Collateral Damage in America's War on Sex Crimes

A Test of Your Views About the Sex Registry

Check out Shana Rowan’s blog I Love a Sex Offender. She’s the 27-year-old girlfriend of Geoff, a man who’s also 27. At age 13, after years as the target of physical abuse at the hands of his mother and step-father, he engaged in inappropriate touching with his 7-year-old half-sister—abuse that went on for a year. When he turned 18, he spent three years in prison. And now he’s on the sex offender registry for life.

One of the reasons that Rowan put together the blog is to share how scared she is much of the time because her boyfriend’s name, address, and photo are on the sex offender website. She worries that someone, not knowing anything about his story, will decide to target them because he’s on the sex offender registry.

Her fears aren’t unfounded. In 2005, University of Louisville criminologist Richard Tewksbury and Lynn University researcher Jill Levenson interviewed nearly 600 immediate family members of offenders for a study that appeared in the Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice. Of those they talked to, 44 percent said they’d been threatened or harassed by neighbors as a result of their loved one’s sex-offender status, 27 percent that their property had been damaged, and 7 percent that they’d been physically assaulted or injured.

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