By Jeffrey DeVore . . .
This is the most difficult thing I’ve ever written. While I’ve told parts of this story in verbal or written form to some family members and to friends, I’ve never felt the freedom to be brutally and daringly honest—because there’s never been anyone who gets what it’s like having served time and then being on the registry. Family, friends, do their best to understand, but they can’t get it—through no fault of their own. My conditions forbid me to associate with any felons, no matter the charge, which leaves me feeling isolated, lonely, and not-gotten. While I’m not allowed to associate with any of your readers on the registry, I don’t know you, we have no means of contact, I don’t know who’s reading this, so I’m not associating. I am so grateful to NARSOL for providing this format, and just as I have resonated with and wept over your “Tales”, so my hope is that not only will I find a sense of release and of being truly heard, but that also perhaps something I write will be sustaining and encouraging for you in your life. In, what for me are, these crazy times of war, climate change, political and judicial upheavals, (I’ll stop there, lest I drag us farther down that hole of feelings of hopelessness and helplessness) and others, I find that focusing on gratitude, caring for self and others, forgiveness of self and others, and acceptance of self and of others (oh, boy, the choice words I have for some of those others), the better I can pass my days with times of peace, love and joy.
My goal in these paragraphs is to unwrap, shine the light on, what I’ve sensed during my years on the registry (since 2009) as well as the years prior to my arrest. I intend to name what I’ve kept tucked away in my gut, in my right shoulder muscles (sometimes I want to come out swinging at all the stupidity and inanity that keep me feeling incarcerated, even though I’m a “free” man), in my throat muscles from throttling my speech, all that inward storing (reading Bessel van der Kolk’s The Body Keeps the Score really helped me see just how much I had tucked away), and by naming it (and taking responsibility for it, not blaming others), I will come to own it, which I have found frees me to take new courses of action.
I took a break to play some online Mahjong. It’s a diversion, the same way I use Sudoku on my phone. It protects me from feeling the pain and fear I still carry in my gut, my throat, and the quiet rage I’ve felt all my life at things that didn’t feel right, but that were better left unspoken—to stay safe with family, teachers, preachers, society. You know the drill. The games provide me a gentle way of numbing when I start getting too close to pain.
My crime consisted of giving an undercover FBI agent a CD with illegal images of minor boys. He told me that he also liked boys, and that his hard drive had crashed, could I get him some pictures. The disc contained no prepubescent boys. Notice how I jump to explaining that I’m not one of those, those pedophiles. (Yes, I categorize myself so I’m not THAT bad. Minors, yes, but not THAT group.) Just like the men in the prisons. Oh, yeah, I robbed banks and swindled retirement funds, but I’m not one of THOSE!
I was sentenced to 60-mos. Federal prison, with Lifetime Supervision. The presiding judge said he didn’t agree with Lifetime, but was required to impose it, to come back to court in 3 years and he’d would reconsider it. My Public Defender and I were preparing a case—and that judge died.
I’m termed a hebephile and/or ephebephile, i.e., lover of youth. They are categorized as Paraphilias, which are behaviors that while not given a diagnostic number in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the person who likes getting spanked, or wearing pink nylon stockings or gets sexually aroused by sunlight (yes, there are those)), and therefore, not a mental or sexual disorder, can lead to behaviors that get a person in legal trouble. Which is what happened to me.
No, I haven’t violated since I got out by being with a teenage boy, but the attraction remains. A 15-yr-old boy getting together with a 71-yr-old man? The boy would be in need of loving and caring, emotional and relational help, which are NOT going to be met by hooking up with an old dude. I totally get that.
I’ve been through 13 years of court-mandated treatment programs. I recently learned that I had to stay in the program because I failed to qualify for the Certificate of Completion. My inquiries as to why I failed have been unanswered by the head treatment provider as well as my current treatment provider. No, I don’t call them “therapists”. They have clarified the terminology for me, as in, “We are providing treatment, not therapy. You are welcome to obtain your own private therapist.” Yes, they are licensed psychologists, but they are not my therapist. My current treatment provider tells me that the program was devised by non-mental health specialists. Hmmm. Yes, I’ve read comments of those registrants who claimed their program was very helpful, and I’m truly happy for you. But this one? It’s been a revolving door of treatment providers. “Oh, Mr. DeVore, this is our last session. Next time you’ll begin working with Dr. or Ms. So-and-So.” One provider told me that I’m welcome to leave this program and sign on with a new one, in the hopes that I will qualify for its Certificate of Completion, since there’s nothing I can do or change to qualify for the provider I’m currently with. As one outside therapist so aptly named it, I’m being held hostage. To which I add, as are the probation officers and the treatment providers. We’re all held hostage in a system that isolates and separates and stigmatizes people. (Okay, I said I wouldn’t blame. Those are my feelings of anger and disillusionment with the system.)
