I have been on the registry since 1997. Many things have changed over the years. Like when I was sentenced, I was only suppose to be on the registry for 15 years. Which in my mind is too long for a consensual teenage “sex crime.
“Not long after my conviction they amended the law, which made me a lifetime registrant. So as soon as I was considered an adult, I was also considered a sexual deviant. Sad thing is that the same year I was convicted, there was a law enforcement officer caught for the same thing, but he got a lesser misdemeanor charge and only 1 yr. of supervision. Imagine that.
At first it wasn’t so bad. There wasn’t an online registry, so if someone wanted to know who was on there they had to go down to the court house to find out. Most people didn’t do that. So I was able to live a pretty normal day to day life other than the 4 years of probation and 6 months in jail. I could go on and on about instances of discrimination and social segregation, but this post is going to be about some of my most recent victories.
I have learned since being on the registry that if you hang your head and are constantly living in shame, you will get nowhere. You will get the same results from hiding from it. The less people get to know you, the worse they are going to think about you. I don’t go out of my way to make friends, but I’m not about to be thought of as a monster. I help my neighbors whether they ask for it of not. I work harder than anyone else, so there is no reason to fire me. When given the opportunity to prove myself, I take it and surpass expectations. I do these things that most people don’t, and my only return is being considered the best of the worst. Whatever, I’ll take it. So, after years of being out of the system, I find myself back on probation. Since being put on the registry, I had developed depression and a hefty drinking problem. Turns out that drinking whiskey and taking antidepressants can cause a blackout rage that leads to beating up 2 bouncers and waking up in a ditch next to the highway surrounded by cops. Oops. Anyway, I have made my apologies and taken responsibility for my actions and am currently finishing up a year of probation. The incident happened over a year ago, and I haven’t had a drink since. Also, I quit taking those complacency pills. All of this leads up to the good news, because without it, the good news would never have happened.
Up until 2007 I was a competition kick-boxer. I had gotten into a car accident and messed up my neck, so that was over. I have managed to stay in good physical condition, but recently with my new found sobriety I was interested to see what physical level I could get to. Knowing that the YMCA does background checks and excludes sex offenders, I was weary of trying to get in there. I went to the website of the local YMCA and read their policy on background checks. It turned out that they allow an appeal to membership denial based on the background check. I knew that even if I couldn’t get in, that my wife and children would still be able to attain a membership, and that was more important anyway. I want my children to be involved in athletic programs that will help them grow socially and physically. I didn’t have that, and it’s very important to me that my children do. So we applied.
I was a member for over 3 weeks before they completed my background check, but I was waiting for it. I met with the director and requested an appeal. She was actually understanding and told me what she needed to make the process as smooth as possible. I immediately went to see my probation officer and told her about my situation. Now, being on probation again, I am automatically put back on sex offender supervision even though my crime has nothing to do with a sex crime. But, my rules are basic and nothing about going to the YMCA is part of them. So my probation officer gave the YMCA the information they needed and a referral that I am not a dangerous sexual deviant. Also, when I told some of my friends and family about the situation, they too offered up references.
I am now a trusted member of the YMCA. I am not allowed to be a volunteer, but I am allowed to use the facility and be with my children as they learn different sports and activities. This has been my greatest victory thus far in overcoming the many insurmountable obstacles of being on the sex offender registry. It does seem that, in my area at least, people are becoming more aware of the fact that many “sex offenders” are not the monsters that the politicians, district attorneys, and judges are calling us in order to justify their positions. I am still very careful in protecting myself from false claims when going to places like the YMCA by going with a trustworthy witness and never being alone with anyone underage. Sad but true, even the most straight edge registrant can be taken down by a false claim of sexual misconduct. And there are people out there that feel like they are doing society a favor by putting you away. Allowing offenders the opportunity to integrate back into society is the only real way for society to keep tabs on offenders and prevent them from re-offending. I’m hoping to see it in my lifetime.