I read the article posted in The Voice, March 23, 2015, titled “Editorial: Sex Offenders Mingling With Minors” and I would like to comment on this subject.
It has taken me a few days to digest the material presented and several feelings come to mind to describe how I felt about the article. Shocked, disturbed, and frustrated are just a few. But, I also felt, isolated, lonely, targeted, and hopeless. Why? Because, I am a registered sex offender attending Tri-C.
Labels don’t work, and they never will. A label places a person under an umbrella and once labeled by society, it’s hard to move past. There are bad people out there who prey on children and the vulnerable, but not everyone is bad. Not all “sex offenders” are out to hurt people. There are plenty of people who have committed a sex offense who are working very hard on changing their lives for the positive. I served our country for 4 years in the Navy and was in a very dark and dismal place 11 years ago. I made a horrible mistake and paid my debt to society. The judge didn’t give me a life sentence, but being on the registry feels like a life sentence. While incarcerated, I volunteered to go through a treatment program because I wanted to better my life. I know several people in my situation who are doing very well and working hard to be productive members of society. Upon release I have had a very difficult time trying to find a job. I applied at Wal-Mart, but was denied the job because of my past. I applied at Chipotle and was shocked to learn that I can’t be trusted to make a burrito. The article was very tough for me to read because I felt bad that there was a victim. After reading the article, I also felt like I had done something wrong.
I have been attending Tri-C now for the last two years and love every minute of it. I am working very hard to earn my degree and it’s rewarding to see my hard work pay off. Unfortunately, most won’t see or care about how hard I’ve been working, but they will fixate on my label as a sex offender. The headline of the article places all “sex offenders” under that umbrella I was talking about. The article didn’t mention the perpetrators by name, but it was easier to say “sex offenders”.
When I go to class, I follow the student code of conduct and go to Tri-C to learn… I don’t talk to anyone, because I am not ignorant to the fact of how my fellow students feel about sex offenders. Ask Mr. Brian Grays. “It’s okay to have standards,” he says.
I work two jobs to support myself, I go to school, and I also fly airplanes. I learned to fly when I was 15 years old and earned my pilot’s license at the age of 17. I am a son, brother, boyfriend, student, musician, pilot, veteran, and sports enthusiast. That’s what defines me. Not some label society has placed on me because they think it will keep everyone safe. This is a tough battle for me, but I made the mistake and now I have to deal with it. If we want to keep everyone safe and make strides towards a more positive future, we can try to work together and find a solution. By placing a label on someone, it prevents growth and change. These days, society has found a label for everything. If one would promote a more positive atmosphere, change will happen. Continue to place labels on people, the status quo will be maintained.
Let me paint a picture, the day that 39-year-old registered sex offender decided to enroll at Tri-C, I didn’t do anything wrong. If he disobeyed his parole stipulations, he did something wrong, not me… If he took the class to be able to sit next to a young girl, he did something wrong, not me… If he assaulted someone, he did something wrong, not me… That’s why labels don’t work.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Angela Wolfe, Metro Editor-in-Chief
We have chosen to keep the identity of the person who submitted this letter anonymous for safety purposes. It was written in response to the Voice Editorial: Sex Offenders Mingling With Minors, published in the March 23rd edition. Please note, the student who wrote this letter was found guilty of sodomizing a 5-month-old girl.