The Ohio House of Representatives has recently passed legislation that makes it a case of neglect if a parent allows a sex offender to reside in the same home as children. This legislation needs to be passed by the Senate before it can become law.
A reporter (Margo Pierce) for a Cincinnatti based newspaper (City Beat) was interviewing a woman (Jackie Sparling)who is a high ranking member of SoClear Media about the effects this law would have on sex offenders.
If you haven't heard before, SoClear Media is a radical group of sex offenders who will do anything to abolish the sex offender registry and other legislation dealing with sex offenders.
I offered Margo Pierce Women Against Sexual Predators opinion of the legislation so that she could have both side of the story for her article.
Margo Pierce intentionally misconstrued what WASP said to fit her own agenda- to defend sex offender rights.
here is my original letter to Margo:
I have been informed that you will be interviewing Jackie Sparling concerning HB111. I am sure you would understand my concern about you running a story about sex offenders living with children, and you only print the sex offenders side of the story. I would be willing to give WASP's opinion of the legislation, and even contact information for the parent who asked Rep. Collier to bring this legislation forward.
Her reply was this:
Dear Ms. Golden,
Thank you for your interest in my upcoming article. If you've read any of my work you know that I frequently review and analyze state legislation. I have some experience in this area and do not spare poorly written laws criticism, not matter how they are cloaked – helping the elderly, protecting children, saving jobs. Thoughtful analysis that attempts to extrapolate potential consequences (intended or otherwise) and the legality of the action are my primary goals.
Please do not make the mistaken and simplistic assumption that if I do not agree with the way a law is written that I support the opposing view (e.g. if I find this legislation lacking then I support allowing all sexual predators to roam free and victimize whomever they choose). I support good public policy that is able to accomplish what is is designed to do and call law makes to task on sloppy, inn-conceived work.If you could take some time to respond to a few questions that would be helpful. I can't make any guarantees about how much, if any, of your responses will be included simply because my word count is only 675 and my editor has final say.My deadline is Friday, so I will need to you're your responses by noon tomorrow. If I don't hear from you I'll presume you aren't interested,
Her Questions: My answers in purple
How does this law make children any safer when child welfare agencies already have extensive rights to investigate even a hint of abuse and all of the people in any household where an accusation is made?
As everyone already knows, Child Welfare Agencies consistantly are poorly ran. Everytime I hear from a family who is having problems getting thier childs sexual abuser prosecuted is due to the lack of help and actual hinderance from Children Services. Unless there is DNA left in the child, many times they refuse to prosecute because they refuse to take the words of a child as true.
This law will make children safer because it will do what some parents lack to do, which is use common sense. You do not place your children in a home with a convicted felon who has a propensity to sexually abuse. We all know the staggering statistic that the over 90% of victims know thier attacker. It would be foolish to assume that this is not occuring in thier home.
In 1995, local child protection service agencies identified 126,000 children who were victims of either substantiated or indicated sexual abuse.
Of these, 75% were girls.
Nearly 30% of child victims were between the age of 4 and 7.
93% of juvenile sexual assault victims know their attacker.
34.2% of attackers were family members.
58.7% were acquaintances.
Only 7% of the perpetrators were strangers to the victim.
The language for HB111 does not include any language that protects parents who are unaware of a former conviction in their guest's past – if the person lies, is not registered and therefore not on any list, etc. – so what recourse will these parents have to get their children back? What is going to be done to prevent the unnecessary trauma children will face being wrongly separated from their families?
Parents will have to prove to children services that they are no longer neglectful IE: remove the offender from the home.
They will not be wrongly seperated from thier families. They will be seperated for thier own protection until the sexual offender is removed from the home. You do not leave the fox in the chicken coop and hope that he leaves. First you protect the chickens, then remove the fox.
Your own analysis of this bill makes it clear that you expect many children to be removed form their homes. Why is there no funding included to pay for the added burden this will place on the already under-funded child welfare system?
I don't know if there will be a significant number of children affected due to the fact that most sex offenders are "loners" after release.
I did not write the legislation, so I don't know. This bill was mirrored after one in Florida.
