This is the second in a series of informational and
educational releases sponsored by RSOL—Reform
Sex Offender Laws, Inc.
The public view of people on sex offender registries and who they are in reality are worlds apart.
Based on news articles and their comments, those on the registry are assumed as chiefly being
- Child molesters, often used interchangeably with pedophiles, which is often misused to label anyone with any offense against minors, even teenage relationships;
- “perverts”—again, often used in a generalized and incorrect context;
- people who have committed violent, hands-on acts;
- people who have an incurable sickness and a high re-offense rate;
- people so different from what is considered “normal” that they do not deserve constitutional protections and societal rights.
The Reality: How People Become Sex Offenders
People charged with a sex crime, prosecuted, and found guilty, whether by jury verdict or a plea, will be required to register as sex offenders for ten years to life.
- A few states prosecute consensual sexual contact between teenagers when both are under the age of consent;
- Twenty-three states prosecute when there is a four-year or less age difference between a minor and an older partner in a relationship;
- All states prosecute consensual sexual contact between a minor and an adult when there is more than a four-year age difference;
- While the offense of “sexting” or any electronic conveyance of sexually oriented images or language is still evolving, many states prosecute this as producing and/or sharing child pornography even when all involved are minors and all sending and receiving are consensual (for recent, see "Boyfriend gets lifetime sex offender status for cellphone video," Winston-Salem Journal, Feb. 11, 2013);
- One third of those charged with sexual crimes against a child—anyone under the age of consent—are themselves, using that same definition, children (USA Today,Jan. 1, 2012);
- Children as young as nine have to register as sex offenders (Delaware; Michigan). Other states, including but not necessarily limited to, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Kansas, Ohio, Michigan, and Texas, register children as sex criminals at ages ten and eleven;
- The re-offense rate for another sexual offense is low; some state follow-up studies show as low as 2-4%, among them CA (2010); CN (2012); IN (2008); MN (2007): NM (2012); NY (2007) TX (2001); WA (2005); the official Department of Justice across-the-board rate is 5.3% (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2003);
- Some registerable offenses are not sexual in nature, e.g., public exposure and public urination; kidnapping; unlawful restraint.
- In Utah a twelve-year-old boy and his thirteen-year-old girlfriend, when she became pregnant, were each charged with sexual assault of a child under the age of fourteen; they were each named as the victim in the other’s case (DenverPost.com, Dec. 26, 2006).
- In Wisconsin a district attorney filed charges against a six-year-old boy for “sexual activity," i.e., playing doctor, with a five-year-old female playmate; the boy will go on the public registry at age eighteen for what he did at age six (Wisconsin State Journal, Nov. 17, 2011).
- In Texas a man is on the registry for life for consensual high school sex. Married to his “victim” for almost twenty years, they have four children whose soccer team he is not allowed to coach due to his registrant status (New York Times, “When a Sex Offender Isn’t,” July 13, 2011).
RSOL advocates for laws based on facts and research and supports appropriate punishment and consequences for all offenses, sexual as well as others, which cause harm to others. Many cases prosecuted as sexual crimes do not fit this definition.
RSOL promotes the elimination of sexual abuse and the preservation of civil rights for all individuals through the use of effective legislation based on empirical research. We envision sexual offense laws based on equal justice and respect for the dignity of all people, protection from retroactively applied punishment, and the establishment of fact-based laws and policies which protect our communities.