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Sex Offender, Registrant or Registered Citizen: Does Society Care About The Label?

[ – 6/28/18]

First I struggled with the label “sex offender”. The words sit in the mouth like a heavy after-taste.

Then “registrant” became the catch-all phrase. It sounded less ominous, not quite as frightening but few outside our circle even knew what it referred to.

Now I’m informed that the latest, I guess one could call it “politically correct” term being bandied about is “registered citizen”.

I struggled with this term.

I don’t know who the originator of the term is, someone said it’s been around for a quite a while. Recently I heard that it was mentioned at the ACSOL conference with respect to “reframing our message and changing our narrative.” A stab at changing the public’s perception through verbiage I suppose.

Is it a better label than plain old “registrant”? It’s still a label, no matter how you look at it.

My struggle with the phrase “registered citizen” is two-fold.

First, do registrants care if they are labeled “registrant or registered citizen”? Those registrants that I’ve spoken to don’t want any labels at all and they’re not interested in wasting time trying to make their offense sound more “palatable” to the public. They want to see changes in laws that are unconstitutional, not spend time and energy trying to put the preverbial “lipstick on a pig” in the hopes that society will then view them through rose-colored glasses.

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Perception is key, but it also has somewhat to do with legality.

For instance, most individuals who have been convicted and are now back in the community are referred to as “former offenders” or “former convicts.” They may be known as “felons” in some legal circles but by and large the word “former” is prominent in their vernacular.

“Registered Sex Offender” has always been a legal term with no embellishment. Whether by design or through evolution, the tragic result is that MOST people see no difference between active, unpunished sex offenders with registered, non-active sex offenders. This is where the problem lies, and in fact this is why the inevitable, subsequent punitive restriction laws come into play.

Therefore, there is unambiguous proof that the term “registered sex offender” has resulted not just in misperception by the public, but actual additional punishment with penalties that often exceed the punishment received for the original offense.

So if the underlying verbiage is changed, does this change the subsequent perception, and more importantly, prevent the punitive laws from being passed in the first place, or repealed once passed? I would submit it does.

Society could make an exact definition and use the term “registered former sex offender,” which would be the most exact term to use from a societal, legal sense, in line with other non-sex-related former offenders. Now, we come to the next step: Does “registered citizen” help defuse the situation? At this point, I would have to say “no,” at least in public. One may use the term, of course, in discussing with others people in context of a debate about registration in the first place, but to use it cold would confuse citizens. (And of course, we use that term internally, such as in comments on this board or in meetings.)

That’s my 11 cents.

This is the comment that I posted at the source article:

I think some label/phrase is quite important. It is about branding and perception. And for practicality we must be able to refer to the group of listed people in some convenient way. “$EX offender” is obviously unacceptable to Americans.

I have been in this war for over a couple of decades. I have written and done a LOT, mostly anonymously, but plenty of it not (including legal proceedings). I knew very early on, probably at least by 1992, that the phrase “$EX offender” was a weapon of war and that I was not going to allow people to use it to refer to me. At least not without accepting it as permission to tell them to go F themselves and call them literally any name that I felt like.

I thought of numerous labels over the years. In the beginning I was using “RFSO” for “Registered Former Sex Offender”. I used that a lot and for a long time. I wrote computer programs that have that encoded all over the place. But I grew to dislike it.

I tried “PRHRP” for quite a long time. That stood for “Person Registered for Harassment, Restrictions, and Punishments”. I thought that was very accurate and liked that it was a palindrome. I still like it quite a lot and might still use it.

Personally, I think that I independently came up with “Registered Citizen”. Other people may have as well but I am nearly certain that I was using it independently before I saw it anywhere else. For whatever that is worth. I still like it but I find it to be too nice, proper, practical, and clinical.

I haven’t thought a whole lot about it lately. But I wouldn’t mind thinking about and adopting something else. Frankly, the $ORs are nothing but a inept, incompetent, criminal Nanny Big Government hit list. So I think some phrase that indicates that the people on it are “hit list” targets would be good. That is one reason why I liked PRHRP. Maybe I’ll think about it more soon’ish.

I don’t have much time to blab right now. However, I would like to add that at least a couple of years ago I dreamed into existence the “Registration Liberation Army” (RLA). The motto could’ve been “Be an army of one” but the criminal regime of the federal U.S. government was already using that in their propaganda. So I was thinking an equivalent might be “Be a lone wolf”. I don’t know. Still mulling in about from time to time. But the idea of the RLA is that it can be an organized resistance group and as unorganized as you prefer. You can be a soldier in it just by saying to yourself that you are. And/or you can tell other people. Or you can join 10, 100, or 100,000 other people and fight together. The only requirement to be a soldier in the RLA is that you must fight.

Perhaps “Registered Citizen” should be replaced by something with the word “soldier” in it?

How about instead of worrying about labels that society puts on you, just say, “these scheming people who created an unconstitutional registry based on lies can all go f* themselves”. Now doesn’t that feel far more liberating than agreeing to what moron politicians have decided to label you as? 🙂

I think the terms “registrant” or “registered citizen” are better than “sex offender” because they avoid defining the person in terms of a criminal behavior, as though sexual offending is an ongoing part of their nature, desire, and activity.

They are somewhat general terms that aren’t always obvious in meaning, and often have to be explained to people. But that affords an educational opportunity, so it’s not really a bad thing.

I don’t like SO because it focuses on a past state. I am no longer offending, so stop calling me an offender. I am, however, still stuck on a registry, and am thus either a RC or a Registrant.

