by Robert Shilling
Retired – Former Head of Crimes against Children at INTERPOL
Just like you, helping victims has been a passion for me. We do our job to prevent victimization, but we also do our job to “solve problems.” Too often we see solutions that are nothing more than “whack-a-mole” in their design and outcomes, chasing the problem from one area to another. This does not solve the problem. It exacerbates it. But in too many states, we are repeating this kind of negative cycle with the abusive and costly policy of putting children on sex offender registries.
I understand this issue both personally and professionally. As many of you know, I recently concluded 36.5 years as a Seattle Police Officer and 3 years as Head of Crimes against Children for INTERPOL in Lyon, France. I spent 21 of my 36.5 years in the Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Unit and 18 of those years as the Lead Detective in the Sex and Kidnapping Offender Detail. It was a very rewarding law enforcement career in which we helped many, many victims.
But my knowledge of sexual harm goes even deeper. I myself was a victim of sexual abuse as a child. It was so horrible I sat on the end of my bed at age 16 contemplating suicide because my life seemed not to matter anymore. There is not a single day that goes by where I don’t remember that moment. It is the reason why I worked so hard on behalf of victims as a police officer. In working those victims, and helping turn them into survivors, I found that “prevention” was the key to success.