One day shortly after I had started dating Tom, I received a phone call from my very best friend. When I say “best friend” I mean my very, very best ever friend. The woman that I turned to for venting sessions, to pray with, to throw back the rare margarita with. She was my workout partner, my motivator, a mentor. She was my labor coach during my last pregnancy. She was absolutely a sister to me and an aunt to my children.

Here voice was full of sorrow and before she even got her first words out, I knew this phone call might end our friendship of nearly fourteen years.

“Gem,” she said. “I was researching the sex offender registry” (more on this later…) “and I saw Tom’s profile.”

“Friend, I know.” I said as calmly as I could. I suddenly felt such a pang of guilt that I had kept this “fact” a secret from my best friend for the last two weeks.

“Did he lie to you?”

“No.”

“Is he there?”

“Yes.”

“Are you going to keep seeing him?’

“Yes.”

“I am too upset. I cannot talk to you right now. I love you friend, goodbye”.

“I love you too. Goodbye”. And that was pretty much it. My friend had been with me through all the trial events with David the Offender. She had been someone for my girls to confide in and share with over the years. She was a victim of sexual abuse herself. She however, had kept her abuse a secret from nearly everyone for most of her life. Her abuser never admitted his wrongs, despite the fact that she had the immense courage to confront him. He never served any time and she was placed in traumatic situations several times a year when she would travel with her husband and children back home for the holidays. Her abuser (and this number is so statistically common) was a family member. My dear friend never had any sort of justice served in her case.

I believe it is for this reason, that she, as a parent, had become nearly obsessed with checking the sex offender registry. And it is just another reason why I am so totally against it. How does the registry protect her? It doesn’t. I fills her heart and mind with fear as she sees how many offenders live in her neighborhood, in her children’s’ school neighborhoods, in her friends neighborhoods. And, without giving Tom any kind of tiny opportunity to know him as a person, she made a judgement call based on his Sex Offender Registry Profile, to block me out of her life. She called child protective services and a full investigation began.

The investigation included CPS coming to the schools (three different schools) where my children attended, in the school district where I worked, and each of my kids were first interviewed by a detective, the school principal, and the CPS case worker. Then I was called in. That was the day I was put on administrative leave and I my “work life” shattered. My children were confused and upset and Tom was devastated.

CPS and the detective came and “investigated” our home, checking every room, the pantry, the refrigerator and ended the investigation by speaking to Tom as well. The investigation was declared UNFOUNDED, but I will forever have to disclose to any and all school districts that ask, that I have been investigated for CHILD NEGLECT. I could be so angry about this. But I am not.

My friend loves me. I know that she does. She loves my children. She was and IS afraid. That isn’t my fault. That isn’t Tom’s fault. It is her abuser’s fault and it is the registry’s fault for triggering that fear.

So, my point in telling this portion of my story is to make community members, family, and friends aware of a few things. Not all offenders, even if they serve time, not even if they seek therapy, will admit their wrongs. Not all of them will be remorseful. Not all of them will follow through with restorative justice.

But not all victims will either.

I am not saying this in judgement I am saying this in truth. If we want to heal a broken system we have to address all of whom were affected by the crime and all who are affected by the crime must be involved for true healing and change to occur. In my readings today I really meditated on a few quotes. I will share them here, as I feel they might make my point more clear.

In an article in Psychology Today one Doctor describes the counseling she did with an offender. He was a man that had raped all four of his daughters. He was a minister and he justified his actions and had absolutely no remorse. The quote is linked to the article if you care to read it in it’s entirety.

“the human capacity for self-deception is extraordinary. Whether the context is personal or political, all of us can create layers of defensiveness when we cannot face the shame of having violated our values and having harmed others.” Harriet Lerner Ph.D.

What this says to me, is that it would be illogical, impractical, and foolish for me to believe that all offenders can or will get to the point where Tom is today. Some offenders are so full of shame (which is a tool of the enemy) that they live in denial, literally to survive. Tom went through this period as well. He spent many years in denial and shame. He met many offenders inside that are still in that state. Tom’s own abusers (yes plural) never did time, never admitted their crimes, and definitely never sought Tom’s forgiveness. But that isn’t going to keep Tom from forgiving his offenders and it won’t keep him from asking for forgiveness to those he has wronged. It is the only way to heal.

This quote from an amazing lesson on Biblical forgiveness reminds me of why we should forgive other’s even when they are not sorry. The article is linked if you’d like to read more.

“forgiveness is choosing before God to let go of the offense, even if you don’t understand why the offender did it. Forgiveness is deciding that you won’t get even, that you won’t punish the offender either through your actions or inactions.

From: How Can I Forgive Someone Who Doesn’t Admit to Having Done Anything Wrong? – Mark D. Roberts

Most importantly to me now, is the knowledge that the registry does just this. It punishes offenders that I never met. PEOPLE, that did absolutely nothing to harm me. PEOPLE that I know nothing about. I am against the registry not only because it is completely ineffective on a statistical level, in keeping the public safe, or decreasing recidivism rates, but also because it has hurt me on so many personal levels.

I love you my friend and although I have lost our friendship because of what you saw on the registry, that FEAR it created in you, it is a LIE.

~Gem the friend

Readings for Today:

Restorative Justice

http://restorativejustice.org/we-do/sycamore-tree-project/#sthash.QywERbq7.dpbs

Restorative Justice in community

https://www.bustle.com/p/for-sexual-assault-survivors-restorative-justice-may-offer-alternative-to-a-broken-system-51380

History of the registry

https://www.smart.gov/legislation.htm

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