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What is a Sex Offender?

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You may have heard the term “sex offender” but not quite understood what it means. Today, we want to discuss the sex offender registry in the United States.

It is important to point out that most sexual assaults and rapes are not committed by strangers. In eight out of ten cases, rape is perpetrated by a person known to the victim. Children are sexually assaulted by someone they know in 90% of sexual assaults. Perpetrators of rape and sexual assault can include family friends, teachers, mentors, members of the clergy, and even members of a victim’s family.

What is the Sex Offender Registry?

The sex offender registry is a list of all registered sex offenders in each state. There is a national sex offender database, but each state and local jurisdiction is responsible for ensuring those responsible for registering do so. The National Sex Offender Public Website contains a list of all sex offenders that can be browsed by the public.

The information available on this list varies depending on the offender’s level and each state’s requirements. Typically, it makes available the following offender information:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Physical appearance
  • Criminal history

Registries can also include where the offender works and what vehicle they drive.

Who has to Register?

Any person convicted of a sex offense is generally required to register as a sex offender when they are convicted and released from jail/prison. All 50 states have varying requirements for which crimes require offenders to register. Some states require registry for life, while others allow offenders to be removed after a certain number of years for more minor offenses.

Can a Sex Offender Fail to Report?

Depending on the state and the level of offense, sex offenders generally have to report to their local sheriff’s office every 3, 6, or 12 months to update their photo and verify their information. However, any time an offender moves, there are requirements to report changes within 3 to 10 days. They are also often required to report when they buy a vehicle and even when they travel for short periods of time. Failing to report will result in a warrant being issued for the offender’s arrest, and they could face prison time.

How Does this Apply to Me?

If you have children, you should always encourage them not to talk or interact with strangers. You can check the sex offender registry and see if there are any living in your area. You can ask your children to stay away from an offender’s residence. However, we want you to know that 90% of sexual assaults of children are perpetrated by someone the child knows – a family friend, a member of the clergy, a coach, a teacher, or even a member of the family.

While it is important to know where registered sex offenders live in your area, it is also important to know that they could also face danger from people not registered at all. Open a dialogue with your children about what inappropriate behavior looks like. Make sure children know they can talk to you if anything uncomfortable happens to them. Always be on the lookout for signs of abuse.