I am the mother of a `registered sex offender’. I won’t say sex offender because I will not accept that label for my son. Anyone who has ever had their child labeled unfairly will know the pain that comes with this tag. Our family has been living in a nightmare for four years now but my son’s story began much earlier.
He was introduced to pornography at an early age and he got hooked. Just like an alcoholic or a drug user, he became addicted. Being a Christian, an honor student, Boy Scout, and all around great kid, he kept his sin a secret. Eventually he went away to college and began attending a church which stressed sexual purity as an absolute. Because he had always been a bit shy and was a year younger than his classmates due to an early school promotion, he never dated much and had no serious relationships. His sexual inexperience made him very uncomfortable with women his age. He was already into internet porn and it was an easy step into the chat rooms. But his inexperience made him feel even less adequate when he tried to connect to the women there. He tried to stop many times but never felt like he could go public with his problem; after all, he couldn’t go to his church where they respected him and valued purity so highly. Had he had a drug problem or alcohol addiction, there were groups all over the place he could attend. But nothing dealt with porn/internet addictions. Because of his inexperience he felt more comfortable with younger women and eventually he began chatting with girls that were 15 and 16.
He graduated and became a high school teacher. That, we know now, was a very dangerous thing to do. Yet at no time was he ever inappropriate with any of his students. Students and fellow teachers admired him and he was an excellent teacher, inspiring many students to actually take an interest in their education. At home, though, he had a second, fantasy life. After moving back home to help his us out with bills when his father was laid off, life got really out of control. His younger brother had a psychotic episode, was diagnosed bipolar and the house was a battle zone. He continued to have his internet fantasy world to escape to until he met a young lady that he fell fast and hard for. Unfortunately the damage had been done. Six months after his last internet connection, the police arrived to arrest him for solicitation of a minor. They took everything electronic in our home, computers, cameras – anything that they thought might have images of underage girls. They tried to find victims at his school but found only the chat record and a picture he had sent via webcam. The only `victim’ they had was the undercover officer who had chatted with him, pretending to be a 14 year old girl. Not once did he attempt to meet or contact `her’.
He never denied it or attempted to get out of anything. He admitted his actions and we all wept for days. He told his girlfriend and she was amazing – staying with him for another year and a half until he broke off so she would not be held back by a future on the sex offender registry. It took almost two years to go to court, during which he went to counseling to work on the issues that had started the whole thing. He went through testing and analysis and eventually the court offered a 10 year deferred adjudication, with additional 10 years on the registry. He felt that he had no choice in accepting that -they were threatening 25 years in prison if he didn’t accept. He knew what a jury would say to a 24 year old teacher exposing himself to a minor.
Unfortunately he didn’t take his probation as seriously as he should have. Within the first 6 months, he had several violations. He left the county for a date; he took her near a bike trail that was part of a park for some intimacy; he went to a fast food place and he watched one porn movie. Even though he reported the violations to the probation department and his court ordered therapy group, they took no action. Six months later he got a new probation officer who threatened him with jail if he ever viewed porn again. But which definition of porn was she going to use, he wondered. His court orders defined it as anything depicting sexual activity or frontal nudity; his treatment group defined it as any material which caused an inappropriate sexual response – meaning not in a relationship. It could be a Sunday paper store ad. If he masturbated and thought about porn, he was supposed to report that. To make things even worse, he was attending a Sex Addicts group his previous counselor had recommended and they taught that masturbation was a relapse so he got very hung up on all things sexual. He also had to avoid what the state refers to as “child safety zones’; unfortunately each probation officer has a slightly different definition of what that is and it isn’t anything at all like the official definition in the state code. So by the time he took his `maintenance polygraph’ almost two years after his sentence, he was so anxious, he failed the test. He was being treated for depression and anxiety but they wouldn’t let him take his anxiety meds. When asked if he had viewed porn that he hadn’t reported, he answered no but was thinking about the time he watched Fast Times at Ridgeon High and so he failed that question. That set a worse nightmare into motion. His supervising officer offered him 10 weekends in jail because of that offense, which had occurred the same month he was sentenced, almost two years before. He asked if he could serve them during the week so he wouldn’t lose his job, but she said no. She told him he would have to talk to the court officer and she sent his file to the DA, who immediately decided to file to revoke. They accumulated 19 violations over his two years, about 15 of which involved the vague school zones. The DA at first offered 10 years in prison, then 5 and when he found out the supervising officer had offered to just let him work this off on weekends, he offered a 2 year prison sentence, with him serving one year and off on parole one year. He accepted that and has spent the last 4 months in prison. He is currently being reviewed for parole.
The effect on our family of this entire situation has been horrific. Our younger son is emotionally unstable, has dropped out of college and generally refuses to deal with any of it. We had to have him move out of our home because we could not deal with the added drama. Both my husband and I are being treated for anxiety and have battled major depression. I have severe flares with fibromyalgia. My husband developed bladder cancer and has been in treatment for over a year. Our medical bills are exorbitant. My husband lost his job this past summer due to performance issues – the home situation and medical issues was just so stressful that he couldn’t do his job. I’m employed and have been blessed to have understanding coworkers because sometimes I just can’t make it through the entire day. Everyone is in therapy. Financially it’s been devastating. Adam racked up so debt just trying to live on his almost minimum wage salary that he will probably have to file bankruptcy when he gets out of jail. We had to help with his fees and after he was arrested for the revocation, he lost his job and we had to pick up all those costs. Over $200 a month for his court ordered therapy, $15 a day for the monitoring system (he did, after all leave the county two years ago.) and his lawyer fees. Now the state deducts 10% of everything we deposit in his account for restitution fees. Plus we have to drive over 120 miles to visit him now.
As I was sitting with him during one of our visits, I asked if he felt he had been treated fairly. He doesn’t make excuses for his behavior, and my story here is not meant to excuse anything he did. If he is going to move forward in his life, it is important to know why he committed the crime in the first place. He knew it was wrong and he had people who could have helped him but the shame and the addiction were overwhelming. He’s grateful for the time he’s had in prison because he has had the opportunity to really understand his addiction and how he manipulated people. Still, none of us feel it’s fair that he is in prison for a consensual chat with someone that he had no intention of ever meeting. Because we believe in a loving God who never wastes our tears, we know that He will use this for good and we pray every day that His will becomes ours and that we can use our experiences to help others.
One thing we are doing is refusing to hide in shame. My son is a wonderful, loving, Christian man. He is a sinner, saved by grace and he has a powerful testimony. We know that the future is going to be hard for him and for us. Finding housing, employment and women to date will be a challenge. But because we have been transparent in our problem, we have found support and friendship in so many places. Our church is supportive and Adam found a church that welcomed him as well. Yes, we have lost a few friends but we have made many more. TX Voices has been a God-send. He has about a dozen people writing to him in prison and that is such a blessing. I have met people who are in a similar situation who have been able to go on with their lives. The general consensus I have found is that people do not know what the laws really are and I’ve been able to educate so many people about the sex offender registry.
So yes, I am the mother of a registered sex offender. I have cried, I have yelled, I have written letters. I have been too embarrassed to step outside to get my newspaper and possibly face a neighbor. I have been so depressed I didn’t care if I woke up again. But once I actually looked at this ugly monster in the face, I decided that it was not going to win this battle. I haven’t gone as far as to get a bumper sticker that says, `Proud mother of a registered sex offender’ just yet but I wear my Texas Voices t-shirt proudly and I tell anyone who asks how very proud I am of my son and how he has faced this.