As I'm sure you know, up to 95 percent of the victims of sexual abuse know their attackers – a parents, sibling, aunt, uncle, coach, teacher. If incest is identified and reported, the families will never be allowed to reunite and heal under the threat of minor children being taken away when parents are charged with neglect. How does this help the child?
Are you serious? Most children do not want to "reunite" with someone who has raped or molested them. The farther away from thier abuser they are , the more safe they feel. If the childs parents still want to hang out with Uncle Joe who raped thier little girl, then they can go to his house and visit him, and leave thier child with a babysitter.
The goal of the child welfare system is to reunite families whenever possible – to help create healthy family environments – but this legislation will eliminate that possibility because any placement of the child back in the home will result in another charge of neglect if the offender is in the family. How can HB 111 be a protection for children when you eliminate the possibility of returning to their biological families?
The possibility is not eliminated. The child can return home when it is offender free. The child cannot LIVE with a sex offender. If the family really felt that the offender was an important member of thier family, they would visit them. This law is not about keeping children out of the presence of all sex offenders ~ it is about keeping KNOWN sexual abusers out of the homes with children. A child cannot dictate who they live with, but this law will at least keep sexual abusers out of thier homes. A child has a right to not be FORCED to live with thier abuser.
It is impossible to prevent a crime – if another person wants to commit a crime, they are going to do it. The most anyone can do is practice personal safety – if protecting children is what you want to do then why is there no provision for educating the public about how to practice personal safety related to sexual assault and identify the behaviors in children that are hiding the fact that they are being hurt? (When a child's parent is threatened by her attacker, the child does not tell so how is a parent.)
I'm sure you have heard , but the Gov. has decided to cut funding in those areas. I would love to see some type of legislation that makes this mandatory in schools.
I do not see any language in the bill that addresses false accusation – how is a family or parent supposed to defend themselves against this open-ended language and vindictiveness of others? Say an ex-husband doesn't like the man his ex-wife marries, so he makes an unfounded accusation that subjects the children and the family to an unnecessary invasion of their privacy. (The number of false charges that occur in divorce situations alone make it impossible to say this kind of thing will not happen.)
This legislation only is geared towards convicted sex offenders, not "suspected".
Dear Ms. Golden,
Thank you for taking time to respond to my questions. Just like everyone else, I have a boss and my editor is the one who makes all final decisions about what ends up in print. As soon as the HB 111 review is up on line I'll forward a link so that you will be able to see what answers you provided are printed, poor grammar and all.
In the meantime, I am writing to remind you that your responses are all "on the record" and can be used in the article. You avoided directly answering a number of questions. made some broad and potentially inaccurate assumptions about the victims of sex crimes and misrepresent the truth of the potential repercussion of this legislation.
Staff Writer, CityBeat
513.665.4700 Ext. 136
811 Race Street, Fifth Floor
Cincinnati, Ohio 45202
News: Background Checks for Houseguests
Ohioans might be at risk of losing their kids if they don't know a visitor's criminal history
BY Margo Pierce Posted 07/16/2008
A friend from another state spends a few nights in your home. One morning before he leaves, a social worker shows up on your doorstep with a cop telling you that she's there to remove your children pending an investigation of an anonymous allegation of negligence.
If convicted of child endangerment, you could lose custody of your children. Permanently.
Sound like a bad made-for-TV-movie? It's a real-life scenario that will play out all over Ohio if House Bill 111, already passed by the Ohio House, moves out of a Senate committee and is voted into law by legislators.
The brief summary provided by the bill's author, State Rep. Thom Collier (R-Mount Vernon), states that the law will in part "expand the definition of neglected child to include a child whose parent, guardian or custodian knowingly allows certain sexually oriented offenders or child-victim offenders to reside in the same residence as that child."
If you're not aware of a houseguest's conviction on a sex-related crime, your children could be defined as "neglected." Can't prove you didn't "knowingly" allow this to happen? You're going to be in deep, because anyone could make an anonymous call to the Ohio Department of Job & Family Services (JFS) and start an investigation.
One of the many problems with this law -- beyond unnecessary trauma for children who aren't at risk and debates over wrongful convictions -- is that it's redundant. JFS already has the power to launch investigations of parents; all they need is a suggestion of abuse, according to Jackie Sparling, administrative assistant for the Sex Offender Support and Education Network.
