For My Brave Friends

If you experienced childhood sexual abuse and your abuser is currently listed on a sex offender registry, this post is for you. 

And if you didn’t experience childhood sexual abuse, you should probably read this too.

The issue that propelled the start of my blog is, in my opinion, one of the most overlooked issues within the judicial system with significant impacts for victims. I have talked with many people over the last several years regarding the sex offender registry and the most common phrase I have heard is: “I thought sex offenders were on the registry for life.” I held that exact belief and found comfort and safety in that notion in the aftermath of my abuser’s plea deal in which he was ordered to serve only 48 hours in jail.

Disclaimer: I have no formal education on the law. Everything I have written below is based on my personal research, personal experience, and conversations with people who do have legal expertise.

Only 3 states place all sex offenders on the registry for life without the possibility of petitioning for removal from the registry- South Carolina, California, and Alabama. Though, California will allow offenders to petition for a “Certificate of Rehabilitation” or a Governor’s pardon and Alabama will allow a petition for relief from employment restrictions.

Most states place sex offenders on the registry with a designated tier level depending on the “severity” of the crimes he/she committed, particularly if there was violence involved. Typically, the higher tier levels will be given a lifetime registration requirement; however, some states do allow even the most violent sex offenders the opportunity to petition after a specified time period. Nearly all tier 1 and 2 offenders have registry requirements of between 5 and 25 years with the opportunity to petition for removal at earlier times.

If you are a victim/survivor of childhood sexual abuse and your abuser is on the registry, below are some suggestions I have for you (from personal experience):

Disclaimer 2: If you have closed the chapter of your life involving your abuser- I completely support that decision. The following information is for people who may want to know the status of his/her abuser.

1. Check the sex offender registry of the state where your abuser resides. You can click here and access any state’s sex offender registry. Once there, look for the “minimum registration” or “tier level” of the offender. This should provide you with the length of time the offender is required to be registered.

2. Look for the date of registration. If an offender was incarcerated, the registration date will not be given until release (usually). Sometimes offenders have a couple of days or weeks to register following a court ruling.

3. Find your state’s laws on this page or contact someone in the judicial system and ask for the registration requirements of the offender’s tier level. Your state probably allows the offender to petition.

4. Call the District Attorney’s office who prosecuted the case (where court was held). Ask to speak to a Victim Advocate if the office has one on staff. If one is not available, ask to speak to the Assistant District Attorney who handles child sexual abuse cases or sex offender petitions.

5.Request notification from the District Attorney’s Office if a petition by the offender is filed (if you want to be notified). If you do not want to attend, but want to be notified, you can request that. Make sure the office your current contact information and another person’s contact information who would be able to get up with you.

6. Write an impact statement. I strongly recommend writing an impact statement before an offender petitions for removal from the registry. I was so thankful I had been encouraged to write one years before my abuser petitioned. The week I learned he filed the petition, I was a wreck and there was no way I could write. You can find some helpful hints on what to put in an impact statement with a simple google search. Here is my impact statement as an example: https://kendallwolz.com/2018/07/13/state-of-nc-v-my-abuser/

7. If you wish for your impact statement to be read (either by your or someone else) at the petition hearing, send a copy to the District Attorney’s office to have in your file. It will be the judge’s decision as to whether the impact statement can be used in the hearing. Feel free to make edits and resubmit the document at any time.

8. If you do think you will attend the petition hearing and live in an area that will require travel- begin saving some money for this occasion. Depending on the state, the time between victim notification and petition hearing can be short i.e., expensive flights. I was notified on July 3 and appeared in court on July 10, and July 11. I had moved over 800 miles away. Because my case was technically closed, the Victim Advocate was unable to access crime victim’s funds to assist with travel expenses for me to appear in court.

9. Enlist support- now. Find people who are willing to pray for your continued healing. Ask people you trust to read over your victim impact statement. Sometimes another person can help you find just the word you were looking for. Be willing to ask/let people appear in court with you. I had family and friends that came to court with me. I struggled with wanting to ask people to attend because I knew I needed support, but not wanting to ask them to attend something I knew would be hard to see. Ask anyway! They were praying for me, offering words of support and encouragement, and their physical presence strengthened me during some of the most painful moments. A hug, a smile, and shared tears go a long way.

10. Put together a recovery plan for after the petition hearing. It doesn’t matter which way the judge rules- in your favor or not- appearing in court in front of your abuser is going to exhaust you.

If you think this is a situation that you could face and you want to talk to someone who has had this experience, please do not hesitate to reach out. You can send me an email via this page. I am willing to share what I have learned so far (I am still learning). This is a journey you do not have to take alone.

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June 15, 2018. Redeemed.

