man putting hand on woman's shoulder

In my previous posts to this site I presented the first and second portions of my three-part interview with a trio sex offenders, one female and two male. In the initial post we talked about their offense and the registration process. In the second post we discussed how their status as a sex offender has affected their relationships with family, friends, and romantic partners. In this post, we 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.

Do you find it difficult to find work? Have you been rejected for jobs because you are a registered offender?

All three respondents state that finding work has been difficult.

DG says, “I have actually been hired into two very good jobs—with full honesty on my part, being up front about my history and my conviction—and I’ve even started work both times, only to have the company’s corporate office, more than a 1000 miles away, reject the hire after receiving the paperwork. Both times the people who hired me appealed the decision, and both times they lost. Finally, I decided to do freelance work. I’m good at what I do and I have clients who know my history and support me, so I’m able to stay busy and make a good living. I’m very grateful for that. I have a few friends from my 12-step sexual recovery group who are also registered offenders. One of them pieces together a living through temp work and menial jobs. The other started his own business because nobody would hire him. So my experience is not unique with this.”

JL reports a similar experience. “Finding work is extremely challenging. I definitely think people discriminate when it comes to hiring a sex offender. Let’s just all be honest: If you owned a company, would you hire a registered sex offender?” She does admit that with her job as a server in Ohio, the managers were aware of her status as a sex offender. “They knew me as a person, and they truly felt that I should have never been on the list.” As for more recent job quests, “I have not come out and told someone I am a sex offender when I go for a job. If I did, I absolutely feel like they wouldn’t hire me because of that title. I feel this information would disqualify me from obtaining a job.”

ST says that after his conviction, he wasn’t able to find work in his chosen field at all, so after several years of struggling with that he looked for different types of work, educating himself and developing skills as needed. He says that rock bottom occurred when he took a contract position with a small retainer and a larger payment promised at the end of the contract, after he’d fulfilled his obligations. “At the end of the contract period, a substantial payment was due and the owner of the company told me he wasn’t going to pay it. His suggestion for me was to sue him. I did just that. But my attorney told me that while the merits of the case were all in my favor, the opposition was going to use my status as a registered sex offender to discredit me. As a result, I lost a lot of money I had rightfully earned, all because I’d be testifying in court as a registered sex offender.” Since that time, ST has landed a salary-based job with a good company. “I’ve been able to grow the position into much more than what it began as, all because I’ve been able to use the new skills I developed.”

Do you go to therapy or some other form of treatment or support, such as 12-step meetings? What is that like for you? What do you get out of it?

Treatment for sexual offending is a part of all three respondent’s stories. To a lesser extent, sex addiction recovery is also present.

DG says, “I have done a ton of therapy, both court mandated and by choice. The court mandated treatment was not great, mostly because the offenders (including me) didn’t want to be there. Later in my recovery process, working on my own with a properly trained therapist, both individually and in group, was helpful—probably because I finally wanted to be there and to make the needed changes. Currently, I’m not in therapy. Instead, I am very active in 12-step sexual recovery, and also in AA. I attend at least five meetings per week, I have a sponsor, and I sponsor several people. Plus, much of my work life centers on helping people with addictions and offending behaviors, so I’m constantly immersed in the healing process. I find this very helpful, as I am continually reminded about the tools I can use to stay healthy and (for the most part) happy.”

JL says she was required to attend sex offender treatment at a state mental health facility for two years. For her, this was not a good experience. “During that time I had to follow all sorts of rules. I had to pass two lie detector tests to prove there were no other victims. I was forced into saying, ‘I raped my victim,’ even though he never once said I raped him and he confirmed it was consensual. To be told over and over that I ruined his life forever really wore me down.” She also says she felt like she was at the mercy of the system. “I felt trapped because I had to successfully complete and graduate from the program to be released from probation.” On a more positive note, she does say, “What I realized after completing the program was I made a huge mistake that has forever changed my life. Still, after completing the program I had to work very hard on repairing myself, building myself back up mentally, emotionally, and physically. But today, I feel stronger than I ever have.” For current support, she relies on her church and friends, including a few people “who have known me my whole life and have never turned their back on me. With them and also at church, they know me for me, not what I’m labeled.”

ST says that as part of his sentence he was required to attend a sex offender treatment class. On his own, he also sought individual and group therapy. About the weekly class he says, “My group met each Saturday morning for approximately three hours. Members came from all walks of life—rapists, child molesters, Internet sex sting participants, and “Romeo & Juliet” offenders. Our therapist was a great guy who had the difficult task of managing an enormous case load. He was very empathetic and a total advocate for those of us who were bullied by our prosecutors and defense attorneys into taking pleas and abandoning entrapment defenses.” As for treatment sought on his own, ST says that his individual sessions “are 100% the reason I am still alive today.” He adds, “Our group sessions were also helpful, in that they helped me empathize with others sharing a similar struggle. Group helped me see that ‘most of us are like the rest of us.’ Learning from the experiences of many of those men, I was able to get to a place of self-acceptance of the situation I created and not beat myself up so bad over the mistake that I made.”

Do you feel as if you are a danger to society at this point in time? Why or why not?

None of the three respondents feels as if he or she is currently a danger to society. (Notably, none of them were convicted of or committed the types of crimes that typically indicate an ongoing danger. See this article for more on sex offender recidivism.)

DG says, “I feel like I have done the work that I need to do, and that I continue to do that work on a regular basis. That said, I know that if I lapse back into active sex addiction, even if I start out with legal behaviors, there is a good chance that my actions would escalate into something illegal again. This is why I’m so diligent with my recovery.”

JL says, “I am not now nor have I ever been a danger to society. But I feel I must justify and prove that to anyone who questions the lifelong label I’ve been given.” She adds, “I have a wonderful life and a loving relationship with an awesome life partner who loves me for me, and doesn’t judge my past. Every day I thank the Lord for the life I’m blessed with. Sometimes I read about how sex offenders with similar situations are now homeless, no family, shunned, or suicidal because of being labeled and broken down by our judicial system. I am grateful that’s not me.”

ST says, “I don’t think I ever was a threat. To say I logged into some adult dating chat room to seek out communication with a minor who would ultimately ask me to send an intimate image of myself to her and travel to meet her so that we could hook up is entirely a false narrative. If I had been on some kiddie website, if there had been inappropriate text/email/phone correspondences in my phone, if I had Google searches for child pornography, then that would be another story, but none of that was ever found. I wholeheartedly believe that if there ever was a candidate for permanent removal from the sex offender registry based on a re-offense risk assessment, it would be me. But that’s not a possibility based on where I live and where my offense occurred.”