I went to Little Rock and appeared before the house committee to speak against the HB1408 bill targeting level 2 sex offenders. I was accompanied by my daughter, "Charlotte" and my new good friend Robert Combs, of Arkansas Time After Time, the Arkansas Reform Sex Offender Laws group. To our surprise, there were MANY people speaking against this bill, AND not one person spoke in favor of the bill. BUT, still, the house committee passed it.
Makes one go WTF?
Actually, the outcome did not surprise me at all. Not after all my family and I have been through fighting the system before, when there was a stack of evidence supporting our case and not one piece supporting the other side and the judge ruled in their favor anyway. We know fighting these laws is a monumental task as lawmakers are elected into their positions and they don't want to lose votes by appearing to be "soft on sex offenders".
Both Robert and I were given the chance to give our "testimony", which is what they call it when you are a "witness" that signed up to speak for or against a bill. I found it odd that they use church terminology in the capitol building, but I was very grateful for the opportunity to speak. Robert gave his testimony first and then it was my turn. At first, I told my story; a brief description of my family and what we're going through and how this new bill would affect our lives.
When I finished that part, I asked if I had more time, and the Chairman was very gracious and said, "Please, go on", so I continued all the way through every one of my notecards until I was finished. One representative asked me to consider the feelings of victims and I took that opportunity to describe how I, myself, was a victim to child sexual abuse from the age of 12 - 14. I went on to describe how I went to therapy and was able to get past my abuse, face my abuser and forgive him. I said, "I didn't have to spend the rest of my life as a victim and I don't think my husband should spend the rest of his life as a criminal."
Another representative suggested that because my husband's victim was 15 1/2, this new law would not affect me or my family. I then explained that as far as the ACIC (Arkansas Crime Information Center) is concerned, they believe her to be 14, so YES, this new law would affect me and my family.
Even if the law wouldn't affect me, that wouldn't have mattered to me. I was there to speak on the behalf of ALL registered sex offenders, not just my husband.
Regardless of the outcome, it felt GREAT to speak out against something. It felt like I was actually "doing something", my small part in this overwhelming battle to change the sex offender laws in this country. Afterwards, many people came up to me and thanked me for my testimony and I was even approached by a reporter from Channel 4 and another from the Democrat Gazette. I don't know if I'll hear from either one, but I gave them both my contact information.
FoxNews16 was there with a camera and yes, I am on their video: http://www.fox16.com/news/local/story/Committee-advances-tougher-sex-offender-rules/cJzimcDNekeAcvak8BWbJg.cspx.
You can see me, almost at the very end of the video, but my voice is silenced. :( Oh well! Again, no big surprise... Sigh! Still it's kinda cool ~ two seconds of my 15 minutes of fame, right?
I went up to and thanked the Chairman for the opportunity to speak against the bill. He said, and I quote, "This is a bad law, and I really don't see it making it to the floor." Maybe he knows something I don't, but that response surprised me.
After the session, Charlotte, Robert and I enjoyed touring the capitol building and I took several photos. Robert asked if he could treat us to lunch and we accepted. We left the building and went back to my car to leave, only to discover one of my tires was flat.
Without hesitation Robert removed his coat and changed my tire. What a gentleman! I told him he earned himself a free copy of my book. We then dropped the tire off at a local service station to be repaired while we went to lunch. We went to the Community Bakery and enjoyed a lovely lunch. Robert told us that the Community Bakery employs mostly ex offenders and donates their unsold food to local homeless shelters. I was VERY impressed! I will definitely make more of an effort to patronize them whenever I return to Little Rock.
When we returned to the service station to have the tire put back on the car, we were told that the tire was not repairable; that the puncture was on the side of the tire. I wound up having to take it to a Walmart in Little Rock to have it replaced since it was still under warranty from when I purchased new tires last summer.
Since I was in Little Rock much later than planned, I wound up having dinner with my other daughter, "Julia", which was a real treat! I was delighted that I was able to see both my older daughters yesterday. Julia had to work all day and was unable to go to the session with us. Maybe next time?
On the ride home, I went over the events of the day in my mind, and I got to contemplating about the flat tire. I had driven two hours to Little Rock and around town for quite some time before arriving at the capitol without any incident. Was that just a coincidence or did someone slash my tire? It is possible. I do know that there are a lot of people out there that do not like people like me and will go to great lengths to stop us.
I'm here to say that I am in this through to the very end!