Since the day in 1989, when her son Jacob was kidnapped by a stranger, Patty Wetterling has “been on a journey to find him and to stop this from ever happening to another child, another family.” She and her husband are co-founders of the Jacob Wetterling Foundation, which works to prevent sexual violence against children. When Patty Wetterling speaks out against sex offender laws, we should listen. Here is part of the opening of her op/ed piece “The harm in sex-offender laws” from this morning’s Sacramento Bee, (Sept. 14, 2007).
I’m worried that we’re focusing so much energy on naming and shaming convicted sex offenders that we’re not doing as much as we should to protect our children from other real threats.
Many states make former offenders register for life, restrict where they can live, and make their details known to the public. And yet the evidence suggests these laws may do more harm than good.
“We need to keep sight of the goal: no more victims. We need to be realistic. Not all sex offenders are the same. Not all sex offenses are the same. We need to ask tougher questions: What can we do to help those who have offended so that they will not do it again? What are the social factors contributing to sexual violence and how can we turn things around? None of us want our loved ones to be victims of sexual violence. None of us want to be the parent or sibling or child of a sex offender. But since the vast majority of sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the family, sexual violence becomes personal very quickly. It affects all of us.
“We need better answers. We need to fund prevention programs that stop sexual violence before it happens. We need to look at what can help those released from prison to succeed so that they don’t victimize again — and that probably means housing and jobs and treatment and community support. Given that current laws are extremely popular, taking truly effective measures may exact a high political price. But that’s surely not too much to pay to prevent the kidnap, rape or murder of another child.”
Here’s the Comment of Rev. David Hess, of The Pastor.net, to Wetterling’s article:
Thank you Patty! I am a member of the Board of Directors of SOhopeful International. We are working with families, citizens and professionals to change the way Megan’s Law and similar legislation mandates the registration, tracking and community notification of non-violent, low risk sex offenders. We are making this effort in order to strengthen the Sex Offender Registry (SOR) and make it more effective, to help it to accomplish what it was originally intended to do.
Many of the current laws are counterproductive. We, like the Jacob Wetterling Foundations, want former offenders to succeed. When they do, our communities are safer. Denying former offenders housing, employment, and stable family lives makes our communities less safe.
We strongly agree that we need to prevent these crimes before they happen. Our hope is that lawmakers will consider such initiatives as http://www.therapy-key.com/
C. David Hess
Click this link to find information from JWF on child sexual abuse prevention education.