Registries do not even come close to truly ending sexual violence
In the May 31 Omaha World-Herald Public Pulse, Michael Carnes responds to the May 26 World-Herald editorial about the death of Mattieo Condoluci. In his letter titled Sex offenders do enormous harm, Carnes, of Wayne, Nebraska, says that he was sexually assaulted as a child and that he understands why someone would want to kill sex offenders.
Carnes does not represent all victims. Some sexual assault survivors, among them criminal justice scholars Alissa Ackerman and Alexa Sardina (see their Beyond Fear podcast), campaign for treatment, not ever harsher punishment of offenders. Real solutions must address and reduce sexual violence. Registries don’t do this — registries only make things worse.
While some choose vengeance, others work hard to end sexual violence. Registries do not even come close to providing a solution.
How many people on the registry read the Carnes letter and found themselves itching to respond? Itching to point out Condoluci’s years of law-abiding behavior, itching to point out their own decades with no further offense of any kind, itching to talk about how rarely someone on the registry reoffends?
How many were eager to point out that the next arrest for a sex crime in their community will most likely be of someone not on the registry?
How many family members of a registrant mentally composed heated responses about the people they love who are at risk of vigilante violence because their address is on the registry? About how they don’t want their children to open the door to a vigilante who is eager to kill someone in that home?
How many wanted to say what should be obvious? If we are interested in reducing sexual violence, we must focus on solutions. Even with nearly 6,000 Nebraska registrants, the incidence of sex crimes has not diminished. The registry simply does not and will not solve that problem.
How many people on the registry wanted to respond to say that they have their own childhood traumas to remember and deal with?
Will any of those responses ever be submitted to be published? Probably not. It would take an exceptionally brave or foolish person to put their name on a letter defending registrants in today’s environment, where people feel free to talk about how registrants should be killed.
In the meantime, the Omaha World-Herald can publish all the letters it receives from people who wish harm on registrants. It can publish editorials that pretend to be against vigilante justice but hint broadly, like Carnes flatly said, that they “certainly understand why [Condoluci’s killer] felt the need to commit this act of violence.” (Read Nebraskans Unfraid’s commentary on the editorial).
The World-Herald is content to leave readers with the impression that wishing and hoping for vigilante violence is acceptable.
Until leaders in the community stand up in firm opposition to vigilante violence, families of registrants are left voiceless and often defenseless against physical attacks.