January 21, 2005

Under the Safety of Megan’s Law

Why a Website Profiling Sexual Offenders is Good Thing

Story by Jessica Valadez // Art by Fernando Amaro

The other day Megan’s Law happened to be the topic of conversation amongst some friends. Megan’s Law is a law that was passed in 1996 after a 7-year-old girl named Megan Kanka was raped and killed by a known sex offender. It requires sex offenders to register with the State after their release.

A state sponsored website recently was put up to inform the public about sex offenders that are considered a risk to the public. Anyone can go to the site and get the address, picture, and past offenses of any offender in any US zip code. While my friends were debating whether the website was a good idea ort not, I didn’t give any input because it didn’t really seem relevant to me. Later that night I was checking my e-mail and coincidentally, I received a link to the website and by curiosity I checked it out. I typed in my zip code and to my surprise there were about 200 registered sex offenders in my area alone.

While looking at the pictures and addresses I was stunned to find some of these offenders lived as close to me. Around the block in some cases. Knowing this puts fear in me - knowing that a child molester lives down the street from the elementary school I went to. To make matters worse, the elementary school is right next to a neighborhood park. I thought about the hundreds of kids, including my little cousins, that walk through that area everyday and every night.

It hit me more personally when I was on the website and I seen a picture of someone I used to date. This was someone who I cared about, everytime I was with him I was so starry-eyed, he always gave me those bundles of butterflies. After seeing his name, the stars in my eyes disappeared, all that was there was the abundant feeling of shock and despair. He was charged with attempted rape. It all made sense to me because I recall this one time we were all alone, kissing, soon after he stopped. I asked him why and he replied to me, “I have too much respect for you.” Was that what he really meant or was it his fear about his past?

I took it upon myself to forward the link of the Megan’s Law website to my friends and family members. The next day I received a message from a close friend of mine who was extremely angry with me. To her surprise, her dad was on the website and she was really offended by my actions. I regretted my e-mail. I didn’t not have the courage to respond to her message. I felt like she really put me in my place. Even now, I dread the thought of running into her on the streets. But even though her dad may get unwanted attention, he has to live the consequences of his actions. Not to be cold-hearted but the safety of the children should be more important then someone struggling with their past.

I hope she understands I was only trying to look out for the safety of others. I didn’t mean any offense to anyone. I feel like being able to access this kind of information from a personal computer helps a lot. There is a fear of knowing that there may be a sex offender who lives near me, but actually knowing who they are makes me feel more secure.

Reprinted from Yo! Youth Outlook, www.youthoutlook.org/news/

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