From military to the registry

By Will .  . .

It was September of 2008, I was working out of town for a couple of weeks, when I got a call from my wife telling me that a sex offender had been stalking my 4th and 5th grade children while they walked to school. The story my daughter told her teacher, the principal, and later the police, was that a man was slowly following them in his car as they walked the 3 blocks from our house to the neighborhood school. When the police asked her for a description, they were able to track this man, Ted, via the National Sex offender site, to this very same man that was following her and her brother that morning.I got crazy angry that day. I was so furious, I wanted to fly home, track this man down and kill him, or at the very least beat the hell out of him. I couldn’t believe the hate that I had for this man; this man, that I assumed was a dirty perverted disgusting sex offender, that would stalk my kids, and think of them as sexual objects.Fortunately, my wife calmed me down, I would be home in just a few more days, and it was in the hands of the police now, they would throw this “pig” back in jail for what he had done.In the end that’s not how this story played out at all. This man was a sex offender, and yes, he was driving slow behind my kids as they walked to school, but the kids he was watching were not my two, it was the two boys just ahead of them on the sidewalk, his grandsons. He was there watching them, to protect them as they walked to school. As a sex offender he was not allowed on school property, but there were no rules about him driving by the school. I know this version of the story to be factual, because later that school year, my wife and I became very good friends with the boys’ parents through my boy, and an older sister to my daughter. It was through the parents that we found out more about the grandparent. Through him, I learned a lot about myself, and how quick I was to judge people based on their label. Yes, he had committed the crime, but he also paid for it through serving time, years before. At this time though, I didn’t care, he was a sex offender, and that gave me the right to judge, or label him however I wanted; that sick disgusting, perverted pedophile (so I thought).

Skip ahead 12 years now to 2020 and the Covid crisis. I was in the military but being in the inglorious position of a staff job, I sat behind a desk and a computer for most of my workday. The thing about a staff job though, is that you don’t need to be in the office to do the job, you can do this from anywhere, and with Covid forcing us all to work from home, that’s exactly what I did. For me, working from home was not ideal, I got too distracted, I had a hard time paying attention to my job without the structure and order of my uniform, co-workers and office; while my couch, pajamas and scruffy beard simply did not provide the organization I needed to stay focused on my job. So, with distraction… I got distracted, I often found myself putting my computer down and playing on my phone. And unfortunately, what I often looked at on my phone was not healthy for me.

Over the years leading up to this I developed a pornography habit. What I thought was just a bad habit, actually grew into an addiction. I was married, I loved my wife, we had a pretty good sex life, but I had a broken sexual history that dates all the way back to my teenage years and a life that begins and ends with a lot of shame. Whenever pain, worry, fear, anxiety, or frustration came into my life, the way I dealt with it was through pornography. It became my cure all, my temporary escape from reality, and my way to “self-medicate” my problems away. My wife occasionally discovered my porn usage through my ups and downs of life, and we fought, oh yes, we fought over it, and always, always, always I promised to her that I was done and I was putting it away forever. And that was the plan too, I didn’t lie to her when I said it, I truly didn’t want to go back to it, but like all addictions, when the pain came back later on, the self-medicating came back too, and what I swore to her I was done with, was now back in my life again. My life of secrecy, and again shame.

