Letter: You were dead wrong about sex offender recidivism rates

Sex offenders have one of the lowest recidivism rates

By Shana Rowan

I am the founder of ESCAPE, a group that aims to prevent sex crime through awareness, prevention and education and advocates for sex crime legislation reform. I just finished reading your articles, "Is Plymouth area a sex offender haven?" and "What attracts attracts 271 sex offenders to this area" with great interest.

Personal note to you Mr. Brooks:

Your article struck a nerve with me for more than one reason.
   I grew up going to the lower Cape for as long as I can remember, and it is one of my favorite places in the world.
   I also happen to share my life and home with someone who is a registered sex offender for a "crime" he committed as a child, after suffering severe abuse himself.His crime was not forcible or violent.
   We went to Cape Cod together for the first time this past summer, with my entire family, and it was an absolutely wonderful experience not just for our family, but for him in particular.
   His childhood and adolescence was so abusive and neglectful... he had never even been on a vacation, been to the beach, or ridden a wave.
   I have never seen him more happy than the week we spent in Eastham. When I read your article, and especially the assertion that sex offenders don't change, I almost cried. I read things like this every day and usually it doesn't get to me, but having had such a wonderful experience in that particular area with my boyfriend, and hearing such a hateful reaction to people with the sex offender label, it was very hurtful.
   I hope I've made some sort of impact on your opinion on sex offenders. It's not an easy subject nor is it easy to discuss.
As I read the first paragraphs of each article, I thought you were actually going to offer an insightful piece as to why people convicted of sex crimes might live in an area as pleasant as Cape Cod.

You began by pointing out that people attempting to recover from drug and alcohol abuse frequently situate themselves in relaxing, cathartic locations such as Cape Cod as they begin to rebuild their lives, and that they are "willing to admit they have a problem, and then be prepared to do whatever it takes to stop." Then you went on to state that "sex offenders, on the other hand, seldom if ever stop their predatory and heinous actions".

Mr. Brooks, you could not be more wrong. Sex offenders have one of the lowest recidivism rates (3.5-8.5%) out of all other felonies, including violent ones.

In fact, the drug and alcohol abusers you seem to welcome into your community are far more likely to commit another drug- or alcohol-related crime than a sex offender is to commit another sex crime. Of the children and adults who are sexually assaulted, the overwhelming majority of them (about 80% for adults and 93-97% for children) know their attacker - and they have never been convicted of a sex crime, nor are they on any registry. Low recidivism and familiarity between victim and abuser are both widely documented by the federal and state governments, as well as numerous independent researchers.

Publishing such a biased statement and misleading people into thinking it's true is not helping to keep our communities safer. Perhaps you are unaware that not all "sex offenders" are child molesters or rapists. Many other crimes having nothing to do with sexual violence or children - including flashing, streaking, peeping, teenagers in consensual relationships and more - can label someone as a sex offender. In fact, a quarter of all registered sex offenders ARE children under 18. Most former offenders have families and children, and statements like the one you made hurt them, too. They suffer the same public shaming and ostracizing as the offenders themselves.

The only way we will prevent sex crime is by educating ourselves and our children and being aware of the facts. Please visit my website's "Recidivism" section where you will find many recidivism studies conducted by various groups as well as sources for all statistics cited in this article. There are many other studies full of information and statistics that would probably be of interest to you as well as your readers.

Hopefully, I've shed a bit more light on a very serious and widely misunderstood subject.

Sincerely,

Shana Rowan
Founder, ESCAPE
92 Seneca Ave
Oneida, NY 13421

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