originally posted 12/29/2011
At age 19 my son had a relationship with a 14 year old days from her 15th birthday. In deposition she admitted freely to lying about her age, stating she was 17, but of course, this doesn’t matter. He served 1 year on probation and made a suicide attempt the day he had to register and was violated to prison for using a prescription medication as his method of attempting to take his life. After 2 years in prison, he was released and immediately returned to university, finishing the last 2 semesters with a 3.65 in political science.
He also has held a good student job as a waiter at a local sports bar, a job held for him by his employer despite his incarceration. But in Nov. of this year he failed a polygraph because he did not reveal he had had sexual encounters with men, something he was not ready to discuss yet with anyone. He was forced to come-out to his treatment provider and parole officer, and then they forced him to come out to his entire family in one day, the day before another polygraph. Finally, they then sanctioned him for not revealing these encounters and sentenced him to incarceration in a community corrections hell-hole, a violent place that houses the drudges of society; at the same time, forcing him to give up his job and probably to lose his home.
When a psychologist, professional coach, or psychiatrist walks through the coming out process with a client, they refer them to Just Out or a similar support group because for young men, especially for young men in the Black Community (as is the case for my son) this process is associated with a grossly elevated risk of suicide. But despite a history of 8 attempts in 10 years, he was not offered this support and compassion. Instead, he was punished for coming out….and his parole officer’s reaction, shock and visibly evident disgust, turned into the punitive act of referring him into a program that will force him to leave his university studies and lose all elements of stability.
But how could he come out voluntarily? He knew his treatment provider may react negatively; this is a person who believes only monogamy is healthy, and the group of registered offenders he’s forced to attend includes many violent predators…but he must still go there.
I am terribly afraid for his very life. Since the beginning of this journey he’s been hanging on by a thread, and I wonder how much can a man endure? This was not the life we imagined for him, nor is it for any of the many families we’ve met through this site and through responses to my blog. This semester he was gaining hope because he had a plan: finish his degree, go to law school in another country, one that sees the US RSO laws as draconian, and leave forever the nation his birth parents chose as his homeland but one that now sees him as a pariah. He has written an article for publication on Age of Consent to teach young men what abstinence only, sex ed classes won’t: that age matters and the consequences are horrific.
But now all hope is fading. Our family has stood by him because he is a great man who made a horrible mistake (under the influence of drugs and alcohol) and he has taken responsibility for that from day one. We’ve stood up to unlicensed therapists (yes, Colorado has these) and fought for his rights time and time again only to be called enablers and sources of interference.
I have not really slept one night since exactly 5 years ago tonight when I received his call from jail saying he had been arrested. I wake up thinking that this is a nightmare and we’ll all wake up; things like this don’t happen to families like ours. But they do…and they have….and I want to make it stop. Surely justice will prevail over vindictiveness; certainly the laws will change to release those with histories of only non-violent, non-pedophilic, non-incestual behavior from the registry.
What will it take to overturn the registry and the mandatory, punitive, non-research-based treatment mandates? Courage. The courage to say publicly, “This is my son, my husband, my brother….and he is a man who violated a statute that makes sex with a post pubescent but under age person illegal.. he is not a Sex Offender.” While I pray for his courage to just keep on living….I pray for my own to become strong enough to advocate openly for him and for all who are suffering. I know its very little in comparison to what he needs to summon each day.