FAQ

About Disclosing and Reporting

I’ve been sexually abused as a child but I’m grown now.  Should I simply forget about it and move on?

Certainly not.  There are several reasons you should disclose.  Firstly, your disclosure may help another potential child victim.  The majority of abusers repeat their abusive pattern over and over again.  Your disclosure may prevent further abuse or even save a child’s life.  Secondly, regardless of whether or not you have recognizable behavioral issues, disclosure and counseling is never a bad thing.  Professionals will be able to educate teach you about the trauma that results from child abuse and help you modify inaccurate or unhelpful thoughts about the abuse.

I suspect a member of my family may be sexually abusing his child.  How do I report it knowing that they may go to prison?

The fact is, the abuser, whether it be a family member or man on the street, has a serious problem and needs help.  Reporting the offender may prevent additional abuse of other children.  Secondly, not all abusers go to prison.  They may receive treatment and learn to control the tendencies they have to abuse children.  And finally, it should be pretty obvious that reporting a sexual abuser is simply the right thing to do – no matter who it is.

But won’t they be put on a sexual offender database and have to register as a pedophile?

Most likely but again, this person has a very dangerous problem.  Being put in a sexual offender database will be the least of their concerns.  If they are allowed to continue unabated, they will continue their abuse which produce far reaching and long standing behavioral problems with the children that they abuse.  In time, they may actually cause the death of a child.

Can’t you tell me in one sentence what I should tell my kids about sexual abuse?

If they have not been sexually abused, tell them that sexual abuse often happens because abusers have sexual feelings for children which most grown people don’t have, that they deliberately choose to sexually abuse a child even though they know that it’s wrong, and that sexual offenders may use tricks or fear to get what they want from children.  If the child has already been abused but has not told anyone, tell them quite frankly, that they must disclose.  If they have already been sexually abused and have disclosed, tell them over and over again that it’s not their fault.

What if I know a sex offender is in the sex offender registry (the online sex offender database) but is not living at the address recorded in the sex offender registry?

A sex offender must provide their current address to the sex offender database within 10 days of moving to their new address.  If you know the person has been there longer than 10 days and their address is not recorded correctly, you should notify your local law enforcement agency immediately.  Your notification may ensure the safety of children living in the area (depending on the level of the offender, authorities may notify families with young children when they move into the area).  In addition, an offender who fails to notify commits a felony and can be returned to prison.

Legal Stuff

Laws may differ slightly depending upon the state the offender resides in.  For instance, one state may require a sex offender not live within 500 feet of a school while another state may require that they not live with 1,000 feet of a school.  Check the FAQ for the state you live in for state specific legal details.  Most states laws are pretty close to the ones mentioned below.

Who must register as a sex offender?

Anyone who was on parole or probation or incarcerated for a sex offense.  In some states, Level 1 offenders (low risk) must register for 20 years while level 2 offenders (moderate risk) or level 3 offenders (high risk) must register for life.  In other states, offenders can petition to have their names removed from the list (Tennessee is an example of a state with laxer sex offender laws).

What are the obligations of sex offenders?

Sex offenders must report annually where they live and notify authorities no later than 10 days after moving to a new residence.  They must report in person to the local police agency to have a current photograph taken.  They must also provide authorities with the name of their current internet service provider, their internet screen names, and their internet email accounts.

Sex offenders are restricted from places where kids may be.  Can a sex offender drop a kid off at a daycare facility?

Strangely enough, at least in some states they can as long as they do not loiter and get in and out of the area quickly.  States laws (or the parole rules that the laws require be put into place) say that sex offenders cannot *loiter* on or within 500-1000 feet of a school, child care facility, playground, park, athletic field, or any business having a principal purpose of caring for children.  Their parole conditions may impose stiffer restrictions too.  Again though, they cannot loiter or live near these places.  Driving through quickly, although the perfect opportunity to scout for victims, is ok according to the law.  In addition, these restrictions may expire when the person is released from parole or state supervision meaning once their parole ends, they are free to live and be around small children again.

What if a new daycare facility or school opens up near a sex offender’s home.  Do they have to move?

Yes.  If there’s an offender in your area, opening up a daycare would force that offender to move, typically within 90 days of the opening of the daycare.  Again though, you cannot open up a daycare just to harass the offender and make him move.

What if I find out a sex offender lives in my neighborhood?  What can I do about it?

Not much.  It is unlawful to harass, threaten, or otherwise intimidate an offender regardless of how heinous their crimes were.  Harassing anyone on the offender registry is a misdemeanor and can be punished by both a fine and jail time.  Besides, harassing could be counterproductive and cause the offender to “act out” or strike back at someone (a child) in anger.  It is fine though to let your neighbors know that a sex offender has moved into the area.

How can I find out the details of the illegal acts of a sex offender?

The sex offender database and most local police websites contain very sparse information about the crimes committed by a sex offender.  You can contact the local records office though.  Court records allow public access and will contain information about the proceedings including the details of the crime.

Can sex offenders marry a woman who has kids?

It depends.  In some states it is ok to marry and live with kids if the sexual offense was with an older child (typically older than 13 years old).

Misc stuff

Can sex offenders be cured?

It is widely believed that they cannot be cured.  They can only be controlled.

Reviewed: 1/15/11
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