Collateral Banishment of Spouses and Children.

I don’t read the comments on articles about “sex offenders” anymore. Most of the time anyway. But occasionally, I can’t help it and I find myself scrolling to the bottom to see if there are comments. I almost always regret reading them. Recently I read through the comments on a Facebook post of a local news channel. The comments ranged from suggesting we save the tax payers money and put the accused out of his misery, wishing for him to be raped and beaten, and one particular comment suggested placing the man’s genitals on an anvil and smashing them with a hammer. What did he do? It doesn’t really matter. The media will paint whatever the alleged crime to be in the worst light possible. A good example is an article I came across this week that talked about a 21-year-old man being arrested for sexual assault of a child. He had been texting a minor and had apparently had sex, multiple times, with that minor. Most people read that and assume he raped a young child multiple times. I read that and think it was probably consensual teenage sex. The comments were similar for the 21-year-old as they were for the man in the other article.
 
The problem with the ugliness spewed like this is the damage it does to his family. I know many people won’t have sympathy for the alleged criminal, but what about those close to him? Does he have a wife? Children? What about his mother and father? Surely his family is heartbroken, to see someone they love being thrown into the court system (justified or not), and then to have the world paint them as a monster. But to the family, they are not a monster. They may have done something terrible, or they may be accused of doing something terrible, but they are still loved human beings, whose sins have been publicly paraded for all the world to see.
 
But today I don’t want to talk about the person who may end up on the registry or even those who already are. I want to talk about their families, and even more specifically, their wives.
 
My husband and I got married two years ago this coming October. He is on the public registry, and therefore, so am I. In fact, two weeks after we got married and he moved into the house I had bought, the state deemed it necessary to send postcards to our entire neighborhood to warn them that a “high risk sex offender” had moved into their community. On the postcard was our address and a picture of my husband. It’s not important what my husband did, but I will say, we consider ourselves lucky in that his crime is what he and I call a “socially acceptable” crime. One that, when we tell people why he’s on the registry, they either gawk that something so typical could have gotten him there or they respond about someone else they know on the registry for a similar reason. We have yet to have anyone respond negatively to our situation. We have an extremely supportive church, supportive friends, and a wonderfully supportive family. We even got very little backlash about not allowing children come to our wedding. I’ll say it again: we are very lucky.
 
What really breaks my heart, are the stories I hear from so many other women. Women who stood by their husband’s during court, women who’s world crumbled when their husband was arrested, sometimes at gunpoint by the SWAT team at 5AM which happens more than you think. Women whose families stopped talking to them because they married, or stayed with, the man deemed a “monster.” The world often sees these women as victims of their husband (although they are usually victims of their friends and family and the public media), blindly in love, and often, these women are blamed for not knowing “what was happening under their own roof.” Sometimes they too can be charged for negligence, despite the fact that they are, more often than not, in no way a negligible parent.
 
I hear these stories because when my husband and I started dating three years ago, I quickly began looking for groups, or people, that we could talk to about what we were dealing with. My husband’s crime was committed 14 years ago this winter, and he is at the very tail end of his probation, but I needed to know what I was getting into and I wanted to help others who were in our situation.
 
Today, my husband and I facilitate a support group for those on the registry and their family members. I’m also part of a secret community for wives of those on the registry. And I am a part of SOSEN. These avenues of support raise me up when the darkness gets overwhelming and I feel like it will swallow me up. The members of these organizations face mountains that I will probably never have to climb, and they handle it so bravely and are so quick to accept others like themselves. I want to be clear, that the darkness I speak of and the tears that often fall, are not for my husband and me, but for those who push through situations that I can’t even begin to imagine.
 
My husband and I are very open about our situation, me more so than him. I post about it on Facebook, on the very few articles I comment on, and anyone who knows me for more than an hour will most likely know our situation and about the support group that we facilitate and the organizations I’m a part of. For better or for worse, they are very much a part of my identity. And yet, friends of mine still don’t reach out to me until after a family member has been convicted and others wait to join our support group after being on the registry for years. This baffles me. If they know what I do, what I am a part of, why are they still so hesitant to come forward when things first begin to happen? The resources a support group can offer, from experiences, to post-conviction requirements, to just hugs, and love, and even prayers, are far too important to wait until the gavel has been dropped.
 
So why do we wait to reach out?
 
What I hear, over and over, from those I’ve asked, whether they stay with their husband or they leave, is that they don’t reach out because of the shame. They assume that every man on the registry is a monster, a pedophile, a predator and their loved one just isn’t like the rest of them!
When a husband is accused of being a sex offender, the shame is also heaped on the wife. There is blame heaped on the wife. There is insecurity, and feelings of inadequacy heaped on the wife, even if she is the only one heaping those feelings on herself.
 
