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Sex Offender Laws Shame

[ 3/19/15 – Shame vs guilt]

Shame is an unspoken epidemic, the secret behind many forms of broken behavior. Brené Brown is an American scholar, author, and public speaker, who is currently a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work.

Watch the video


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  1. Eric

    Good video, very smart lady. She describes exactly what is at the root of the sex offender registry and why it is a dismal failure. It is based on shame. Shame says, “You are horrible and worthless and incapable of changing.” and as she said, “Shame is probably at the root of most criminal behavior. It is not the answer.” I know I was continually shamed in my family and grew up without self esteem and always had a problem with long term relationships, and I attribute this shame induced loneliness to be at the root of why I made such a poor choice around my sexuality. Now the registry just confirms all the shame and abuse I heard as a child. Thank you law makers for your totally inept and destructive actions.

  2. Facts should matter

    And the main reason the fight against these unjust laws are going at a snails pace with little headway is because our shame is being used against us.

    • Facts should matter

      Shame and fear of retaliation is preventing us from marching, having sit-ins and ruffling feathers. Too many people on the registry have normalized their label as routine and don’t want to “rock the boat” or “make waves” and just want to keep their head low while “playing their game.”

      A great many are sitting on their butts waiting for things to change while expecting others to do the heavy lifting.

      • You are listed in Florida for LIFE!

        For those who manage to keep a low profile there are also REAL DANGERS in going public. They range from loosing your job to retaliation of vigilantes.

        It is difficult enough to live life with your face and details online without highlighting it.

        Donating is something that everyone can do (almost everyone) and it can be just as helpful if not more so. Changing these unfair laws can only be done through the legal system and it takes MONEY!

        • David Kennerly, The Government-Driven Life

          You can contribute to our cause without assuming a public profile OR donating money. Those who see themselves as simply protecting their anonymity need to spend more time thinking how they can contribute without blowing their cover. I have a friend who has managed to talk himself out of helping this effort by assuring himself that it is too risky when, in fact, it is because he is simply lazy and irresponsible. Consider, for a moment, the risks faced by the resistance movements in Nazi-occupied Europe and compare them to doing something under cover today, by Registrants. Sorry, but we have no excuse for inaction.

        • David Kennerly, The Government-Driven Life

          Also, regarding your statement: “Changing these unfair laws can only be done through the legal system and it takes MONEY!” you are discounting entirely the work that must be done having nothing to do with the courts but which critically informs the courts and changes their thinking.

        • Tim Moore

          “You can contribute to our cause without assuming a public profile OR donating money.”
          True enough, some times it can be just encouraging or congratulating others like our friend James just did. How can we maybe get a plethora of strategies to help out on the cause? Jeez, look at a country at war. You don’t just rely on more soldiers and more fighting, without people operating in the background. You need people gathering intelligence, people spreading information, planners, people bringing food, printing pamphlets. If you do just the soldiers, the country would most likely loose. If the options to contribute in some way are expanded, we are stronger. No?

  3. David Kennerly, The Government-Driven Life

    We now have about 900,000 Registrants in the U.S. today, more than the population of San Francisco. California, alone, has more than 100,000, yet we have yet to stage a demonstration of more than a couple of dozen people.

    • Eric

      David, do you suppose this is at the root of why so many are trying to keep us off social media. They don’t want us to organize and communicate. While on probation I wasn’t allowed to contact any others. This was the same tactic the slave masters used. Slaves were forbidden to learn to write, it was obviously an attempt to keep them from communicating and organizing.

