By Todd . . . Hello NARSOL, after reading the latest blog, I wanted to tell you about a true story of someone I know who has gone thru something similar, what I am calling ‘Internet Vigilantism’. My goal is to help those in the same situation, prevent them from making the same bad choices, and let them know they are not alone. This might be a good spot for Tales, but use it how you wish.
Here is the story, tweaked things a little for privacy, etc.
‘John’ has been off probation for about 4 years and still must register annually, but has been active in the community, volunteering, traveling and rebuilding a new network of friends/relationships. A big part of that was a social media site where he was able to connect and stay connected with family, new friends, people he met locally and from all his travels. As an RSO, finding new friends and groups to be a part of is extremely difficult, but he was basically successful in doing so. One of his groups was rescuing and fostering dogs, which using social media is critical in finding dogs that need to be rescued, but more importantly finding families willing to literally save their lives.
Another group he was in was a hobby he was passionate about, there were a lot of people with similar lifestyles, goals and more, but his was a little different than the majority – why bring this trivial thing up, that is what led to someone that felt they were ‘better’ than him (nothing to do with the past) and decided to dig deeper into who he was. Of course, didn’t take long for them to find an old newspaper article, that led to another link that led to another one – these initially were not the ‘official’ SO government sites, these were sites specifically designed to ‘notify’ the public about offenders.
As soon as she found this information, she took screen shots of the stories and not only posted in that group, she progressed to go down all his ‘contacts/friends’ to give them this ‘information’ as well as the social site. Fortunately, a true friend that she sent it to notified him of this and he was able to block her from sending it to everyone he knew. But the damage had already been done, he was kicked out of that group, which was not a huge loss, but being permanently kicked off the social site was devastating. Four years of memories, friends (lost all of those contacts), staying in contact with family, hobby contacts, messages, all gone – why, because someone wanted to be a ‘vigilante’ and felt that everyone should know. There could still be other damage from her he is not aware of yet. Time will tell if this is it or more to come.
Of course, he was incredibly hurt by this, and with all the negativity of being on the registry, new passport stamp, failed court fights there are some positive ones, but the negatives are ten times the impact as the victories are few and far between. Out of desperation, ‘John’ took some stupid steps and tried to find a way to make sure this didn’t happen again. He looked for people who said they could ‘help’ but, they were evil people that preyed on vulnerable, desperate people like John. They tried to scam him out of a lot of money, but when he realized this was a bad idea and backed out, he was threatened, and they tried to blackmail him into paying, if not, they were going to (and did) spread his name on the web even more. He did back out and never paid them, and as far as he can tell, it hasn’t gotten worse, but it doesn’t take much for that to change.
John was so desperate he was willing to cross some lines to have some of his privacy and freedom back. He served 11 years, paid his dues to society, and is still paying the price, being punished for something he was severely punished for 11 long years. Many lessons have been learned and he is hoping others can learn from this as well, for example, when possible, use a ‘nickname’ online, keep a low profile and don’t stir things up, stay FAR away from anyone who says they can help you in the internet, they can’t (and can get you into more trouble) and won’t! There are stories of graffiti on a door and physical harassment, which are terrible, and visible. This is something happens ALL the time to anyone on the registry, just doesn’t get the ‘publicity’ like some of the other stories, but from what John experienced, I am sure he is hurt just as much as someone putting a label on a front door.