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Sex Offenders Registry

The National Sex Offenders Registry is a system that catalogs and monitors sex offenders after their release from incarceration. Created by the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, the sex offenders registry helps provide valuable information to both law enforcement and the public about sex offenders; This information includes their name, location, and history of offense. 

What Is a Sex Offender?

While it varies from state to state, the basic definition of a sex offender is a person who has committed certain sexual crimes. These crimes include, but are not limited to:

  • Rape.
  • Sexual Assault.
  • Sexual crimes against children (molestation, exploitation, pornography).
  • Indecent exposure.
  • Prostitution.

Who Must Register as a Sex Offender? 

Any person caught committing one of the designated sex offenses will have to register as a sex offender in the area they live in after release. They’ll also have to re-register every year or if they move to a new city. 

The registration takes place at their current city’s law enforcement agency. If they fail to register, this can often lead to further criminal charges. The information necessary to register varies but usually includes a wide variety of data. This information includes: 

How Can You Search for a Sex Offender? 

The National Sex Offender Public Website is an excellent free resource that allows you to search state sex offender registries from the entire United States. You can also use public records search websites like Infotracer.

State legislation in some areas does restrict what information you can see, depending on what level a sex offender is classified. Some states only publish higher-level offenders’ information, though you can still contact local law enforcement agencies to see that data. 

Do Offenders Have Restrictions on Where They Can Live? 

Offenders that are currently under the supervision of the Department of Corrections, like those under probation or on parole, may have restrictions on where they can live. But sex offenders who have finished their sentence and are no longer under supervision can live where they choose. 

The state with the highest per-capita population of sex offenders is Oregon, with 676 registered offenders for every 100,000 state residents. Arkansas has the second-highest population, with 544 offenders per 100,000 residents. 

What Do the Sex Offender Levels Mean? 

There are three sex offender levels, each referring to the level of risk associated with that individual and how likely they are to commit a repeat offense. 

  1. Level I: Level I offenders are seen to be a low risk to commit a subsequent sexual offense and have been deemed a low risk to their community. 
  2. Level II: The assessment of these offenders indicates there is a moderate risk of recidivism, and they pose a higher level of risk to their community. 
  3. Level III: Level III sex offenders have been deemed both a high risk to their community and very likely to commit further sexual crimes. 

How to Prevent Sexual Abuse?

The best path to the prevention of sexual abuse is education. Talk to your children early to help them understand what is and isn’t appropriate behavior and how to set healthy boundaries. Be approachable and answer any questions your child may have. 

Because 3 out of 4 incidents involve someone the child knows, they need to know precisely when an adult is acting inappropriately. It can be difficult, but going through real-life situations can help a child understand what actions to take. 

These situations may involve coercion, such as a request to “keep it secret” or offering a reward for cooperation. It would be best to let them know they need to say “no,” get away from the situation, and find a trustworthy adult to report these inappropriate actions.

Setting boundaries can also help children identify a sexual abuse situation. For example, a touch boundary is critical; let your child know that anyone trying to touch them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable is not okay. 

Safety in the Community 

Beyond education, it’s also vital to help establish healthy environments within your community that allows children to learn and grow safely. Part of this is researching the organizations your child attends (after-school programs, religious groups, summer camps, etc.) and making sure they have policies in place to prevent sexual abuse. 

These policies should include an extensive screening of volunteers and employees of said organizations, rules for how organization members can interact with children, and procedures for responding to breaches of these rules or incidents of sexual abuse. Organizations should also have training programs for their employees or volunteers to educate them on the signs of child sexual abuse and how to prevent it. 

Discuss good sexual abuse prevention plans with other adults in the organization and work together to make a safe environment for all children involved. The more people talk about how to prevent sexual abuse, the more incidents of sexual abuse can be prevented. 

How to Identify Sexual Abuse Warning Signs?

Sexual abuse is not restricted to children, and identifying sexual abuse at all ages is a crucial skill set. The best way to identify abuse is to look for the common warning signs in each age group that signal something isn’t right. 

Warning Signs of Abuse in Children

If you believe your or another person’s child has experienced sexual abuse, contact your local law enforcement agency or child protective services immediately. The following are some, but not all, of the signs of possible sexual abuse in children.

  • Discussion or new-found knowledge of sexual topics.
  • Recent changes in behavior or frequent mood swings.
  • Evades discussing certain people or talks about an “older friend.”
  • Fear of certain places or people.
  • Creates drawings depicting adult images.
  • Changes in sleep patterns or frequent nightmares.
  • Talks about someone giving them gifts, toys, or money for no reason.
  • Changes in appetite. 

While less common, there may also be physical signs of abuse. These can include:

  • Trauma or injury to the genitals, anus, or mouth.
  • Sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Urinating accidents.
  • Difficulty swallowing.

While it’s important to watch children of all ages for these signs, the children most at risk are between 7-13. In addition, girls are more likely to experience incidents of abuse, with 20% of adult females reporting being the victim of sexual abuse as children. 

Warning Signs of Abuse in Teens

The warning signs of sexual abuse in teens differ from children and can be more challenging to identify. Still, you must stay vigilant: 28% of children between the age of 14-17 report experiencing abuse in their lifetime. Make sure to watch your teens for the following changes in mood and behavior.

  • Self-harming.
  • Changes in eating habits or the development of eating disorders.
  • Alcohol or drug abuse.
  • Unexplained school absences.
  • Evasive when discussing where they’ve been.
  • Aversion to touch.
  • Change in their mental state, including anxiety and depression.
  • Thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts.

It can be more difficult to talk to teens about these issues, as they may not be open to discussion about anything sexual at all. Try to let your teens know they can trust you with this information, and watch closely for the signs if they seem withdrawn. 

Warning Signs of Abuse in Adults (College-aged and up) 

While the signs for teens and adults are similar, we have less control over adults’ situations. Adults can choose whether or not they wish to report sexual abusers and how to respond to cases involving abuse. The most we can do is look for the signs and offer to help when we see something isn’t quite right. Signs to look for include: 

  • Worsening mental state.
  • Self-destructive behaviors.
  • Changes in sleep patterns.
  • Changes in eating habits.
  • Mood swings.
  • Increase in the use of drugs and alcohol.

For college students specifically, you’ll want to watch their academic performance. A sudden decrease in grades or dropping certain extra-curricular activities can signify something is changing behind the scenes. If you see this happening, reach out and let them know you are available to talk. 

Abusive Behavior

The only thing more difficult than looking for signs of sexual abuse in your children is looking for signs they may exhibit abusive behavior. As a parent, you are responsible for your child’s actions. If you see your child show any of the following behaviors, you must talk with them and get them the help they need. 

  • Aggression.
  • Sexualized actions between them and other children.
  • Inappropriate sexual use of body parts.
  • Non-age appropriate behaviors.
  • Strong emotional responses to specific people or places.

Sexual abuse prevention is also about identifying what adults exhibit the signs of abusive behavior. The warning signs that an adult is acting inappropriately could be: 

  • Inappropriate interest in children.
  • Conduct that makes others uncomfortable.
  • Ignoring boundaries, whether social, emotional, or physical.
  • Inappropriate physical contact with children. 
  • Explicit discussion of sexual topics with children present.
  • Confiding in children or seeking “alone time.” 
  • Frequent discussion of children’s body development or sexuality.

If you believe an adult exhibits these or other signs of potential abusive behavior, you need to confront them. Talking to them early may help prevent these behaviors from developing into incidents of sexual abuse. However, if they persist, and you suspect they have committed sexual abuse, call 911 or child protective services.

Sex Offenders: Statistics and Facts

Sex Offenders: Statistics and Facts