This past week I received a copy of the transcript from the court hearing last month in which my abuser successfully petitioned for removal from the sex offender registry. Eventually, I will share some of those words found in that transcript and the impact it has on me. It is more important for me to share in this post how God has continued to show me that He is working on my behalf in ways that I can never fathom. With this most recent revelation, God has provided me with peace beyond understanding, comfort to the depths of my soul, and a strengthened my trust in His fight for me.

Almost a year ago, I submitted my first abstract to present at a national conference in New Orleans. I was so excited and honored to be selected as a presenter. As the conference neared, I was scheduled to speak on Friday, June 15, 2018 at the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children National Colloquium. I shared my story of healing from childhood sexual abuse. I discussed the roles various advocates played in facilitating my healing. Most importantly, I informed the attendees about the laws governing the sex offender registry petitions. I distinctly remember the anticipation I felt when I told the group that my abuser had not filed a petition though he was eligible at any time. This was a monumental day for me. My voice was heard.

Little did I know that on this same day, in my hometown, my abuser was filing his petition with the court to be removed from the sex offender registry. On the exact same day. June 15, 2018. During court, I thought I heard the attorneys state June 15 as the filing date, but my brain and body were overwhelmed with stress hormones pulsing through my body and that information didn’t “stick.” The significance of that statement did not register until I began reading the transcript of the hearing.

Only God knew the date my abuser would file the petition- over 2 years after his eligibility. Only God knew that I would be selected to speak at the conference and then be scheduled to present on June 15. Before I ever knew that day would need redemption, God was working. There is no other explanation for how or why these two events would collide on a single day. On the day my abuser would attempt to silence my voice once again, God provided a huge platform for my voice to be heard- louder.

It has been a difficult six weeks since court. I have experienced more emotions that I can name. There have been ups and downs. There were days when I felt like my world had crumbled on me and I was buried under a pile of rubble. Then came the days where I found the light shining through the rubble. Lately, there have been more days where I no longer feel defeated. I have been able to look forward toward changing the laws. But this revelation of God’s beautiful redemptive work has changed me. It is the act that has pulled me completely out of the rubble and the ground feels solid beneath my feet.

Friends, I am not sure what you are going through right now. There is so much pain in so many lives. It can be hard to trust that God is with you or that He is currently working and will continue to work through such deep hurt. Keep going, keep fighting. The day is coming when you will be able to look back and see exactly where God was working. God’s timing is impeccable. If I had clearly heard the attorneys say my abuser’s petition was filed on June 15 when I was sitting in that courtroom, I can tell you, with certainty, that it would have crushed me. I would have seen destruction rather than redemption. Instead, God allowed six weeks to pass before this information was delivered in a very clear format via a court document. His timing. His action. His love.

Redemption. A thread that God continues to weave through my life and story of trauma and healing.

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Petition Filed

I’m catching a flight back to North Carolina early tomorrow morning and for the first time I am wishing I did not have to travel home. I’m dreading it. I’m nervous. I’m scared. It all started with a phone call I hoped I would never receive.

On July 3, my phone started ringing and I quickly noticed it was Duplin County District Attorney’s Office. “I’m calling regarding the Mr. ***** case… He has filed to petition the court for removal from the sex offender registry…” For two years, I have known that I could receive this call any day, but that preparation did not make it any easier to hear those dreaded words. In fact, I had finally reached a point where I could go an extended period of time without even thinking about the abuse or his potential petition- which was a significant improvement from where I was a few years ago. I had just started to believe that maybe he simply would not petition.

So, I will board a plane tomorrow. At some point next week, I will enter a court room as I did 12 years ago and my abuser will be sitting, waiting. His attorney will argue that he has been rehabilitated and has “behaved well” for 12 years. He will probably say something to the effect of “he deserves another chance” and “the sex offender registry negatively affects his livelihood.” The prosecutor will argue that my abuser should have to wait at least 15 years to petition for removal from the registry as the federal guidelines suggest. He will also express concern for the public’s safety should my abuser be removed from the sex offender registry. Then, the prosecutor will let the judge know that I am in attendance and I would like to address the court.

While I have a statement that I prepared two years ago, now that I am facing this moment, words suddenly seem impossible to express my experiences, fears, concerns, and plea for a denial to my abuser’s petition. And there is a chance the judge will choose not to allow me to speak- because I had that chance twelve years ago.

So friends, I ask that you pray. Pray for the judge to grant me the opportunity to speak and for me to have the courage to speak boldly. While I would love to ask you to pray for the judge to deny the petition, I have to ask you to pray for me to have peace with whatever decision is made. I certainly hope with ever fiber of my being that it will be a firm denial of my abuser’s petition, but that is not in my realm of control. Pray for comfort and peace for my family and friends who are experiencing the impacts of this denial as well.

The name of my blog was not randomly chosen. It’s a reminder of what I’ve been called to be and do.

Brave Girl, Speak.