Back to 2020, I was home, I was alone, I was bored, and I was distracted. I hated working from home and when things went wrong in my house I went back to porn. Up until this point it had all just been websites, but more recently someone introduced me to something totally different. It was an app where people shared things. An app not just for looking at pictures, but where people shared their “real-life” pics that they took themselves, or discussed things about their own lives, and personal stories. I discovered different groups in this app where certain topics could be addressed, and personal things shared. This is where my life totally spun out of control.My addiction found a new interest, and even after my job decided it was ok to go back to work in the office, I still found myself pulling up this app on my phone and reading through the stories or browsing through the pictures. Then one day life changed entirely for me. I was in a group, with multiple men sharing their pics and lies, when suddenly someone posted 3 pictures that I had never seen before. In fact, I should not have ever seen them, no one should have, because they were all 3 underage girls. I was aghast, I was shaken, I was upset, but in my mind and my shame I was afraid to call this guy out, to say anything to him because I did not want to expose myself and have to once again admit to my wife what I was looking at. So, I did the unthinkable, I let it slide. I logged out of the group, deleted the app, and swore I would never go there again.The fool I was. I was “clean” for about 2 weeks, when something uncomfortable happened in my life again and I went back to self-medicating. I found myself back in the app, and back in the same group as before. At some point the guy that posted the illegal pics found me and asked to direct message (dm) me. He asked if I wanted to see more, and to my shame, and my sin, I agreed, and he sent me 3 more pics in another group he had created. That was it, I reached my breaking point when these came across. I couldn’t stand myself and the position I was in. How could I, a hardworking, honest, christian man, who loved his wife and kids ever agree to look at something so vile, so horrible? A question I still ask myself to this day. Again, like before, I closed the app, deleted it from my phone and swore I’d never go back. I was “clean” for a while after this experience. I didn’t go back for months. Then one day, after a fight with my wife, I self-medicated my way back again. To the same app, but not the same group in the app. I was done with that man and that group, but not with the pornography. I fell back into old habits, old addictions and tried to block those two “bad experiences” out of my mind. I even began to tell lies to the new group. I mean, I was a liar, right? Liars do what they do best – lie. I took other stories from other websites and posted them as my own. Certainly, they were not anything I had ever done, but I told them as if they were. It was after one of these days, that I had finally had enough of the stories, enough of the lies, enough of the secrets, and on a starry night in a field next to my house I dropped to my knees and asked God to take it all away. I didn’t care how, or what the consequences were, but I needed it all to end. I hated myself, hated the lies and needed to find truth in my life. The next morning, around 8am God answered my prayers.I had just parked my truck in the lot across the street from my work when out from behind a large black SUV stepped a military investigator that I knew fairly well from previous jobs. He had several other men with him that quickly identified themselves as members of Homeland Security Investigations and they immediately seized my phone from my hand and took me up to their office for interrogations. At the same time that this was going on, my home, just a few miles away, was raided and searched by an entire S.W.A.T team looking for more evidence of my crime. My wife was at home along with my son (the same one followed while in the 4th grade, only now he was 21), as the armed SWAT team and dogs searched every inch of my home for illegal pornography.The world had flipped upside down, and not only mine, but the lives of the ones I loved too. Nothing else illegal was found, but the investigation that followed went on for 14 months until I was finally brought before a military court martial. During the course of the investigation most of my friends left me, a few stuck around, but not all. I destroyed my military career and lost all respect I had within my community and family. My already scraping by marriage was definitely in a bind now as I watched my life slowly slip away from me.The court martial found me guilty of possession of child pornography – a plea deal I had to take actually. I was looking at five years of prison, but with the plea deal my very expensive lawyer talked them down to only six months, one month per image. I know this seems like a light sentence to most, but time is time. Ten years or ten days, any time inside will forever change a man and who he thought he was before. My six months ended up as only five as I got out early for good conduct, and being that it was a court martial, and not a federal or state case, I got out without having to be on paper anywhere. But still, I got out of prison and now had to register as a sex offender, for the rest of my life.Ironic? The man I hated before, the man I wanted to kill, is the man I had become. I am now the man most people fear, the man repulsed when people hear my name, the man that has no respect in the world, the lowest end of society, the sex offender, on the list for life.

