Original post date: 10.06.2008
Two days ago, my dearest friend in the world was forced to register as a sex offender.
She is a single mother struggling to overcome a violently abusive relationship. Last year, she found comfort in the friendship of a young woman who helped her understand her abuse and begin the process of reaching out for professional help. One evening during the course of their brief friendship, they had sex. The encounter was entirely consensual; just two women sharing their feelings for each other in a
very loving manner.
Tragically, both this young woman and my friend were completely unaware of the fact that the state of Florida considered this sex act a criminal one. My friend was 35 years old and the young woman just a few months shy of her 18th birthday. Both believed the age of consent to be 16 and neither realized their age gap changed everything in the eyes of the law.
In a fit of jealousy and rage, her abuser reported the relationship and my friend was promptly arrested. In the months since her arrest, my friend has been supported by the young woman and her parents; they wrote letters to the prosecution insisting they did not wish to pursue the case and did not feel my friend deserved any punishment whatsoever. The state persisted.
The state prosecutor ordered my friend to submit herself to a psychosexual evaluation by a professional evaluator of the state’s choosing. The results of that evaluation stated the evaluator felt my friend was sexually and psychologically healthy, had no sexual deviancies or tendencies toward children, did not pose a risk to society and did not need any sort of therapy or intervention.
My friend had never had even so much as a speeding ticket, much less been in any sort of serious trouble with the law. She has no history of abuse in her own childhood, no mental health issues and no criminal record whatsoever. Immediately liked by everyone she meets, she has always been a good daughter, a loving friend, a principled employee and a highly regarded member of society. She has succeeded in her profession and has always spent her leisure time doing what she felt was most important; volunteering as a child abuse advocate, rescuing animals and spending time with her child. She is an adoring and compassionate mother with an amazing little boy.
Despite all of this, the state of Florida forced her to register as a sex offender. It seems everything good she has ever done in her life is now undone. And the worst part is that, in addition to the obvious, sex offender designation is potentially going to destroy my friend’s life in another, far more sinister way. She will never be able to safely avoid her abuser; a horrendous person who has, for too many years, assaulted, beaten, threatened and abused her and her child in ways I find too horrible to convey.
My friend had just started the process of abuse recovery with the help of several battered women’s shelter services. She enlisted in a program to help women and children hide from their abuser and had started the process of obtaining therapy for her and her child to heal from years of cruel abuse. Just a few weeks ago, she successfully obtained an injunction for protection from domestic violence for herself and her child. Her abuser’s response to the restraining order? “You can’t hide. You’ll be on the sex offender list, I will always find you.” And the state’s response to that threat? Nothing.
So, where there were none, the state of Florida created two victims. A battered woman and her little kid; forever at the mercy of their abuser because registered sex offenders are not afforded the privacy and protection necessary to shield them from imminent danger. They can
always be found – by anyone – for any reason.
What’s worse, we have recently been informed that registered sex offenders are not allowed in battered women’s shelters and are not
eligible for the services offered by domestic violence organizations meant to protect women & children. Since she was designated a sex
offender, the same people who, just days ago, were warning us that my friend and her child’s life were in danger are now turning their backs. The very same people who offered her safety and shelter are now telling her she is on her own.
Tonight and perhaps forever, she and her child are in danger because their abuser can (and I am certain will) find them through the registry.
No one who can help us seems to care.