The ACLU Worked With My Abuser to Get Him Off the Sex Offender Registry - Dawn's Story
Like most people, I don’t like to think of myself as a victim; I am a survivor.
Unfortunately, there’s no denying that I was recently re-victimized by the criminal justice system here in New Hampshire.
When I was just four years old, the innocence I had as a child was stripped away by terror and fear at the hands of an adult who was supposed to love and protect me.
Although my abuser was convicted for some of the crimes he committed against me, I continued to struggle to escape the memories of what happened during my childhood in New Hampshire. I needed to get away, so I left the state and started a new life, trying to leave the pain behind me.
As an adult, I thought I had finally overcome my past. I realized I was wrong the day that I received a phone call from an investigator who told me that for almost 2 years, my abuser had been working with the ACLU to get him and hundreds of others removed from the state’s public sex offender registry.
The ACLU tried to paint my offender as a poor old man who was being victimized by the State’s sex offender laws. He was being used as the poster boy in an effort to allow hundreds of the most dangerous sexual predators to petition to be removed from the public sex offender list in New Hampshire.
Yes, the man who so viciously abused me was now claiming that he should be able to be removed from the sexual offender registry because it was stopping him from gaining subsidized housing. It was appalling to hear that he was asking the courts to erase his crimes so he could have a free place to live.
Sadly, almost two years had gone by without anyone notifying me of this process, and without ever giving me the opportunity to be heard on the matter.
In the midst of ACLU’s work to allow my offender off of the registry, he was charged with a felony after failing to notify police that he had an active Facebook page that he was using to reach out to more children. At that time, I worked to submit a statement to the court outlining my concerns. I wanted the opportunity to share with the court why his recent behavior was significant, as it showed that he will continue to break the law in order to gain access to children. Sadly, the judge refused to accept my statement and I was denied the right to be heard - again.
I’m not sure how the court can truly determine the level of dangerousness of an offender if they don’t fully understand what the offender has done. After nearly a decade of witnessing the tactics used by this man to gain access to children, I hold critical information that the courts should know prior to setting bail, or ordering supervision or treatment.
I cannot describe the feelings of hurt I experienced when being left out and ignored by the courts. I cannot describe the fear of how the courts would act without being given an accurate picture of the offender and his ongoing patterns of abuse.
In fact, there was never even a mention made of the victim during these cases. No mention of that four-year old girl who was afraid to get up and use the bathroom in the middle of the night because she might be beaten. No mention of his true risk to children.
At that point I knew I had to do more to ensure that New Hampshire’s system of justice was reformed, so I began working with advocates and legislators to make sure that victims had a voice in the system. I began by working to improve the statutes, but the reality is that we could spend our lives working to improve statutory laws, but the system would still be heavily stacked against victims of crime. Until we provide victims with Constitutional rights, the system of justice will remain broken.
During the Senate hearing on this bill, I listened to the testimony of the ACLU and Buzz Scherr, a law professor who serves on their board of directors. Some members of this legislature have told me that they have been surprised that the ACLU has come out opposed to this bill. I will not question their motivation for opposing this bill, but I will point out that this organization has worked for many years to advance the rights of sexual offenders, but not to advance the rights of victims of child sexual abuse.
In my case, they went out of their way to try to help my offender and 850 other child rapists to be removed from the public registry – without even working to build in a legal requirement for victims of these offenders to be notified or given the opportunity to be heard. This same organization has represented the “National Association of Man Boy Love” – a group that shows members how to sexually assault young boys without getting caught. That said, I’m not surprised that the ACLU does not believe that victims deserve the same level of rights as rapists.
I don’t think that victims deserve more rights than those that are accused and convicted of a crime – but we do deserve the same level of rights as those who victimize us. We should not have statutory rights while our offenders have the weight of the state and US Constitution behind them.