When California's Megan's Law database made it's debut on the internet just before Christmas of last year, I'm sure that a lot of people were thinking "It's about time this information was made easily available."
Not me. My concern was twofold, how was this going to affect me and what was it going to do to my family.
Obviously from those statement I'm sex offender located in California. One of those "child molesters" that most people seem to think should be kept locked up and away from society. They're dangerous, and as long as they're out on the streets our children won't be safe, and the more we know about who they are and where they are the better off we are.
Needless to say, with the general public holding that image I could only see bad things coming, not only for myself but for thousands of others who are caught in this nightmare called Megan's Law.
I'm not that sex offender that most people think of. I have a job that I go to five days a week. I come home after work, kiss my wife, help fix dinner, wash the dishes, and sit and watch television. Of course, there are also times I'm on the computer. Never a thought of sex. Never a thought of going out and grabbing some kid off the street just to have some fun. Never a thought about hiding in some dark alley waiting for a pretty young girl to walk by.
But then again, most of California's registered sex offenders aren't like that either. I probably had it better than most, since I had a career that I could come back to after I served my time. But like 97 percent of the registered sx offenders in California, all I was really looking for was to put my life back together, move on, and make sure that I never made another stupid mistake like the one that cost me two years of freedom, my first marriage, and any chance of being part of my children's life.
In the 15 years since that mistake I've done a good job of putting it behind me and building a new life. I'm remarried, and while my wife knows my past, nobody else in her family does (or did.. but more on that later). I've built a business and depend on the good will of my customers to keep it going, I pay my taxes, go to church, and try to be a normal person.
Why do I do these things? Because I'm not the person that committed those crimes so many years before. Years of therapy and analysis showed me where my problems were, why they expressed themselves the way they did, and what to do to prevent it from happening again, and I'm comfortable knowing that it's a part of my life that's well behind me.
Now California comes up with a brilliant idea. Let's make all those perverted sex offenders out there have to think all over again about what they did, since we'll make the information available to everyone they know. Gee, thanks.
So, how's my life been since this came on-line? Not great, I can tell you that. I live each day in fear of who's going to find out next. What's going to come crashing down around my ears because of something long ago in my past. How much of my life am I going to lose even though it's totally unrelated to what I did in the past.
Let's face it, people don't react well when they find out that you're a sex offender. Even when the events happened many years in the past and you've shown by what you've done recently that you're just a normal guy trying to get by. The current meme in society today is that sex offenders are perverts and their only interest is in having sex, either with kids or by force if necessary. People fail to realize that most of them are normal, everyday people who have made a mistake, paid the price, and are simply trying to return to society. And are now finding that society is turning on them.
So, what has this cost me so far? Keep in mind that it's only been just over a month now, and so far my wife and I have lost the friendship of some very dear friends after they found out. They simply couldn't handle it and decided they could no longer be friends with us even though we've had many evenings of good fun with them.
My wife's family has found out, and there was a long, heart-wrenching evening where thier biggest concern was whether my wife knew and whether there was anything they needed to be concerned about. They are fortunately very supportive, although I think it's tempered because they've known me for almost all of those 15 years. And yes, my wife knew about it from the beginning. I had made a decision that if I was going into a relationship with someone that I needed to be honest and they needed to know.
I'm still waiting for the rest of the hammers to fall. There's no telling from which corner it will come, no telling just who will be the next bearer of bad news. I can't decide if it's good or bad as the days go by. More time for people to find out, or more time for people to not think about it and ignore it.
And it's something that should be ignored. Why? Not becuase you don't want your children to be safe, but you need to be aware of the facts. Close to 90% of the known sex offenses are committed by someone known to the victim. Convicted sex offenders have one of the lowest repeat offense rates of any category of crime. And, on top of all this, you have to remember that not all sex offenders have already been caught.
So, who should you be looking out for? Your neighbor, that cousin that comes to visit, the uncle who seems so normal, even the person you might be dating. Anybody that you come into contact with has the potential to be a sex offender. There's no outward signs and no way to know the real truth.
That doesn't mean you have to live you life in fear, just live you life aware. Know what's going on around you. Be especially aware of your children and any changes that may be taking place. It's important for you to be a parent, not just a protector. Make sure your children grow up confident and sure of themselves, willing to tell you anything that might be troubling them. Make sure they know how to say no, and make sure they know what to do if someone ignores then when they say no. And most important, make sure they know that it's not their fault and they are not going to be blamed for telling you something that happens.
As for the people included on the Megan's Law list, they're the least of your worries. They've been caught, done their time, and most just want to move on.