    • Tim Moore

      What can we do to make the social dynamics better? How did the Stonewall Riots happen? Maybe not a good example to follow, but how did they decide to act in concert and forget themselves and individual cages and lash out at the common enemy? How did a bunch of blacks with a history of being lynched show up to face fire hoses and dogs? Organization. Camaraderie. Discipline. Support. We are no different than them. We are not an evil people or lazy or unintelligent people that don’t give a shit about anything. most just made a bad decision and can’t get over the haunting from it. That is what I am hearing often given in frustration, and it just causes me at least to close up and spit like a sea anemone when poked. I think it is a technical problem of building community. How to. Aren’t there students of that discipline in our midst? The ones leading and doing will feel resentful and the ones not doing will feel unappreciated. That is a proto-system that hasn’t coalesced into something powerful. We are kind of at the wondering stage, going into the everyone for themselves, chaos stage. A few are joining together and dancing in the corners, attending hearings, writing letters, trying to get the others to join, others going off into the courtrooms. Eventually people organize and dance together not bumping into each other and the party really begins.

      • David Kennerly, The Government-Driven Life

        Stonewall really is applicable. It was a drag bar, run by the mob (as all gay bars were in New York, at the time) and visited frequently by the police to shake-down the bar and its clientele who would knock a few heads and throw a bunch of gay men into the paddy wagon and charge them with public indecency and disturbing the police, etc. and publish their names in the paper. This time, the drag queens decided that they had had enough and started a riot that went out into the street and lasted for days. That was the beginning of the end of the oppression of gay people in America. It would take three or four decades more but now there is gay marriage in most states and all of Europe and parts of Asia. So I think that it is a pretty good model. Let’s get this disco goin’!

        • CR

          “… now there is gay marriage in most states and all of Europe and parts of Asia.”

          Recognizing that “states” in this context could refer to either the various sovereign states of the United States, or to sovereign countries, I nevertheless couldn’t tell which you meant. So just to be clear, same-sex marriage is now legal in all states and territories of the United States. It became the law of the land on June 26, 2015 when SCOTUS decided Obergefell v Hodges. The territories soon followed suit. Some Indian nations in the US have not yet done so.

        • David Kennerly, The Government-Driven Life

          CR, of course, you are right. Thank you for your precision.

        • Tim Moore

          Send me a note when you guys get something. I wasn’t too good at the scraping, but I did get a database of about 20,000 by manual copying and pasting from a third-party site, spending 1 to 2 hours a night for what was it– a month? That’s doable. I don’t especially like clerical work, but is was great to be doing something purposeful right from my home!

        • Tim Moore

          Or a cart owner in Tunisia getting so frustrated he ignites. What people don’t realize is incremental change is always happening within the oppressed. It is incremental frustration building. It just remains hidden until it finds expression and explodes.

  4. Sunny

    Every civil rights movement was incremental. Steps were taken to eventually get to a defining point, usually a Supreme Court ruling or a shift in public opinion. The registry still exists in every state, but a great deal of progress has been made. The California registry is nearly toothless now that residency restrictions have been eliminated, along with the “Ban the Box” initiative, substantial limits on background checks, and laws that prohibit the use of the registry in nearly every aspect of life, including health insurance, insurance, loans, credit, employment, educations, scholarships, housing, public accommodations, or benefits, privileges, or services provided by any business establishment.

    Successful civil rights movements have all followed a similar formula: establish a grassroots community, influence public opinion, and challenge existing law. As registrants we face unique obstacles, particularly when it comes to creating a community. Negative public opinion and unfavorable laws are nothing new to oppressed communities, but our oppressors specifically seek to divide us and prevent us from forming a community. We are prevented from using social media, living in the same building, from congregating in many public places, and we are deliberately disenfranchised. It is also often the case that registrants on probation or parole are prohibited from having contact with other registrants. And let’s not forget that it’s a crime in California for any registrant to even look at the Megan’s Law website, which, in my opinion, can only be for the purpose of discouraging registrants forming a community.

    I doubt that’s ever been enforced, and it would be very difficult for it to be enforced. The registry is a two-edged sword; we can use it to our advantage. Imagine if oppressed people of the past had at their fingertips a list of every single person who was oppressed in the same way as them and could communicate with those people instantaneously. Imagine if black slaves of the past had access to a database in which they could contact any other person (or every other person) in their position. Imagine if the LGBT rights movement had had a giant mailing list of every single gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender person in the US. We have that list, the government has provided it at the taxpayer’s expense.

