In my previous post to this site I presented the first portion of my three-part interview with a trio of sex offenders, one female and two male. In the previous post we talked about their offense and the registration process. In this post we discuss how their status as a sex offender has affected their relationships with family, friends, and romantic partners. In the final post, which will be published in a few weeks, we will discuss work and recovery. Please note: I have chosen to refer to the respondents only by their initials: DG, JL, and ST. This was done to protect them and to encourage completely honest responses.
What is your relationship like with your family? Have you been rejected by anyone because you are a registered offender?
All three respondents report issues to one degree or another with their families.
DG is single with no children, so only his parents and sister have been directly affected. He says, “They’ve all been supportive, but it’s been difficult for them to deal with the shame and stigma. My mom even needed to go to therapy to work through her anxiety and depression, and to understand that what I did was not her fault. My father is a lawyer, so he had a much better understanding of the situation. My sister just avoids the topic altogether.” He adds, “It’s been about 15 years now, and I think I’ve finally re-earned their trust, meaning they’re no longer nervous I’ll do something that will get me arrested again. But maybe that’s wishful thinking on my part. I don’t know.”
JL says she has a great relationship with her mother. “She’s never judged me through this whole situation, and she definitely doesn’t agree with me being on the registry.” JL says that her relationship with her father, however, has been strained. “I feel like he thinks a lot about my kids and how they will be affected by this as they get older. He worries about that above all else, which he rightfully should. I respect his concern, and also his disappointment.”
ST says, “For reasons unrelated to my designation as a sex offender, I don’t have the bonds I would like to have with my immediate family. That has been the case for many years now.” He adds, “Due to his religious beliefs, my biological father has forsaken me. My mother has been supportive, but not to the extent of extending herself out of her comfort zone. My brother has been the most nonjudgmental and available, and although we both have very different worldviews, I’ve appreciated his willingness to talk whenever I’ve reached out to him.” He notes that his ex-wife has been his strongest supporter. “Of everyone affected by the horrible choice I made that resulted in me having to register, she, without a doubt, has the right to hate me the most. Nevertheless, she’s chosen to show me grace. Words cannot begin to describe how much that has meant to me.”
Both JL and ST are parents, and that is complicated by their status as a registered offender.
JL says, “I have full custody of both my children and do everything in my power to protect them from the repercussions of this situation. When the sheriff’s office makes the monthly visit confirming my residency, I tell my girls, ‘The police just check on everyone,’ and they’ve never questioned it.” She does not state how she plans to handle this issue when her girls are older. Another major issue for JL is not being able to go on field trips with her girls or to participate in other activities that other parents can enjoy without restriction. “That makes my heart hurt, for my kids and for me.”
ST says a comprehensive psychosexual evaluation conducted at the state’s request several months after his arrest concluded that he did not have a sexual interest in minors, nor did he show any sexually deviant tendencies. “This summation was convincing enough for the court to grant me unsupervised overnight parental responsibilities with my daughter; a kind, smart, joy-filled little girl now enrolled in a local elementary school. For that, I am immensely grateful.”
Are you able to maintain supportive friendships? Have you been rejected by anyone because you are a registered offender?
DG says, “I have been rejected by a few people because of my status as a sex offender. I have also had my car and my home vandalized because of it. However, I am active in 12-step recovery for both sexual addiction and substance abuse, and the people in those programs are usually pretty accepting. My close friends in both programs know my entire history, and they accept that what I did is part of my past but it doesn’t define who I am today. I also have a couple of non-recovery friends who know my full story and accept me as I am today, not as the offender that I once was. That said, I am still careful about who I tell. For instance, there are a few people that I really do like, but I have not shared my full background with them because I sense it would cause problems.”
JL says that at times she has been rejected by friends and people she went to school with. “For the most part, people have never come up to me directly and shamed me to my face. They do it behind my back.” She then adds, “I really haven’t lost many friends, and for the ones I have lost, I have gained even more. People tell me how strong of a person I am and that they love that about me. I have made some really strong friendships, and I am so grateful for that.”
ST has had a different experience. “In terms of connections and friendships, rejection has been the norm; without question, this is the most difficult part of living as a sex offender. Prior to my arrest, I had a thriving (albeit stressful) career, with hundreds of friends on both personal and business levels. Now, five-plus years removed from my offense, only two of those people have chosen to stay in touch with me.” He says that since his arrest, “I haven’t had a single day where I’ve met up with someone to watch a ballgame, hang out at the beach, or grab a bite to eat or a drink. I’m a total social outcast. No friends. No one I’m close to. Not a soul. It truly is a loner’s existence.” He adds, “Most of the people I meet are either young parents or they’re looking to have a family; either scenario is an automatic disqualifier for me.”
Do you find it difficult to date? Have you been rejected by anyone because you are a registered offender?
Dating and romantic relationships can be hard for registered offenders. DG and ST both admit they have struggled with this, but for different reasons. JL has had an easier time.
DG says, “Dating has been difficult. But I think my issues with this are more tied to my low self-esteem than anything else. I seem to think that nobody would want to date me because I am a sex offender. The fact that I’ve not done anything illegal in 15 years does little to alleviate that shame. But this is my issue to work through, rather than a problem with anyone who might be interested in me. In fact, some perfectly nice people who know my full history have still expressed interest. So I know the issue is with me, not other people.”
JL says she hasn’t had any trouble dating or finding a relationship. “I think that I went through a growing period with myself that made me very confident in who I am. Then I met a great guy. I was a server when I met him. I moved to Florida to be with him, and we live in a beautiful home that he bought for me and my children. Today I am a stay at home mom. It’s still shocking when I first tell someone I’m on the list. But I try to stay confident, to work hard, and to keep my faith in God. I think the best relationships come when you don’t settle for less than what you’re worth. If you find the right person, that person will love you for who you are, not for what you are labeled online.”
ST says that for him, dating is even worse than making friends. He says he can meet a nice woman who finds him attractive, but all of that gets thrown out the window when she finds out he’s a sex offender. “Most of the time the woman finds out on her own (gotta love Google) and completely ghosts on me.” He says he has tried all sorts of approaches, from being up-front within 30 seconds of saying hello to slowly building up to that conversation after he feels he’s made a legitimate connection. Now, he says, “I’ve given up entirely. I don’t believe I’ll ever be in a long-term relationship that could one day lead to marriage. The stigma has effectively made this impossible.”