I don’t give two hoots about the optics of it to the public or anyone else. I simply use a term that properly fits my state of being. I’m open to other possibilities, but SO absolutely is not one of them.

Frankly, labels and branding suck and always have sucked, but for as long as man has been around with any sort of intelligence (or lack of at times), you define people by labels for whatever purpose works, whether it is liked or not. It is not like you can start saying you are nothing, e.g. the non-binary way of being genderless, because you are something. IMO, those who are on this forum and others like it, may be Rs, RCs, RSOs, or SOs by the law, but are people in general in my eyes, no more or less. I have learned much from many here and will continue to do so with an open mind. Things happen, but to say you are defined by jackanape in a elected official’s capacity or by some scientific field is ludicrous. Do you hear the psychiatric terms of moron or imbecile still being used professionally? No, just on the playground between children when their helicopter parents are not near by hovering over them.

Do we need labels such as recovering alcoholic or drug user? Why not the person who formerly used a substance (legal or illegal is irrelevant) that was maladaptive, self-destructive or injurious? What are you recovering from if you have been long recovered? Is that not like us here saying a victim can stop being a victim when they chose to instead of carrying it daily and insisting that’s their label to possibly be used as they see fit for their purposes?

By the way, there are more registered citizens than we give credit for because you are a registered citizen when you make your registered political party affiliation known. Maybe we should mingle with them and ask them how they like being a registered citizen too.

I’ve always been a proponent of the term “registrant” as it is less tedious to say/use amd thus doesn’t feel so alienating when trying to implore others to use it.

All through the 90s and into today, many demographics have tried to coerce society to using terms that are less offensive, and while I understand and supper those efforts, the public at large has grown frustrated and lethargic in regards to walking this particular line of politcal correctness.

So to make it easier for people to adapt a new phrase that is less provocative, I always try to use the easier term.

When I ended up in prison for a sex crime, I joined a class called “behavior modification”; it was only for people in prison for a sex crime. During the 1st or 2nd class, I was asked to sit at the front of the class of 10 or 12 participants and tell my story. Somehow the term “sex offender” came up and I stated that I am NOT a “sex offender”; I committed one crime and that the term “sex offender” implies present tense. The counselor was aghast that I said that. To this day, 18+ years later than that class, I still hate the term “sex offender”. I have used both “registrant” and “registered citizen” but I prefer the latter as we still are citizens and need the public to realize that.

I use the term “Former Registrant” for myself, even though I am still forced to register AND (unconstitutionally) receive the ongoing punishment that goes with.

There’s no way to effectively ameliorate the word “sex offender.” It’s a guilt by association label with no nuance or varying degree of severity. LEOs don’t want to make a distinction between those on the list and will always encourage the public to consider ALL sex offenders an imminent threat to public safety.

The world “citizen” becomes a misnomer as we’re no longer considered one, much less treated like one.

This discussion has made me consider society’s and the law’s descriptors. If one is in a domestic relationship and hits the other person, it is referred to as “domestic violence”, broadening the terminology beyond the precise action itself (i.e., physical violence) to incorporate a description of the relationship (i.e., domestic). So if two people are in an affection-based relationship (e.g., a Romeo/Juliet relationship), why isn’t any prohibited sexual activity that occurs referred to equally broadly as an “affection-based offense”? Is it merely that the wordsmithing is intended to focus attention – “domestic” suggesting tranquil and pleasant, juxtaposed with “violence”? Similarly, “sex” and “offense” is used to heighten prurient interests and visceral reactions. Both DV and sexual offenses could be grouped together under the descriptor “relationship offenses”. But I suppose it wouldn’t grab many headlines or much public attention if one were accused of a “relationship offense”. Doesn’t have quite the same hook as “violence” and “sex offense”, does it? Similarly, if a registrant was referred to as a “relationship offender” rather than a sex offender, again that wouldn’t have much bite, would it?
Just imagine this exchange:
Person A: “Oh, you should stay away from him. I heard he’s a Relationship Offender.” Person B: “Really? He seems like a pretty nice guy to me.”

I prefer the term registrant because it acknowledges the fact that the government is requiring citizens to register, a violation of our constitutional rights. It also recalls registration of Jews and other minorities during WWII. To me, “registrant” holds more negative connotations for the government rather than the individual. I do believe we need some method to identify ourselves and recognize our common dilemma, otherwise it will be impossible for us to have any community to push for civil rights.

The term sex offender is meaningless for many reasons. Some have noted the tense it’s used in, but also just about every registry scheme now includes offenses that have no sexual element, such as kidnapping, urinating in public, “annoying” a child, and so on. In any case, it doesn’t reflect the reality of the vast majority of registrants who want to put their past behind them and will never re-offend.

We could take a lesson from other subcultures and organizations. For example, “sober” instead of “alcoholic,” “in recovery” instead of “addict,” “ex-con” instead of “felon,” “survivor” instead of “victim.”

Wording has a significant impact on public perception. When I was helping the fight for marriage equality in Maine, there was a lot of analysis into whether to use “same-sex”, “gay”,”homosexual”, or “equality” marriage. “Marriage equality” and “same-sex marriage” were found to evoke a more positive response than other words. The final wording on the ballot was “Do you want to allow the State of Maine to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples?” In 2012, Maine became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote, with a 10% margin (55% in favor to 45% opposed).

UCLA published a report about how such wording can impact public responses to what is essentially the same exact question:

Jews were also considered registered citizens in nazi germany

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