Sparling is a child-victim of molestation at the hands of a family member. She passionately believes that former offenders have the right to a second chance.
Sparling says that most individuals on the Ohio electronic sex offender registry are male and many have children. She says HB111 all but guarantees that former sex offenders will be prohibited from living with and therefore parenting their own children.
"Case workers are human beings," she says. "Human beings come with their own set of prejudices. ... They're going to go in (to home investigations) with a preconceived notion ... and I fear happy, healthy, well-adjusted children are going to be taken out of perfectly fine and wonderful homes ... and put into foster care."
The potential for false accusations and botched investigations is something Tracy Golden, president of the Ohio chapter of Women Against Sexual Predators, avoids addressing. When asked to comment about the potential harm done to children and families when false accusations of abuse are made, she doesn't respond. She does point out problems within the agencies as proof this law is necessary.
"As everyone already knows, child welfare agencies consistently are poorly run," Golden says. "Every time I hear from a family who is having problems getting their child's sexual abuser prosecuted (it's) due to the lack of help and actual hindrance from Family Services. Unless there is DNA left in the child, many times they refuse to prosecute because they refuse to take the words of a child as true.
"This law will make children safer because it will do what some parents lack to do, which is use common sense. You do not place your children in a home with a convicted felon who has a propensity to sexually abuse. We all know the staggering statistic that the over 90 percent of victims know their attacker. It would be foolish to assume that this is not occurring in their home."
Golden says children won't be taken from a safe home environment as a result of HB111.
"They will not be wrongly separated from their families," she says. "They will be separated for their own protection until the sexual offender is removed from the home. You do not leave the fox in the chicken coop and hope that he leaves. First you protect the chickens, then remove the fox."
Aside from providing no evidence to support her claims about JFS obstructing investigations, Golden's logic is flawed. She assumes that any person convicted of any sex crime is a risk to a child.
The nature of the mental health issues that cause people to act out sexually aren't all the same (see "Postcards from the Edge," issue of Jan. 12, 2005). Portraying people convicted of any sex crime as out to molest children and a guaranteed repeat offender isn't helping children or anyone else, according to Sparling.
"There are about 600,000 people in the national registry," she says. "According to the Department of Justice, only about 5.3 percent are people you'd really want to know if they were your neighbor -- they are of the predator caliber. The rest of them are paying for that 5.3 percent.
"Ninety five percent of all new sex crimes are committed by people who are not on that registry. So tell me, what good is it? It's a public gallows. It's a shaming tool. We should know from past history that it does not work."
One of the things that concerns Katherine Blacksmith (not her real name) of Northern Ohio is the "false sense of security" laws like HB111 give the general public. She believes the money spent on registries and enforcing laws that prohibit former offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school perpetuate a "lie" that children are safe from sexual abuse if these laws are enforced.
After working with former offenders for five years, Blacksmith says that most people still aren't aware that most offenders know their victims.
"It's a false sense of security because ... it's normally someone that's close to the victim," she says. " 'Stranger danger,' are there those icky pedophiles out there? Yes. But they make up such a minute part of the population and yet everybody is being classified as being that dangerous."
Now married to a former sex offender who committed his crime more than 25 years ago, Blacksmith says the stigma is an added punishment but the laws on top of that make it difficult to move on.
"We have the worst of the worst case here with my husband," she says. "What I find very disturbing is that he spent over 19 years in prison. He received treatment. He got a very good job since he got out. He's getting on with his life. He has remorse. He doesn't blame anyone else for what he did, and yet he's going to be persecuted for life."
Unwilling to subject his victim to potential publicity participating in an interview could bring, Blacksmith and her husband decided to remain anonymous. They want to live their life together with their daughter, who's a toddler, and that's what they're trying to do despite his requirement to register for life as a sex offender.
"My husband is a lot of things: He's a husband, a father, a Viet Nam veteran," Blacksmith says. "He had a great naval career, he's a hard worker, he's a friend. He's somebody's uncle, cousin. But sex offender still remains. ... Does that ever go away?"
