that everyone on the registry is a violent risk to their families. People who are qualified to hold productive employment and contribute to society are pushed away and punished for life when they are not dangerous. It is a cruel, unjust and probably unconstitutional abuse of power.
Now, let’s be clear: Some are using the abuses of the system to argue for total sexual libertinism. This is unacceptable and a perverse betrayal of sex abuse victims. This proposal should be rejected. We can and should reform the system to be more proportionate, more compassionate, and a greater asset to public safety. We should not give in to wicked libertinism that has already destroyed far too many lives.