Sometimes the wife feels that it’s their problem, their burden to carry, and they don’t think any one else should have to help or would want to help. We tend to do this a lot, both men and women. We want help, but assume no one wants to help us. I myself, have been hurt because I wanted to help a friend but they were too afraid to ask, assuming no one would want to help them.
 
So wives (and spouses, and girlfriends, and partners, and children, and parents) listen up. Shutting yourselves away and refusing to “associate” with support groups for registrants, or their families, is doing a disservice to your family, to your husband, and even more importantly to yourself.
 
The women I meet through these organizations are strong. They are inspiring. They are loving. They are some of the best women I will probably meet in my lifetime and you would be lucky to know them. And to top it all off, you could be one of them. You could find strength you didn’t know you were capable of through the support of others who have been where you’ve been and who have walked in your shoes. You could find information you need to help create the best outcome in court for your spouse. You could help him find a job through the network of those willing to hire someone on the registry, because they too are on the registry. And the thing that would probably surprise you the most, the thing that has brought the most joy, the most meaning, and the most purpose to my own life, you could find a wonderful community of people that you can support, that you can fight for, and that you will one day be able to help thrive because they helped you survive.

12 comments for “Collateral Banishment of Spouses and Children.

  1. Beth
    September 7, 2015 at 2:49 pm

    Very well stated – we feel so alone and lost when it all first starts – shock and dismay – wondering how you got there. We know the truth about our loved ones and the negative comments tend to keep us silent. When I first joined a group, I felt I had found a place where my tears were understood. Some of the best people I have met in my life, and for the most part for a stupid mistake made.

  2. Rachel
    September 7, 2015 at 7:04 pm

    WOW! I totally relate to this article, Five years ago I am married to an RSO from a crime nearly 20 years ago. Texas is relentless and unforgiving, and the crime did not even happen in this state. No one seems to understand the stigma that follows one on the registry- the prejudice from police when they come to the house to ‘check’ and when you call for an emergency. They talk down on wives- like we have an invisible ‘viliage idiot’ sign hanging from our necks- that only they can read. Society doesn’t seem to understand that men like my husband don’t reoffend, something about 20 years with no repeating of this crime. I can say that when people here RSO- they assume the worst- Actions speak louder than words, people can be rehabilitated, and women in our situations are the only ones who truly know the walk…

  3. allen
    September 7, 2015 at 7:12 pm

    Well said and thank you for your post and I hope and pray that it gets out to people.

    I would just like to say to those people who would dare to spew hate in response to an article about a person in question regarding sex offenses, that you are just as guilty as everyone else on the whole planet and have no room to judge.
    I think God has something to say to you…
    [Rom 3:19 KJV] 19 Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.

  4. Phil Taylor
    September 7, 2015 at 10:21 pm

    Powerful piece that makes plain the consequences of society’s invincible ignorance and biased assumptions about those on the Registry. Thanks for getting it out there.

    I looked at your organization’s brochure and couldn’t help wishing you would do more careful research. IMHO, SO treatment does not work! The majority of SO’s are at very low likelihood of re-offending, and SOT doesn’t drive it any lower. Look at the Cochran Database, the SOTEP study, Långström, Hanson, et al – 2013. The better the study methodology, the less treatment effect it shows. Treatment is punishment and harmful. We need a paradigm change to help move toward a safe, fair community. Stop suggesting that SO treatment providers are anything but frauds and mountebanks, with crushing conflicts of interest.

    • Scott
      September 10, 2015 at 1:40 pm

      @Phil!

      Have you ever attended a SOTP and do you know what exactly is discussed and what is done within ?? I have, and it is pretty deep and is closely monitored by both the facilitators and Probation or Parole Officers. The program only works for those who truly want to change and make an effort in life and not all who offend are admitted depending on the severity. Not saying every offender is truthfully honest and it works for every offender, but you should also look at the recidivism rates as well. How many drug rehab recipients relapse compared to a sex offender?? This is IMHO.

      • Mandy C.
        September 10, 2015 at 2:46 pm

        Hi Scott,

        Phil is actually a retired SOTP. He can tell you about it himself, but he stopped because he couldn’t stomach the practice any more. And I would recommend checking out the study he posted (this is me speaking personally, not on behalf of SOSEN).

      • September 19, 2015 at 4:36 am

        Scott,before my husband went to prison, he saw a counselor who specializes in sex addiction and she was very helpful for him. She was a counselor that HE chose, though, not one required by his PO. When the treatment providers collaborate with law enforcement, it is no longer treatment, it is law enforcement. If you have been through a program that was helpful for you, I am glad…but it is still wrong for the courts to force a provider on you who will collaborate with law enforcement.

