You may learn a sex offender lives in your neighborhood. What crime enters your mind? Responses include, "Someone that rapes somebody or molests somebody," and "Somebody who has inappropriate contact with somebody like a child, or non consent like rape."
Sex offender counselor Sharon Scifres is all too familiar with these stereotypical viewpoints of sex offenders. She said, "When the public thinks of sex offenders they generally think of the most horrific crime and not those who had sex with underage girls who were consenting."
Often sex offenders are the result of high school romances and one night flings. These are the kind of sex offender cases Scifres most often advises in individual and group sessions.
John, not his real name, had consensual sex with a sixteen year old girl while he was in college. John said, "Kinda a guy thing. You're just going out and trying to hook up with different girls. You don't think of the consequences and what's going to happen to you and how it can ruin your life."
John's offense is sexual assault of a child. Nothing on his registry profile distinguishes him from pedophiles and rapists. "Makes you feel pretty bad. It's something you have to deal with for the rest of your life and if i could go back and change it i would," said John.
Like many sex offenders John serves a ten year probation. Even though his crime didn't involve little children he's restricted from being around kids. He can't go to his own children's activities without the supervision of his probation officer. Even stricter, he remains on the sex offender registry for a lifetime.
Sex offender laws are among the toughest, but more judges are handing down lighter sentences to younger offenders when it involves consensual sex. Also grand juries often no bill the cases. Yet there are still many men and women who will remain a registered sex offender for a lifetime because of one poor choice.
Scifres counsels her clients with directness. "Well the bottom line is you shouldn't have sex with them if you don't know them well enough to know how old they are. That's excluding religious and moral beliefs," she tells them.