    The registry is our community. Think of the power we could have if we took back the registry and used it as a tool for ourselves to network with one another.

    • pgm111

      That is actually brilliant. Please elaborate on how we leverage this tool. Why don’t we write some code to scrape all the names and contact info and have an advocate hold it in safekeeping?

      • David Kennerly, The Government-Driven Life

        It’s been done but once several of us had scraped most of California we had to ask, “What do we do with it now?” I sent out a small select mailing to those near Oakland/SF having had printed three-color postcards for the event (I still have several hundred cards) telling people about the IML court hearing in Oakland but that was it. Before we re-scrape, we need to know what we’re going to do with it and how. I like the card idea especially provided it only has the address on it and not the name of the Registrant. With that, the problem of outing someone goes away as anyone could have been the intended recipient, indeed the name was simply “resident” like any junk mail. A card is so much easier and cheaper to deal with than both a page to be folded and inserted and an envelope to be stuffed, sealed and stamped and it gets READ, unlike 90% of unsolicited mail sealed away in an envelope. Regardless, we have to decide what it is we intend to do with our database which, after all, becomes outdated very quickly. I’ve got artwork for badges/buttons to be worn that could also be used for mailings which I posted a link to several weeks ago (but which no one commented upon) that we could use. Here it is again: But we need to think about what we’re going to mail and to what purpose. I have no problems scraping or retaining the data. It’s a bullshit law that cries out to be broken.

        • RMJ

          Thanks for fighting! Just think if everyone did what you do.

          About 15 years ago, I electronically pulled just over 500 names and addresses from Georgia’s registry and printed mailing labels for them. I mailed a letter to all of them, with the key agenda to get them to join an online group. I was hoping that by picking them at random that I could get a good distribution across the state (there were about 18,000 total registered then) and that many of them would still be in the government forced therapy. I was hoping that they would interact and discuss with each other and it would spread the word a lot better.

          Around the same time, I wrote a program that I ran about once per week and it would record every single change that had happened from the previous week and report all of it and statistics. I used it to measure how many people were added to the registry, removed, changed address, etc. I tracked interesting things like who was listed who had changed his/her address the most total number of times. I used it when Georgia passed their residency restrictions laws and observed the huge spike in address changes.

          Long story short, I can’t recall but I think I got maybe around 130 people total to join my group. It went on for a while but eventually died off as we went off and joined other, national groups.

          Today, Georgia allows anyone to easily download a file with all of the Registry information. I could use that file and be printing mailing labels from it in probably less than 15 minutes. Or in 30 minutes, pick all the people with any given set of attributes and extract them. Trivial. It would be so easy to do and I would probably do it often if it were not for the costs. If they started listing e-mail addresses though, it would be so, so easy to e-mail every Registered Citizen! That would be sweet but I doubt they would ever list those and if they did, they might make it illegal to use them for anything useful.

          Someday, I’d like to use my programming skills again to help the cause. I’m working on some private stuff for it right now. Once I am done with that and probably only after summer is over (have to have priorities and I am outrageously busy for now!), I would like to find some useful activities.

          About shame – anyone who is listed needs to get over that immediately. If you are listed and you did something wrong, you only owe amends to whomever you wronged. Forget about everyone else, you owe them less than nothing. And just remember that many, many people make moral mistakes so if a person were to judge you, that person could easily be much less moral than you are.

          Personally, I truly believe that most people who support the registries are not decent people. I feel they are much more shameful than Registered Citizens who are doing nothing but living good, normal lives. And you know that so many criminals support the registries. Do those people think they can inflict shame onto other people? I think they do but that is insane, outrageous, and ridiculously immoral.

        • David Kennerly, The Government-Driven Life

          RMJ, Just think if everyone did what YOU do! Sounds like you have the better programming skills for developing scripts for scraping; let’s keep in touch!

          “About shame – anyone who is listed needs to get over that immediately. If you are listed and you did something wrong, you only owe amends to whomever you wronged. ” Yup! And they need to get over being contacted by others in their same boat, too who see the necessity in coalescing into a much larger, organized and powerful group. Thanks for your contributions!