        SOs had a very low reoffense rate before the registry and all the SOTP requirements came along. If anything, recent studies have shown an uptick in reoffense rates after registry and SOTP.

  5. charles
    September 8, 2015 at 7:08 am

    I have two things points I would like to make: 1) there is a peripheral dynamics the first goes hand-in-hand with the above insight, and that is how registration/residency laws “Emasculates” a man; yes, dedones him like a fish. What am I talking about? Well, just ask any spouse of an SO about her husband’s psychological state of mind when it comes to being the head of household. As an SO you can’t be head of house hold, another man is, i.e., a parole officer (PO). An So can’t make important decisions concerning his home without the approval of his PO. A couple of example; a) his wife wants to go on a second honey moon to the San Antonio RiverWalk, but SOs just can’t get on a plane/bus and go to the San Antonio RiverWalk. He has to get permission from his PO who is of course going to deny his request because SOs can’t travel interstate or intrstate: b) his wife wants to move into a nicer neighborhood. Again, permission from his PO is needed, and, if there is a school, park, daycare, etc., in that neighborhood that idea is a non-starter. c) SOs can’t really plan a future for himself and his family because state/city/county SO laws constantly change and are applied to him retroactively. Also, here is something that was pointed out to me recently that I never thought about and apparently no one else either and that is the Scarlet Letter “Sex Offend(er)”. Understand and the suffix “er” on offender. Correct me if I’m wrong but doesn’t the suffix “er” mean forming nouns designating persons from the object of their occupation or labor? Like Fire Fight(er) or Police Offic(er)? Therefore, would not a person labled a Sex Offend(er) denote to the general public that this is what this person is and what he does on a continuing basis? Not that this person comitt(ed) past tense, a sex offense, but that is what this person always does. If so, then no wonder the general public is affraid to have this person around, wants him banished, disenfranchised, marked and scorned. Words can be very, very powerful. Ask the people of Germany from the 1930s! Hitler and his Nazi stugs so demonized the Jewish people with words and names that it lead to their utter destruction. And tho me this begs the question: Are SOs headed for a Jewish type “Final Solution”?

    • Scott
      September 20, 2015 at 11:18 am

      I agree totally. Most of it is all just a scare tactic and use of manipulation by the federal and states and local law enforcement. The sad thing is people buy into it simply because it came from one of those entities.

  6. Pat Montemayor
    September 8, 2015 at 11:31 am

    As a mother of a SO, it’s depression and struggle every day. If. We were not prepared for how our lives would change – living in shame every day. If we had hired a decent lawyer, he probably would not have been convicted. When my son wad arrested, the officers tried to convince him to commit suicide. I see no way out if this situation – unless the registry laws change. My son was caught looking at questionable pictures on the Internet – the age of the girls were even questionable – I’m not saying this is OK – but to have your life ruined forever?

  7. Melinda Barrett
    September 8, 2015 at 12:14 pm

    I appreciate your article. What is absolutely unfathomable are the people pushing for these laws, because this is the only crime where the individual is NEVER allowed to pay their debt to society……such a tragedy they don’t regard a human life more. I understand if someone really has a physiological problem and needs help they may need more stringent laws than those who don’t actually have a problem, but either way….EVERYONE should have a chance to at some point have “their debt paid to society”. Even a murderer can eventually pay their debt off to society……seems highly DISCRIMINATORY and I don’t believe that’s Constitutional either.

  8. Ashley
    September 11, 2015 at 10:29 pm

    Thank you for writing about the other side. So many people don’t consider the idea that the “monsters” they condemn as inhuman are real people that have been through stuff just like everyone else. They made mistakes (some worse than others) but they are still human and still (try to) live life normally and have their own friends and family.

    I can say from personal experience that when my husband was (falsely) arrested for violating probation and I had 3 young children to care for alone, I was a wreck. I was completely overwhelmed and I couldn’t even consider reaching out for this kind of help, let alone know where to find it. After everything settled down and my husband was out, I began looking for others in a similar situation and found SOSEN. Fortunately, I was able to find a support system, but maybe the wives you are trying to help are feeling like it did and that’s why they’re not seeking out your support.

    Also, a reporter did a story on the effects of the registry on the families of SO’s and interviewed my husband and I as the main story. I’m hoping it makes us look a little more normal to reduce the stigma SO’S and their families get.

    http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/8/27/harsh-sex-offender-laws-may-put-whole-families-at-risk.html

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