Well, yesterday was Valentine’s Day. For me, unfortunately it’s always been kind of a depressing holiday. One reason, I’ve always been single. But, the main reason is that when I was a kid, my grandmother’s funeral was held on that day. But, for many others, it’s a day of showing those you care for how much they really mean.
Being a sex offender and on the registry (or in my case will be upon release), it makes you wonder how to go about approaching the dating scene. I have always been great hooking up other people, but have never been as lucky myself. I am from Arkansas (the tip of the belt buckle in the Bible belt) and I always thought my orientation (bi) was part of the problem. Girls didn’t want the taboo and guys, well you can guess.
But, I’ve been approached by a few friends lately who have asked questions about what can we do when we get out to try and up our chances of meeting that special someone. Well, being incarcerated, I have tried a few of the pen pal sites. I had luck with one of them. The reason I didn’t get many responses is because they required you to list your crime. Well, one response was someone who was also a sex offender, but when I saw the photo my mom had posted, I was 13 and well, I got a little creeped out by it. So I had that photo removed and put a new one. I did have one response.
It was a guy, but he wasn’t interested in a relationship, but we had a lot of similar interests. He also wasn’t a sex offender and in fact didn’t know any at all. He was a human being who liked the same things as me and we became friends. So I got to thinking, why couldn’t it be this simple with the rest of society?
Our world looks at us as second-class (sometimes even third-class) citizens. I will actually discuss that a bit more later in the article. I have met two kinds of people who are on sex offense cases. Half are either too shy or timid to develop the social skills needed to start a conversation or the others seem too stuck up and think they are 100% innocent (which some could possibly be). I fall into the first category. I am a very shy guy, but prison has taught me how to stand up for myself and approach people.
When you meet someone, unfortunately some P.O.’s make you notify them immediately you are a sex offender. In my opinion, this is something that should not be brought up at first. Now, if there are minors around (such as the other’s children), well you may not have a choice. But, once you develop a semi-relationship involving common interests or something of that nature, try easing your way into the subject.
Treat it like you would a job interview. Tell the other person you have done something in your past that you were not proud of. You got in trouble, served your punishment and are trying to get back to starting over. Sometimes just acknowledging that will keep them interested. They may begin fishing. In fact, they probably will. Tell them, there is nothing to worry about and once you get to know each other a little bit more, you will share more details. This is when you can gauge their reaction.
If it is somebody who truly is interested in you, they will accept this answer. Some may want the straight up truth. They may accept it or they may not want anything to do with you anymore. But I’ve learned that gauging the reaction is the first step in determining which path to take. If they accept that you will give more details later, then if you are on a porn case, maybe give a little more details saying that you were convicted of a computer offense. You could go on to say that by what you did, some people were harmed and you will have to live with that for the rest of your life.
Finally, if they are still on the line after all this, you can proceed to tell them the entire truth. In my case, I discovered CP as a teenager and became addicted to it. I always felt nervous around people my own age and that was a way to express myself in a way that I felt comfortable. Unfortunately, it was a horrible way. I had a problem and that problem was harmful to the victims, my family, my community and myself. All I am asking for is to be accepted for who I am and not for what I did.
Our society is beginning to open up to new things and you’d be surprised at how many people would give you a second chance. Now, with that being said, there is a harm that comes about to significant others of sex offenders. When people find out that your husband or wife or boyfriend or girlfriend is on the registry, how should they respond? Should they stand up and face it or just ignore it and not let it bother them?
Well, I’m going to tell you a story about a friend of mine. To protect his identity and that of his family, I have changed the names. Thomas was a former district fire chief. He did several things in his community and was well-known and well-liked around town. His wife, Tina, worked for the state’s attorney general’s office. Thomas was convicted of sending photos to an underage girl and now is stuck with that for the rest of his life. But, instead of leaving him, Tina, stuck with him through thick and thin. The two have three beautiful daughters who knows that their dad did something wrong, but not exactly what. I haven’t approached the subject with him about this, so I won’t speculate.
Tina though on the other hand, is chastised daily for sticking with her husband. Why? Well, what do you think the public thinks of an employee in the A.G.’s office being married to a registered sex offender? You know what her response was? Who cares? It is my life. It is my husband and it is my choice. The registry was not designed to chastise people and shame them, but that is exactly what it has become. Her husband is serving time in prison for his crime and this is his punishment. Not having to have co-workers or ex-friends talk crap about him is not what the judge ordered.
Tina is a brave woman who I can say I am very proud of due to the fact that she believes in love and not of public opinion. I hope there can be more people like Tina in the world.
On another note, a case was handed down out of Alabama where a federal judge has ruled that parts of Alabama’s registry was unconstitutional. The requirement that sex offenders have to have an identifier on their driver’s license compelled a speech that the Constitution says they cannot be forced to do. It also said that forcing them to provide all their internet identifiers publicly has no legitimate law-enforcement interest and is simply used to shame them.
We are continuing to monitor this case and I will provide you more details on Tuesday.