In the past month we’ve read articles about shame, Florida Shaming/Could Your Real Estate Agent be a Sex Offender, Nigeria: NAPTIP Launches SO Registry to Name & Shame Rapists, Arkansas: the shaming of registrants by barring them from participating in Halloween activities.
Shame: A painful feeling that’s a mix of regret, self-hate and dishonor, according to the dictionary.
Shame, it’s a powerful tool used against registrants to make certain that they feel continued guilt and humiliation for their past offenses. Shame, can be an ongoing cruel punishment which often seems to have no end, a twisted thinking that equates shaming registrants with keeping children safe.
What does that same shaming do to the families and children of registrants?
With a new school year starting, Halloween right around the corner and many parents returning to the job force after summer break, the shaming of those often seen as “the registry’s collateral damage”, children, spouses and other family members of registrants, will resume.
Parents who fight for increased buffer zones and increased notification of sex offenders in their neighborhoods, “for the safety of the children”, forget that registrants have children too.
Children of registrants are shamed and bullied by their peers because of the public registry, they are unnecessarily put in unsafe situations in schools and on playgrounds every day. The taunting, embarrassment and shaming they deal with are behaviors that their peers may have learned from either their parents, other adults or social media.
Then Halloween comes around and the shaming seems to gets worse every year.
No outside fall decorations, no lights on, signs that no candy can be given out at this residence, registrants rounded up like cattle and forced to remain in a “secure location” during prime trick/treating hours. What better way to shame and humiliate registrants and their families on Halloween. Studies have shown that children are in no more danger on Halloween than any other day of the year when it comes to registrants, but still, we pass laws designed to humiliate and shame registrants into submission. We shame their families into submission too. Children of registrants can’t trick or treat with their parent, their friends can’t trick or treat at their house, no family Halloween parties. Halloween decorations and in some places anything that looks like a fall decoration, are forbidden the entire week leading up to Halloween. The registrant and their entire family are publicly shamed in front of their neighborhood and their community, their lack of inclusion labels them.
Many spouses of registrants are going back to work, looking for that new job once the kids are back in school. Background checks make it easy for employers to find that you have a spouse on the registry. Spouses may experience shame in applying for jobs, fear that “someone will find out” they are married to a registrant. And for those that have jobs, there is always the fear of losing the job because “someone did find out.”
Shaming is heartless, an action that harms not only registrants but their families as well. Those who advocate for the “safety of all children” need to be educated and reminded that registrants also have children and that when a registrant is shamed, their children and their families are shamed as well.
That we shame fellow human beings at all, that’s where the real shame lies.