I’m not someone who checks the sex offender registry regularly or thinks about it all that much. I checked it before we bought our house four years ago and maybe twice since. So when a friend mentioned she had found an old high school classmate on there, it occurred to me it had been a while and it might be worth a look. I was not prepared for what I found.
I live with my husband and young daughter in a sleepy, little neighborhood full of old homes. Part of my neighborhood is classified as historical and we often have tour buses slowly driving up and down the street. We are still considered rural and many here live below the poverty line so we are not without problems but we love it here-one neighbor fixes our furnace, the other leaves homegrown tomatoes on our back porch, my daughters best buddy is her teachers granddaughter, I can’t go to the grocery store without seeing at least one person I know, and our house has a real white picket fence-we’re talking Mayberry here people! So while I am not naïve enough to think we are safe and nothing bad ever happens here I was lulled into a sense of security that I never felt when we lived in a big city.
And then the rug was pulled out from under me. As I zoomed slowly in to our neighborhood and then our street it started to dawn on me one of those little red boxes was very close to our house. Then I realized it was directly across the street. I almost didn’t want to look at the details. My heart sank to my knees when I saw first degree criminal sexual conduct. It sank further when I expanded the list to see another first degree charge, then a second degree charge, and finally kidnapping. Then my eyes locked on the words TIER THREE and my blood turned to ice. For those that aren’t aware-Tier Three is the classification given to the most dangerous and most likely to re-offend sex offenders. I went into overdrive. Google would save me! So I started searching and searching for any information about his case I could find. Maybe this was a Romeo & Juliet case, maybe he was falsely accused but couldn’t afford to appeal, give me something, anything Saint Google! I searched for hours. I eventually found that he was sentenced to a minimum of 12 years and maximum of 50 years. He served 12 and was one year into parole. When I clicked on the statue for the first degree charge and saw “penetration, under 13 years old” I lost my shit.
For some reason my first instinct was to immediately drive to school and pick up my daughter. I wanted her safe; I wanted her with me right NOW. I felt like we were in immediate danger and desperately wanted something I could do to fix this. And then I started to get mad. I didn’t understand how a dangerous criminal could move into our neighborhood and we weren’t notified. I didn’t understand why a sex offender can’t move within 1000 feet of a school or day care but could move smack into the middle of a neighborhood rife with young families. I didn’t understand why this wasn’t in the newspaper as soon as he moved in. I didn’t understand why town hall meetings weren’t being held and people weren’t in an uproar. A RAPIST LIVES HERE.
Come to find out, in my state, they consider community notification to be placement on the registry. Once that happens their job is done so it’s unlikely more than a few, if that, are aware of our new resident unless they check the registry often. It is also illegal in our state to disseminate information about an offender so the newspaper can’t write about it, I can’t pass out flyers to my neighbors, we can’t have a town meeting…unless the offender chooses to make his status public himself.
Three days later, after trying to get more information, my husband made the long hike to the court house where the trial took place to get a copy of the court case and we finally found out what happened. This man kidnapped a 30-something year old woman by knifepoint, drove her 100 miles, raped her, and then let her go. My first feeling upon hearing this was relief. My one and only concern from the time I learned about this man was my daughters’ safety. At least it wasn’t a child. At least she won’t be a target. I obviously didn’t read the entirety of the first degree charge and caused myself unwarranted heartache. But as quick as the relief came it was gone again. Because that is just stupid. This man sexually assaulted another human being. He held a knife to her throat and raped her, inflicting not only immense physical damage but psychological damage. She will never, ever be the same. This is not a man that cares about age. This is not a man that cares about others. This is a man the state has determined to be dangerous and likely to re-offend. We are all at risk.
Before this discovery I would’ve been the one saying “if someone has served their time, they shouldn’t continue to be punished when they get out”. But I am scared. I am scared in my own home and it really sucks. I take my daughter to school in the dark winter morning, coming and going before most are even awake. I am home alone or with just my daughter until the evening. This man can look out his window at our living room. I no longer keep the patio doors open to enjoy the breeze, I work with a butcher knife next to my computer, I never leave without pepper spray. When my daughter spilled a drink on herself yesterday, instead of stripping her down and letting her run around in her underpants until bath time, I put clean clothes on so this man wouldn’t potentially catch a glimpse of her naked. My dad wants us to get a gun. Every time I see his car drive by or parked outside my heart skips a beat. I know I can’t live in fear and part of me wishes I had never looked at the registry-ignorance is bliss right? But I do know and I can’t see how, unless this man moves, I will ever feel my family is safe again and that makes me so angry. And sad.