One of my boyfriends once said something like, “If you’re going to shoot a man, you at least ought to have the decency to look him in the eye when you do it.” This essay is presented in that spirit; anyone who supports inflicting harm on someone should at least have the guts to look upon the effects of his handiwork.
I am a registered sex offender. I’ve been so for over 10 years, the result of a conviction for possession of child pornography; I served a prison term and have been out for a number of years now. I’ve been friends with Maggie for nearly 2 years now and she has been very supportive; I wish there were more people like her in this world but, alas, such a Utopia is impossible. I’d like to thank her for giving me a chance to talk about my life; I’m not here to defend my actions or say that my punishment was undeserved. I accept responsibility for what I did and will live with the consequences for the rest of my life, as the state will never let me forget. I’m just here to tell in plain words what my life has been like since it ended.
Originally I had a short prison sentence followed by a lengthy probationary period, but when I was out about a month when I got busted for solicitation for prostitution. I was feeling despondent and wanted some companionship (from a GROWN WOMAN mind you), but the state needed to prove it was tough by getting lonely men off the street. So I went back to prison, but when I was released the second time I only had the “regular” RSO restrictions. Upon release, I went first to a halfway house where I stayed in a garage room with 3 other guys; that sounds bad, but there was a worse one across the street with 15 guys living in one tiny house. Even so, I couldn’t stand it for long, so I packed up my crap and moved back in with my mother and her alcoholic husband, who has abused us both for the last 15 years (mostly emotionally but sometimes physically).
Eventually I met a wonderful girl whom I fell in love with; I’ll call her “Annie”. I disclosed my toxic past to her and she managed to look past it to give me a fair chance. But her landlord was not so understanding; though it was perfectly legal for me to live there, within a week she got a notice saying they would start eviction proceedings if I didn’t move out (despite the fact that they rented to gang members and drug dealers). So once again, I was forced to move back home. When Annie’s lease was up she moved into my mother’s house to be with me, but that didn’t last long because my stepfather is a poison pill. So we moved again, this time into a friend’s apartment where she and I shared a tiny bedroom with our two dogs. Thankfully, we soon found a condo that was owned by a private individual rather than a corporation, and she didn’t mind renting to me. That was probably the best 2 years of my life since getting out, but even that had to end as I cannot hold onto anything concrete.
For one thing, I’ve not held a steady job for over 10 years. At first I did some temp work, but that dried up after they ran a background check on me for a specific job; after that I couldn’t find work anywhere. I tried to go to work doing landscaping, but I’ve had knee problems for almost my entire life and the pain at the end of the day was so great I couldn’t even walk. My mother couldn’t help, and my father won’t even return my calls or emails. So I was being supported by my girlfriend, who in turn was being supported by her parents; unfortunately, her father became chronically ill so she returned to her home state to take care of him, and I had to move back in with my mother. I’m still good friends with her but I miss her, our condo and our pets dreadfully.
That was nearly three years ago, and since then I’ve become increasingly isolated from society for obvious reasons. For example, once Annie and I made friends with another couple; we had them over for dinner and a small Christmas party, and all seemed to be going well until the wife decided to see if she knew any sex offenders. Instead of talking with me about this, they and everyone they knew decided to blackball me. I’ve not made new friends since, save for Maggie and a few other open minded folks that nevertheless live thousands of miles away. My relationship with my mother is tenuous at best and she, well, she’s still married to a drunk.
One time a 4 year old autistic boy went missing in our neighborhood, and the sheriff’s office went all in on the search. When I heard a reporter ask them on TV, “Is it possible the child was abducted?” I knew shit was coming my way; sure enough, a few hours later there’s a knock at the door. Two deputies wanted to search the place without a warrant; I knew damn well that if I held out for one I could expect all sorts of fun visits in the future, so I let them in. It turned out that the boy had drowned in a retention pool, but of course they didn’t think of something like that until after they harassed me. I have nightmares about my incarceration, about my childhood home turning into a prison. I’ve tried to commit suicide, but I’m bad at anatomy; all I have as a result of that are scars around the major veins. And deep down I know it would crush my mother if I died that way, even after everything that’s happened. I do secretly wish for my stepfather to die, as he too is unemployed and is much more of a financial and emotional drain on my mother than I am.
I have a daughter whom I’ve never met, from a failed relationship that ended before my initial arrest, and though I’d like a family of my own I know it’s quite impossible. Aside from the economic realities, children of RSOs are often teased mercilessly by their peers and, as a result, develop depression and anxiety. The state does nothing to protect the children of RSOs, and in some cases puts them in harm’s way; how could I willingly inflict that kind of life on a child? People imagine that all RSOs are a danger to kids, but I’ve never abused any kid nor do I have any sort of predilection to do so. I find child abuse abhorrent; while some may think that statement is at odds with my conviction, it happens to be the truth. I’ve met several RSOs whose “victims” are now their wives and they have kids together; why should the state keep tabs on them and want to harass their wives and children? I know there are some pretty bad guys out there and I don’t think there are any easy answers as to what to do with them, but I do know that bloating the registry with people who aren’t dangerous to anyone is probably a bad idea. So there you have it; that’s my story, at least so far. I don’t know it will end, or how much time I have left on this earth. And I don’t know if I’ll ever get out of this torture alive, or if I’ll be gunned down by some psycho who thinks he’s serving some greater good.