      • Sunny

        My thoughts were more oriented toward using the location / mapping feature of Megan’s Law to form local chapters of a statewide or national organization. Groups of people who could actually meet in person. That’s how many civil rights movements got their start.

        I agree the cost of broad mailings could be cost-prohibitive and raise privacy issues. Lots of groups meet anonymously and still make progress. Many oppressed people of the past had to meet in secret. I’m not sure how cryptic it would need to be, but we could take lessons from other organizations. How does AA communicate with its members and ensure everyone meets at a certain location without other people knowing? Would anonymous Skype meetings / video chat be useful to us?

        Shame is a significant challenge to our cause. What sorts of ways can we take back registration? I’m not suggesting anyone would be proud to be a registrant, but we should take pride in standing up for our humanity, our rights as Americans, and the fact that we’ve rehabilitated and/or overcome significant obstacles in our life. We need something to rally behind and support, not just something to fight against.

        • Tim Moore

          I’m of the same mind. Local people can meet and build upwards. It doesn’t have to even be formal, a BBQ, or outing. MLK had the churches, local gathering places that build community.

        • Tim Moore

          In fact, making a reach out to local communities was the first intended use of the database. We were going to encourage registrants who were unaware of them, to attend ACSOL meetings in their areas.

    • David Kennerly, The Government-Driven Life

      “Imagine if oppressed people of the past had at their fingertips a list of every single person who was oppressed in the same way as them and could communicate with those people instantaneously.” Yes, we have an advantage which they could never have imagined, so why aren’t we using it?

      • CR

        I think Facts should matter hit the nail on the head with this post from earlier in this thread …

        “Shame and fear of retaliation is preventing us from marching, having sit-ins and ruffling feathers. Too many people on the registry have normalized their label as routine and don’t want to “rock the boat” or “make waves” and just want to keep their head low while “playing their game.”

        A great many are sitting on their butts waiting for things to change while expecting others to do the heavy lifting.”


        Besides that, there is the cost of doing the mailings. Over 860,000 registrants. How to pay for that?

        Despite the fact that a postcard is more likely to be read than a sealed letter to “Resident” (or “Registrant” lol), I think it should be avoided because it’s not private. The content, being open to anyone who picks up the card, may reveal or imply a resident’s registrant status to someone who was previously unaware. Imagine the card being dropped by the postman or put in the wrong box at an apartment complex mailbox cluster. I think a sealed envelope with the registrant’s name on it is a better idea.

        It freaks me out a little when I get a letter about registrant matters because I know my name was scraped from the registry in order to get on that mailing list. It doesn’t matter if it’s an invitation to activism or a solicitation of some kind. Maybe it’s just me, but I always feel a bit fearful and paranoid. Was it really a mass mailing to everyone on the registry, or am I being singled out for some reason? Is it a legitimate contact? Am I being targeted for some kind of scam? And so on. I’ve never responded to any such contact, and I doubt I ever will.

    • JAB

      Hi Sunny,

      That was a great post. But in regards to ban the box, employment background checks and housing, the box ban does nothing as you still can be asked the felony question after you have applied and offered a job. They can revoke the offer once you disclose your case. Forget housing, these background companies are getting around Meghan’s law and using third party sites to deny housing. Better yet, you move in, a neighbor see’s you online and boom, your out. Doesn’t matter that your 7 year FCRA protected rights are violated, they found you on Meghan’s law. And employee background companies, especially choicepoint and hire right, all check sex offenders lists, which will stop you from getting a job or being fired. I don’t understand how they get away with it, but they do.

  5. TR

    All of this fear factoring of “sex offenders” is just ridiculous and crazy all because of these public notifications. People have gotten way over their heads in wanting to seek out “sex offenders” all because of their cliché of having the right to know to keep everyone safe which is just bogus. These public notifications will not keep anyone safe and will endangers lives and should get rid of these public notifications or get it out of the tyranny hands of the public.

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