 

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Misdemeanor MOTIONS: Petition for Removal from the Sex Offender Registry

Sex Offenders and the Church: A Response, Part 2

Discovering the facts is integral to any policy regarding sex offenders and the church. In my earlier post, I identified a few different scenarios. In some of those scenarios, the sex offender immediately disclosed to the pastor of the church his/her status as an offender. In this post, I will share concerns pastors and church leaders should immediately address in this case.

First, pastors and church leaders should have a set of questions prepared to ask the offender during this conversation. Questions should include the following, but are not limited to these specifics:

  • What were the charges the offender was convicted of?
  • How old was the offender at the time of the abuse?
  • How old was the victim at the time of the abuse?
  • What was the relationship of the abuser to the victim?
  • What was the nature of the abuse- even though the specifics may be uncomfortable for you to hear, you need to hear how the offender words his actions because it will be important to recall when you do your own research.
  • How does the offender view his recovery/repentance?

Second, pastors and church leaders should know how to access online state sex offender registries. You can click on the tab, “Sex Offender Registry,” to retrieve links to each or simply google “[your state] sex offender registry.” Click on the state in which the offender resides and search the offenders name. The registry will provide you with the offender’s current address, aliases, convictions, incarceration time, etc. Verify the offender’s story with the information you find on the registry.

Third, contact law enforcement in the geographic area where the offenses occurred and charges were filed. While law enforcement will not be able to share all the details, they may be able to provide some insight on the case, particularly regarding the perceived “threat of recidivism/re-offending.” They may be able to provide more information than what is available online, such as the original charges filed against the offender.

Finally, do not base your threat assessment simply on the charges of which the offender was convicted. Unfortunately, with many sex crimes cases, plea agreements are reached to avoid the trauma of trials. Due to delayed disclosures, physical evidence is often extremely limited or non-existent. In my case, my abuser was charged with three counts of indecent liberties with a minor; however, that should not reflect the frequency of the abuse that occurred. If my abuser was charged based on the number of times he abused me, it would have been in the hundreds which would likely have a significantly different impact on how pastors and church leaders would view his attendance at a church.

I hope this post has spurred thoughts and questions to consider regarding policies on sex offenders and the church. Please, feel free to send me your thoughts or questions and I will gladly share my input. I will be creating a page on this blog dedicating to resources for helping churches develop and implement healthy policies.

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A Sample of the NC Sex Offender Registry

 

 

The Call That Made My Heart Race

Two weeks ago, I received a completely unexpected phone call. It was an automated message. I did not recognize the phone number, so I did not answer the call. My phone struggled to transcribe the message because it was nearly three minutes in length which piqued my interest in knowing who had called my phone.

“You are subscribed with us to receive updates about an offender whose last name is                      and whose first name is                         . I’m calling to tell you that this offender’s registered address has changed. The new address is                                 . Please note that it is possible that this offender’s address has changed because the offender has been incarcerated and is now in a North Carolina county jail…”

From the time the recording gave my abuser’s last name to the end of the message, I experienced many different physiological reactions and emotions. I immediately felt my heart begin to race as anxiety and fear swelled within me. Before the recording told me my abuser’s address had changed, my thoughts (irrational due to my brain’s survival motivated response) created a whole scenario about how my offender had successfully petitioned for removal from the registry and the court failed to notify me. Talk about some angry thoughts flying through my head! Next, I felt significantly relieved to learn that only my abuser’s address had changed, not his status as a sex offender. Finally, I experienced frustration because I could not recall the 4 digit pin I needed to enter to let the victim notification program know that I had received the message- thus, ensuring my phone would ring and I would receive the same message until I could recall my pin number or call the victim notification program itself.

When I recovered from the initial shock of this call, I quickly typed in the address to see where my abuser now lives. I choose to know where my abuser lives for various reasons I covered in an earlier post. It brings me comfort and a sense of safety to know this information.

I share this experience for two reasons. My first reason is to express my thanks for this program. While I somewhat regularly check out the sex offender registry to view the status of my abuser, it is a relief to know that this program will notify me if anything changes in his status. And, they will notify me very quickly. Less that two weeks before receiving this phone call, I had checked my abuser’s profile because it was close to the time he was required to verify his information.

My second reason for sharing this experience is because I want people to have an idea of what it might be like to receive that type of call. I was not prepared in any way for that call and had it been earlier in my healing, that call would have easily destroyed my day or week. Even 13 years after getting away from my abuser, I still react when I hear his name or get a call about him. That fight or flight or freeze response was immediately ignited. If you have signed up to receive offender notifications, and you get this same call, know that it is normal to feel all the emotions.

If you would like more information on how to register for notifications regarding a specific offender, follow the instructions on this website: https://vinelink.com/#/home

Make sure you pick a 4 digit pin that you won’t forget in a moment that could be very stressful.

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My phone’s attempt at finally transcribing the voicemail recording