I have a problem with the sex offender registry, which is why I I put the caveat "real" in there. I think there are quite a few guys on the sex offender registry who simply had consensual sex with a 16 year old girl who looked like she was 18, when they were 20. I feel really bad for those kids.
On the other hand, I know there are a lot of dangerous offenders who do not register. They slip in and out of our communities largely without incident. I'd like to see the registry make qualifications about the nature of the crimes and the age of the victims vs. the offender. Additionally, there needs to be a more concrete way of keeping track of dangerous offenders.
But because of my experience with my friend's son this last year, I've come to some very strong convictions about the nature of true offenders.
1. Offenders will always lie about their crimes, and probably about a lot of other things, as well. They have to learn to be very good liars--heck, I'm convinced they even believe their own lies. They have to, to keep telling them.
They will say things like, "it only happened once" or " I was drunk/on drugs and didn't realize what I was doing."
The other two things I've figured out are related to the lying:
2. They will conveniently forget the facts of their crimes. "It was so long ago." "I was pretty young myself and I don't remember exactly what happened. SOMETHING happened, but it's all a blur to me."
3. They believe that their victims enjoyed the abuse. Especially if the victim is a young child and the abuse wasn't violent, the abuser will convince themselves, and attempt to convince others, that the child somehow invited it. They believe no harm was done.
Did you know that even women who are violently raped can have an orgasm? And that young children can have orgasms? I cannot imagine the burden of guilt this puts on the victim. I believe this is a big reason why so much of this abuse is unreported. A victim must see these things in black and white and if the abuser brought pleasure to them, they believe they are at fault.
This case in my ward exemplifies these three things. The hard part for me to deal with is not what happened all those years ago--it happened approximately 20 years ago and went on for an unknown number of years. No one except perhaps the perpetrater knows how many victims there were.
What has tormented me in this case is how the family, particularly the mother and sisters of the abuser, has treated the victims and their families. The polarity in our ward has been intense, but the families of the victims hunkered down and stuck to their guns. This boy would have been convicted in juvenile court had his lawyer decided he should plead not guilty. His crimes would not have been publicized, he would not have had jail time, or had to register as a sex offender.
But when he chose to plead not guilty in the face of overwhelming evidence, the judge decided to bump the case to adult court, where he was forced to admit his guilt in a plea bargan.
His family, in return, feels they have been victimized. His stepfather (his father passed away) has accused the girls of simply enticing this boy, then turning on him. He was 13-17 (as far as we know)--his victims ranged in age from 5-8. When they got over the age of 8, they resisted and he went on to other victims.
His family feels these girls are simply promiscuous liars out for attention and possibly money, although I doubt anyone will ever file for restitution. I wouldn't touch their money, that's for sure.
His father was the bishop while this was going on. Because my James had caught this boy abusing our daughter, had pulled him off her, and punched him and reported it to us, we knew years before the other parents. We just didn't know there were other parents. Bill met with our bishop and told him discreetly about the problem and we let it go. We loved that kid and his family. When we found out that others had reported the problem to the bishop and that his mother was aware of one other incident, as well, we were appalled, just shocked to our toes.
We don't hate our bishop or condemn him. The times were different then. He did take some action, but probably, like us, he had no idea of the severity of the problem. They were truly different times.
But now there is awareness. His mother and stepfather are pillars of our ward and community. Several months before the abuse was made known, she gave a wonderful talk in my sister's ward about how we need to be vigilant and kind to the abused among us. She spoke of her friend (me) who had been sexually abused and how much she loved and sympathized with me, with my sister sitting in the congregation.
Now, though, that shoe is on the other foot. She refuses to believe the depth of this boy's deviant behaviors. She believes the two things I listed above because her son has lied to her and he's very good at it.
So I chose sides, against one of my oldest and dearest friends. But I've learned valuable lessons.
I don't know if they will help anyone out there, but know this: sex offenders are some of the best liars on the planet. Thanks for listening.