Ursula: What to do with pedophiles?
The man, a 70-year old former church musician, was found to have hundreds of pornographic images of children on his computer in 2006. He was cooperative during his arrest, imprisonment, and time in a sex offender treatment program. He has volunteered more damning information about himself – he traveled to other countries to take part in child prostitution rings and fights sexual feelings for minors all the time. He also admitted that he was a victim of child abuse but said it should not absolve him from guilt or blame.
The man served his time and has been released. He’s chosen to live in our town, which is sometimes referred to as a leafy Connecticut suburb. This is the kind of place where mommies have both time and resources to spare. As you might imagine, when the school superintendent informed all parents via e-mail that a registered sex offender had moved into the neighborhood, it was mere seconds before everyone went on high alert.
The website of the town paper has carried a story about the man each day since we were notified of his arrival. This Thursday, when the hard copy of the paper came out, a picture of the fellow was featured above the fold on the front page: “Convicted Pedophile Moves into Village.”
The guy’s gotta live somewhere, right? Do I love that in our town, 3 of the 4 sex offenders live within a couple blocks of my home? No way. But, based on news stories I’ve read, these people have served time. Are they “cured”? Most certainly not. My strong hunch is that pedophiles can never really be rehabilitated. I think they are always dangerous. I certainly don’t think this man deserves any special privacy protections. His Internet use will be monitored. Good.
I’m also pretty sure this fellow will feel unwelcome everywhere he goes here until his dying day. He’ll be spat at in the supermarket, mocked by teenagers, perhaps even assaulted. Not a whole lot of sympathy will come his way. Fine.
Here’s the thing, though. In this town, where the parents are already known for helicoptering over the precious little ones at the playground, butting into every coaching decision, and scheduling to the hilt every free moment in their future Ivy Leaguers’ days, aren’t the kids about as safe as kids can possibly be? Seriously, though, the parents here, mostly for the better, are highly vigilant. Local educators and child-care workers are exceedingly well-vetted. This is the way all communities should be, yet not all are.
One of the many advantages of living in a town full of overachievers and Wall Street superstars is that many parents have enough leisure time to read the news, follow up assiduously on e-mails, attend town meetings, and be generally vocal (and powerful) regarding local issues. For these reasons, I feel lucky to live here. This place is ship-shape.
But consider this: I volunteer in a less-well-off town nearby. I work with single moms, some of whom can’t read or write English. Few made it through high school. They work all day, sometimes 7 days a week; they have small children. Are they part of a network of Type A moms who plot PTA coups over afternoon coffee? Doubtful.
They love their kids just as much as any of us here in Perfectville do. Like us, they’d kill to keep their kids away from pedophiles. But their lives are so hectic, so full of just surviving, that their kids may not reap the benefits of a vigilant community. Will these moms track news reports of recently arrived sex offenders in their town on Twitter, obsessing over the distance between their children’s day care or school and the apartments these guys are renting? Will they see the e-mail from their school superintendent? Possibly not. Some can’t do these things, as a matter of fact. Many don’t have email addresses. Some can’t read. I know this from experience.
So, if you think about it, where is the better place for this guy to live? I’d say, all things being equal, it’s my town. The prevalence of hawk-eyed mommies—sometimes the object of ridicule— is, in this case, very welcome. It means our kids are likely safer than those in the neighboring town would be if a registered sex offender moved in there. And whether the guy knows it or not, he’s probably safer here from his own disgusting impulses than he would be just about anywhere else.