HB111 additionally mandates that former sex offenders can't change their name or they'll face fraud charges. It also contains outdated language -- the passage of Senate Bill 10 last year changes all of the offender categories -- and includes an exception for an offender who's a juvenile in order to allow families to deal with problems related to incest when the offender is under age and a blood relative.
Did you notice that they focus entirely on the fact that most abusers are known to the child
*THE VERY REASON for this bill that they now deny a need for
Now does that seem like a fair story?
I didn't think so.......
so I decided to write the editor of the paper, John Fox
Dear Mr. Fox,
I am writing in complaint of the article recently published about HB111. I contacted Margo when I learned through the sex offender support forums that she was writing an article against HB111, and was planning on asking one of the senior members of the sex offender support group for an interview (Jackie Sparling). I offered Margo my opinion on the legislation so that she could get both sides of the story for her article.
Little was I aware that Margo seems to think that the sex offenders are the victims. I came to this conclusion after reviewing Margo's numerous articles on the subject of sex offenders and the legislation against them. In every article she quotes individuals from various groups that support sex offenders, or advocate for thier rights- yet she rarely interviews victims advocates about thier side. When she does, she makes them appear as if they are crazed lunatics.
I am assuming that Margo must have a sex offender in her family that she feels is getting a bad wrap, or else she would not be interviewing and siding with convicted felons, thier families, and the radical groups that they belong to.
SoClear Media- a group almost entirely consisting of child victim sex offenders and thier loved ones. Jackie Sparlin belongs to this group. Her husband tried to lure a 13 year old to his home to be his captive sex slave. Jackie feels that the public should not be aware of sex offenders and thier crimes http://www.wikisposure.com/SOclear_Media_Productions
Roar For Freedom- The founders (Betty Price) husband, convicted of sexual battery of a child under 12. One member wanted to start a "sex offender militia". He wanted to arm themselves, and he said that the media and polititcans would be thier targets because of all of the grief that they have caused sex offenders.
SOSEN- The former leader Shirley Lowery believes that pedophiles are a natural part of society and even claimed that Jesus was a pedophile. She also claims that Jessica Lunsfords death was actually an assisted suicide by John Couey. They kicked Shirley out only after she started sabotaging her own group. The new leader Linda Pehrson, welcomed her husband back into her home after he was convicted of molesting her daughter, who is also still in the home. http://www.wikisposure.com/SOSEN
Most members of these groups are also members of the other groups. Many have signed this petition created by a NAMBLA member, that basically wants to abolish the sex offender registry, to eliminate the age of consent so that ANY child under 18 can legally consent, and any other law that may restrict sex offenders. http://www.wikisposure.com/Reform_Sex_Offender_Laws_Campaign
I could go on and on about the groups she has decided to associate your paper with supporting.
Not only that, she misleads the public as to the true consequences of the law. She falsely states that if someone spends the night at your home and they are a sex offender, your kids will be taken away.
The law as passed by the house states that if an convicted sex offender resides in a home with children, it is considered neglect. Residence refers to a place of adode that is more than merely temporary. ( http://definitions.uslegal.com/r/residence/ )
Then she posts the link to the legislation as it was INTRODUCED, not the link to what the bill was when it was passed - basically leaving out the amendments.
I have also attached below the copy of our correspondence. She was exceptionally rude without provocation other than she did not agree with my opinion.
You will also see that she lied about me refusing to answer her questions. If I did not know, I stated so. And when she asked a question about false accusations, I corrected her, I did not refuse to answer. Only people convicted of a sex crime are considered. If you have pled guilty to or been convicted of a sex crime- that is not a false accusation, but a proven fact in the court of law.
I suggest you do something about Margo turning your newspaper into a sex offender advocacy "free for all". The vast majority of citizens believe that sex offender restrictions and legislation are important to keep our families safe. Your articles should be about what is important to your readers, not Margo.
Oh, and by the way- this is "on the record", as I will be posting this on various websites.
If anyone feels the need to write the editor, or Margo
thier email as listed on the city beat website is
John Fox - Editor & Co-Publishere-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Margo Pierce - Staff Writere-mail: email@example.com
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