Collateral Damage: Family Members of Registered Sex Offenders

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to better understand the impact of sex offender registration and notification laws on the family members of registered sex offenders (RSO). An online survey was utilized to collect data from 584 family members across the U.S. Employment problems experienced by the RSO, and subsequent financial hardships, emerged as the most pressing issue identified by family members. The likelihood of housing disruption was correlated with residential restriction laws; larger buffer distances led to increased frequencies of housing crisis. Family members living with an RSO were more likely to experience threats and harassment by neighbors. Children of RSOs reportedly experienced adverse consequences including stigmatization and differential treatment by teachers and classmates. More than half had experienced ridicule, teasing, depression, anxiety, fear, or anger. Unintended consequences can impact family members’ ability to support RSOs in their efforts to avoid recidivism and successfully reintegrate. Implications for criminal justice policy and practice are discussed.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The majority of these cases involved RSOs who are fathers, with the survey respondent being the mother (or other caretaker) of a RSO father’s child. However, there are 4 cases in the data where the RSO is the mother of a child being cared for by the respondent.

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Correspondence to Jill Levenson.

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Levenson, J., Tewksbury, R. Collateral Damage: Family Members of Registered Sex Offenders. Am J Crim Just 34, 54–68 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12103-008-9055-x

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Keywords

  • Registered sex offender
  • Family members
  • Megan’s law
  • Sexual abuse