Over the past year, I have taken the time to personally take notice of each and every comment left on social media and offender registry websites. A common trait found within each posting is angered, choleric, frustrated, outraged, and worked up individuals. Naturally, it is rightfully so because of constructive methods the offender registry has caused and its effects on families, friends, and advocates. It is, after all, a severe topic matter leaving no wiggle room for positivity or light joking banter just to escape a moment of sanity. Most interesting is how one toxic comment can have an adverse effect on followers or allies. My discovery and rumination of registered offender comments perhaps are fueling the flames of consumption towards self-destruction and initiate disharmony by becoming overly critical of one another. Afterall, registered offenders are listed en masse without division or reasonable classifications that the public comprehends. To the ordinary viewer wishing to understand the dilemmas of registered offenders, is typically not introduced with efficacious dialog. Instead, it is a blended catchphrase cycle of coded information leaving future advocates, allies, and perhaps scholars feeling there is no representation of sounds individuals without becoming too personal rather than informative.
Let’s be honest about the elephant in the room. Sex offending is something that is on the one hand very serious but on the other hand, has been intensified and amplified. To the average citizen, the charge or allegation of sexual offending or registry requirements must indicate a grievous crime. The art of investigative technique is so arbitrary with the victim’s name removed for privacy sake and the details carefully scrubbed by prosecutors and police working in conjunction that it makes any allegation rather one-sided and guilty appearing. Of course, people are angry. But the accused has a duty or at least is told to remain calm and say nothing. Once trial comes and passes the indicted quickly learns a valuable life lesson that public opinion and plea bargains will continue to be the routine of the day. It is then that the registry requirements mixed with anger, disgust at a system that accepts tissues of tears instead of evidence or facts. The once calm and compliant accused is now labeled forever as the registered guilty offender with little to no support system to vent or seek a remedy to reverse a poor judgment or poor verdict. The anger should be redirected towards how media, justice, and public opinion has overtaken the balance of justice rather indifferent methods not found within any other trial standard – unless a witness protection program has been introduced.
This is where registered offenders take to the internet to voice a barrage of toxicity and vile about a system that has failed them. The the new second class citizen trying to figure out how to survive, cope and move forward with a syllabus listing of requirements to follow that often changes without notice. The rage and anger online overtake the critical message that people are suffering and require a moment to be heard. To the average joe that stumbles upon an offender, advocacy website is either introduced with a bombardment of anti-patronage issues or anger filled rhetoric. It turns off the potential learner leaving less informed and lessor of an advocate. There is a right way to exhibit immediacy, directness, passion, and emotion without scaring off a much-needed target audience. I too have accidentally fallen prey to my own unthought words in the past. I guess what I am trying to say is that caution is critical when attempting to discuss sensitive topic matters. Registry advocates shouldn’t appear to be in an “us versus them” standoff. Instead, the dialog should center at rationale and reasonable justice education.
What may work to educate the public is easy to read graphics, charts where offenders are prohibited to live/work/reside, a quick card of restrictions per state, a map of lifetime states regardless of a misdemeanor or low-level offenses. My point is that anger and disgust must develop in actionable policy with something indisputable and easy to read. News articles, blogs, social media, and passion rants eventually fade and die away. I fear that is what registry advocacy websites may be unintentionally doing. Offender sites must learn to play fair with one another and those that leave comments. Sometimes the comments are a sign of distress and help that may require some other intervention if we are going to be candid about mental health issues. Sometimes I bite my lip or roll my eyes at caustic comments between offenders, allies, and visitors. I’ve learned to read beyond the noise and try to understand how they feel. At some point, the anger and frustration must become a positive so that others can achieve hope or a bit of light when they need it most. Just because you are angry doesn’t give license to make others mad with you. In fact, I would like for all those affected by the registry to become educators. Tell your story, honestly and with conviction to influence others to become advocates, allies, and campaigners towards a change of this horribly constructive registry. Basically, learn to hone your interpersonal skills and become a bit more inclusive – even if you don’t want to be. The key to fighting the registry is to work together instead of tearing others away because they don’t think like you?
Don’t be ashamed of your past or something you cannot change. Turn that shame into constructive energy and learn to not only advocate for yourself but for others. You don’t have to be a perfect speaker, but you must learn to reign in tempers and going off script. Don’t worry about what the opposition, police or district attorneys say. Use your first amendment right to reach down deep and become a positive message for just one moment. Learn to say thank you once again, like someone on social media, follow them, repost to social media an article to garner attention to a particular cause. If someone wants to troll and express a dissenting position – let them, and don’t reply. Show the higher road and educative level of regaining your life, dignity, and sanity in return.
This particular blog is not intended for any individual. For the most part, registry websites do a wonderful job of getting the message out. It is the anger from within those affected by the registry that can bring more harm than good. But I completely understand and empathize that offenders need a platform to vent or rage. But think critically about who you may abandon at that unfiltered unparliamentary language? Use social media ‘like’ buttons rather than hate-filled rants. Do not give the opposition any platform whatsoever because they are not relevant – they are NOT on the registry. The most credible noise that should come from the registry is from people affected by it. Therefore they should be the voice that delivers how the registry has affected them, family, friends, advocates, and allies. Once we have a battle mission as to all agreeing together then will it be possible to win more allies and voices of rationale and change.