Shame. Back to that magic, 5 letter word. The word that destroys lives. In many cultures around the world, to disgrace, and bring shame into one’s family is the lowest thing a person can do to themselves. The answer to this in Indian and most Asian countries is death. To kill oneself is less shameful than to live with the wrong that is committed. And I get it, I understand. Unsuccessfully, over the last two years I have tried to kill myself, the last time very recently. I am even a failure at this.The Sex Offender list is built on shame, it thrives on it, and it centers all efforts around it. Since its creation just over thirty years ago there has not been one instance of where a crime was prevented because of “community awareness” from placing offenders on the list. Almost all instances of child molestation have been from people having access to children that they already knew. A friend, an uncle, a neighbor, or a dad. Very rare is the case of the man lurking outside the schoolyard waiting for the next innocent child to come by to prey on. And when it does happen in these rare “one off” situations, it is almost entirely the offender’s first offense. Thus, he was not on the list already and thereby not previously breaking any law.But what the Sex Offender list does do, and is very good at, is giving an address to vigilante’s that want to take the law in their own hands and “rid the world” of a monster by assaulting, and sometimes killing the offender in their own home. What this list does well is make it extremely difficult for offenders to start over with their lives, to get a fresh start, and try and do better next time. Finding a decent job – unlikely, finding a good home – good luck, insurance – fat chance. Restrictions vary from state to state, city to city with no consistency whatsoever anywhere to be found. The offender has to be constantly aware of each jurisdiction’s rules and laws, even though they are rarely clearly posted anywhere. To do otherwise is to potentially find themselves back in prison for violating one of these unclear laws. Also, it is difficult to find a sympathetic judge or jury to listen to the offender if and when one of these laws is violated because he or she is a “sex offender”, and no one cares about the rights of a sex offender, it has become the American standard rule of thumb that sex offenders legal rights no longer matter, as they are the exception to normal societal laws.The offender’s only hope then is to continue to hide, to attempt to cover up the crime and hope no one discovers you, further building upon the shame that developed these character issues to begin with.Personally, I am tired of hiding in shame. During the year of my investigation, I attended several different addiction counseling programs to include weekly meetings with a psychiatrist, Celebrate Recovery for persons with addictions, and Pure Desire – which is a national group that focuses on men dealing with sexual addictions. I found great help and change from these support groups, especially from Pure Desire as it puts a biblical perspective on changing one’s mind and thought patterns. In my hope to help other men from falling off this same cliff that I did, I came to my church pastor a couple of months ago to see if he would be willing to support me in starting a Pure Desire group through the church. I feel God calling me to something bigger, and if helping other men who deal with these same struggles is the answer, then I want to be part of it. Regardless, the response I got from my pastor was not the one I had hoped for.In a private meeting in his office, I confessed everything to my pastor, my struggles, my failures, and road to recovery afterwards. Unfortunately, he, like so many, did not see this as an opportunity to help men with sexual addictions, but rather a roadblock and a need to protect his church from the sex offender that now attended. I was instructed to stay away from the church until he could meet with attorneys and the church elders to discuss my situation. Six weeks later he finally got back to me with a document I needed to acknowledge and sign if I wanted to attend church there. Requirements on his document included: notifying the church each and every time I wanted to attend service there, an escort the entire time while on church property, to include meeting me at my car, walking me to my seat and being with me out in the lobby areas. The document also banned me from using the public restroom, requiring me to use the private, unisex one instead. I was also not allowed to sit next to a minor in the pews. If a child just so happened to sit next to me, I would have to get up and move seats.So why so many restrictions? Because of the label I now have. The facts behind the case don’t seem to matter. I have taken three polygraphs to prove that I have not ever molested a child or had sexual thoughts regarding a minor. On all three I passed. The first one (much to the chagrin of my attorney) I gave the day of my initial arrest. I knew I had nothing to hide so I took the polygraph. The next two were administered months later, directed by my therapist. Still, the fact that I passed this on three separate times, over the course of about one year didn’t seem to matter anymore. I have a label now, and the label is more important than the facts.Not only does the law want to continually shame offenders, but as I mentioned before, society does as well, this even includes family members. I paid my price, I did my time, I am dealing with the repercussions of my mistakes daily. Fortunately, and I do mean fortunately, I am blessed with a wife, who decided to stick with me through all of this. I thought for sure we were through, that she would leave me, but as tough as it was, my wife decided that love was stronger. She gave love and hope another chance and I know I am stronger for it. I love her more now than ever. Even though I made life hell for her, she is still here, and has become my rock through this.This same love is not given from all family members though. There are other family members who will probably always feel the need to shame me and enforce their thoughts and actions on me. I have been told if I am ever around certain people again then I will be told exactly how she feels about me, and what a horrible monster of a person I am. Apparently my imprisonment, my constant crisis, my loss of a career, and retirement will not be enough for some? The need to hold themselves higher than me, to proclaim a self-righteous attitude towards me, and to paint the scarlet letter on my chest is justifiable in her eyes. Why? Because I am a sex-offender. It gives others the right, doesn’t it?It doesn’t matter what anyone else does in society, there are certain “forgivable sins” and some that are not. Even in spite of the words of Jesus himself, others will always feel the need to take the moral high ground and point their fingers down at me and treat me as “less than”. I mean I should know, I did it once myself, so how can I expect others to treat me any differently? Except that now I am educated on this. I must confess that I wish I wasn’t, I wish I could still live in the dark, in ignorance, taking the moral high ground again, condemning others to a life of shame while I walked with my head high and nose in the air. But I can’t anymore, I live where the world wants me, labeled for life. The scarlet letters of S.O. painted on my chest, allowing others to judge me whenever and however they choose. Thank you, “National Sex Offender” site. Thank-you for taking away my constitutional rights and treating my crime as worse than that of murder, arson, assault, robbery, and drug dealing.I know that one day I will stand in front of my maker and have to explain the actions of what I did and how wrong I was. I fully expect it to be a long conversation, and I fully plan on being on my knees the entire time. I will account not only for my infidelity to my wife for looking at others, but I will also account for my lies and secrets and all the other sins in my life. And I will account for how I judged others based on the labels that the United States of America decided to place on one’s lives.My wish, my dream, and my hope though, for whatever remaining years I have left on this Earth is to help other men who struggle like I did, to help lift them up out of their shame, and to erase the societal shames that this country has deemed it necessary to forever condemn the remainder of a person’s life. God forgives all sin, who am I to say that if God can forgive I cannot? My heart yearns to help others in need for forgiveness and redemption, I am only waiting on God to show me how.

2 thoughts on “From military to the registry

  1. You are not alone man…Formerly labeled Soldier, now labeled Sex Offender. 13 years of service, now 2nd year on the registry.

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