The idea that sex offenders are irredeemable is a myth. Reason (magazine) reports that a repeat offense within a period of five years occurs only 7% of the time.
About 100 U.S. teachers, mostly women, are charged with sex crimes each year, although many others go unreported. Affairs between teachers and students are becoming more common in both the U.S. and Europe, probably because the rise of social media has made communication easier and more private. In most of Europe, the age of consent is 14, while in American states it’s 16, 17 or 18. But regardless of students’ ages, teachers may be considered predators simply because their authority implies a potential for duress. No coercion may have been used and the student may even have bragged about the experience to his friends. Yet punishments for sex offenders are draconian, commonly far out of proportion to the crime.
Recently, a 23-year-old Minnesota teacher had an affair with a 15-year-old boy and now faces seven charges, including sexual assault of a child and “brutality,” although the boy had a second encounter with her and even denied the affair in order to protect her. Fired from her job, the woman is now subject to a sentence of 40 years in prison and a $100,000 fine if convicted of all charges. She could also be branded a sex offender for many years, if not for life. Her teaching career is certainly ruined.
An article in Reason magazine says that “when people hear the term ‘sex offender’ they just panic.” The result is that laws governing such affairs are commonly chaotic, cruel and even unconstitutional. Some states impose severe penalties for non-threatening behavior, such as flashing, to be kept on a sex registry for life. Some registrants are as young as nine.
The federal government requires all 50 states keep registries on sex offenders, which currently list nearly a million people. Originally available only to law enforcement agencies, these registries are now accessible to everyone. There is no forgiveness, no second chance, regardless of how successfully the offender may have turned his life around. At one time sex offenses would appear in newspapers and then be forgotten. Today, they are preserved on the internet forever, like flies in amber, long after punishment has been served.
The idea that sex offenders are irredeemable is a myth. Reason reports that a repeat offense within a period of five years occurs only 7% of the time. “People who commit sex offenses have the lowest recidivism rate of almost any crime besides murder.” Only 5% of those on the registry had committed previous offenses. Yet in their neighborhoods they may forever be treated like lepers.