My being on the registry continues to influence my behavior and my emotional well-being. I attend monthly meetings at a local Senior Center, and play the piano for the Membership Luncheon (I get a free lunch—hey, you have to feed the entertainment!). I’ve agreed to run for 2nd VP of the organization. It’s an adult organization, so no contact with minors, so no big deal. I’m just aware that if anyone chose to Google my name far enough, my arrest and sentence could be found. (I’ve had that happen.) Should the topic of sex happen to come up, (yes, there are seniors who still get some form of sex or other) no big deal. Oh, you’re an SO? Get off the bus right now. Here, let me help you by pushing you off.
I’ve lived in 10 different locations since being released in 2009. (Two of the moves were triggered by poor choices I made. Nothing dishonest on my part, just not disclosing my status, since it wasn’t asked for.) California can be a relaxed state, but cities can enact their own restrictions.
My arrest was devastating to my ex-wife, our children (current ages, son 27, son 25, daughter 22), two sisters, one brother, friends, housemate subletting from me, church members (I had just been hired as an Asst. Minister of Youth) and colleagues and students at a college where I was an Assoc. Professor. All that came crashing down around them.
Some eventually forgave me and reestablished contact. Others detached, never to reconnect. While my own needs for love and belonging are met in some ways, and I experience and express deep gratitude to those who choose to stay connected, I carry a residual sense of shame (I am something bad) and guilt (I did something bad) that persist today. While I do my best to practice forgiveness to myself, i.e., giving up all hope and thought of a better past. I’m getting closer to unburdening all of my parts for the actions they took to achieve–what? I have a part that is dedicated to protecting me from decades of feeling weird and wrong since my youth, when I became aware that I was attracted to the boys in the locker room in junior high. It was the ‘60’s, and nobody was talking about that in rural southeast Missouri. When I, the 52-yr-old male who’d recently come of the closet, came across those sexual photos and videos of adolescent boys on the internet, I was hooked. That part of me said, “Yes! Now we can make up for lost time!” Ah, life doesn’t work that way.
There was the 16-yr-old boy I met with, took to the zoo and to dinner three weeks later when he turned 17 (see, he wasn’t THAT young; after all, 16 is the age of consent in the United Kingdom; not that any of you tries to justify what you did), and bedded down. (No name, no date, no specific place, so no charges were filed.) If you, young man, something like late ‘30’s, are reading this, I apologize. I was never clear, never asked, what you hoped to achieve by being with an older man. Yep, there’s a part of me that uses people to get what I want. Why does this feel like what a confessional must feel like? I wouldn’t know—I’m Protestant.
Ah, yes, those polygraphs. I’ve had 24 or 25—I’ve lost count. I failed one; another was “inconclusive”. Polygraphists often ask, “What number is this for you, sir?” Um, isn’t that Probation’s job—to keep track of this stuff?
The wires with finger electrodes, the chest chains, the blood pressure cuff, the seating pad. Which, I was told by a polygrapher, measures anal twitching, which can be a give away to lying. When I reported that to a treatment provider, and then ran it by a second polygrapher 6 months later, both hemmed and hawed and created one of those smokescreen answers, trying to make skunkweed smell like a rose. Why don’t people just name stuff for what it is? We’re so terrified of body parts. Secrets and silence. Fear and intimidation.
It’s all part of being perpetually watched. Hoping I could get help beyond what Public Defenders can offer (I get they are doing their best, and have had three that really took an interest, drew up a submission, had it rejected by the judge at the time, with no hearing), I reached out to two private attorneys who both advertise as specializing in sex offender cases. I sent the nature of my crime including the number on my J & C. When I didn’t hear back on my first queries, I phoned in a second request. No response that time, not even from the secretary, either.
Because of COVID, the treatment plan providers began using telephone calls in place of the personal sessions at their office location. (Each call requires that I report the number of times I masturbated since the last session, and what I fantasized about. A man who became a good friend following his visiting me in prison while part of a volunteer program—he and his wife still invite me over for holiday and birthday events—we begin each weekly phone call with, “Hi, friend, how many times did you masturbate this week and what did you think about?”)
The treatment phone calls are fine with me. Saves time and mileage. Where do I go? Weather permitting, I drive to a nearby cemetery and walk the entire hour of the treatment session among the graves. I walk in the cemetery for two reasons: There are no loud vehicles driving through, and I feel a sense of freedom. To take the call in my studio apartment? That triggers a feeing of incarceration. I’m being held hostage in my own living quarters, by this Tattle-tale who masquerades as a treatment provider. Not in MY space you won’t!
Thanks for reading thus far. While I am unable to respond to persons individually, I’ll keep tabs on “Tales from the Registry.”