When talking about Registered Citizens, their families and friends, it is easy for us and for others to think we are all in the same boat. All of us are in this boat as a consequence of a bad decision on our part or the part of a loved one. Unfortunately, until Nebraskans Unafraid was formed, we were not in the same boat at all. We were all drifting and alone. Now there is a safe place to gather, to share experiences, and finally build a community that we want to belong to. But, better than that, the Nebraskans Unafraid community voice is being heard by Senator Steve Lathrop, and other members of the Nebraska Legislature’s Judiciary Committee, Senator John S. McCollister, Dr. Ryan Spohn, Director of the Nebraska Center for Justice Research, Ryan Post, Assistant Attorney General, Spike Eickholt, lobbyist for the ACLU, mental health therapists, educators, students, NARSOL and other agencies. Now we’re in a boat equipped with a lifeboat.
I hadn’t heard of Nebraskans Unafraid until June of this year. My husband had met a representative from Nebraskans Unafraid at a Vocational Life Skills meeting. After learning that our son is on the Registry, she extended an invitation to a Fearless meeting. The meetings are, as you’d expect, set up in a sequential circle, where participants can talk about their month, share experiences that the group can relate to, sometimes receive recommendations on how to cope or move forward, but always, always, the audience is non-judgmental. And so, it is with that first meeting that I felt our drifting boat being reeled in.
On Friday, September 27, Nebraskans Unafraid gathered before the Judiciary Committee of the Nebraska Legislature. Some came to share their stories, others for moral support. The stories exposed the fallacies and ill-effects of the Registry. Some experiences were so alike, that the messages became repetitive at times, however, underlining the fact that these experiences are not at all isolated. Others provided ideas, from making modifications to outright abolishment of the Registry. All of the people who attended that meeting, whether to testify or for moral support, were courageous in doing so. I know that we will go back to our Fearless meetings, and some of us may feel like it might have been an exercise in futility. My point-of-view is different. What I see is that I am finally a part of something – a community – and I am no longer as fearful as I was. There are still others drifting out there. We need to reach for them and reel them in. Our boat is no longer drifting – and it’s equipped with a lifeboat of people who can help us get things done. We really are all in the same boat.