Hello Dear Readers,
In the last few days, I learned of a bill, SB653, here in Arkansas that would force most registered sex offenders into lifetime registration.
The Arkansas sex offender registry was 15 years old in 2012. For 15 years, since its inception, offenders were told they could petition to be removed from the registry after completing 15 years of offense-free registration. For many, including my family, this has been the glimmer of hope we have needed, dangling like a carrot in front of our noses as the end of my husband's term draws near, this coming June. All these years have passed without any new laws regarding the 15-year term of registration.
Last year, offenders began filing their petitions, and some have been successful, some have not. Now, this year, as if an afterthought, Arkansas lawmakers decided to draft up and propose a bill keeping any offender with a victim of 18 and under on the registry for life. Why wait until now, why didn't they think of this law at any time in the last 15 years? To come up with this bill now seems in itself cruel and unusual punishment as they prepare to rip the rug right out from under our feet just as relief is on the horizon.
Since yesterday, I have been furiously preparing as best I can to testify against this bill. Last week, on our newly-returned American Reality Check radio show, the topic was "Lobbying" and one caller suggested we actually take our children to testify against bills and mentioned how a 13 year old testified against a bill very similar to SB653 in Indiana and the effect was powerful enough to bring the legislators to tears and the bill died right then and there in committee.
I had never considered taking my youngest daughter to these hearings before. In fact, I believe I responded to the caller that I didn't think I could do that, or that she was ready.
When this bill hit me upside the head and between the eyes, I suddenly felt a new level of desperation I'd never felt before. I realized I had to tell my husband, and especially our daughter, about the possibility of him remaining on the registry for life, if this bill passes.
I thought long and hard about this, and decided to video record my daughter's reaction to the news. She did not know I was recording until the very end. I didn't want her to know because I didn't want her to feel like she had to perform, rather, I wanted to capture her true feelings as she felt them. I was just hoping she wouldn't over-react and get angry and lash out, something that could have easily occurred.
After the recording ended, I explained that I wanted to use the recording to send to the legislators so that they can see first-hand how this law would hurt a child. I especially wanted to do this because a certain Senator actually said to my face last time I testified before the senate judiciary committee, "I don't CARE about children of sex offenders."
Hearing that at the time felt like a massive slap across the face. I was so stunned, I didn't even know how to react. Since when are children - ANY children - throwaway and worthless beings?
My daughter, my sweet adorable daughter, granted her permission to use the video even though she was embarrassed about having thought we were going to Washington, DC. She is a brave little soul. Brave, I know, because she has been through so much by these laws already and these experiences have shaped her into the person she has become.
I posted the video to YouTube today and immediately sent off an email to every Senator we will face tomorrow. I have yet to receive a response, but I am not discouraged.
Meanwhile, I've shared the video with as many people as I can, even at the risk of being criticized for it. I know that some would think I exploited my child. To this I would say that I am certainly not the first. Many laws that have been passed here in America was passed exploiting the name of a child. The Adam Walsh Act, Jessica's Law and Chelsea's Law to name a few.
Some people probably think the video is not done professionally. This is true. Considering I had less than 24 hours to put something together, I felt it was more important to get it done than it was to polish it into a work of art. I didn't even clean up my office area, it's a mess. I didn't wear makeup or put on a nice outfit. I wanted the video, above all, to be REAL. And it was.
I have two versions of the video. There is the short version, the version I sent to lawmakers:
And there is the long version, which the portion with my daughter is uncut or edited in any way.
The long version, I think, really shows the legitimacy of my daughter's feelings. She is not coached in any way. The end of the video is particularly sweet, when she discovers she is being recorded.
I hope you enjoy watching either one, if you so choose to do so...
Please do help spread the word, if you can. Even if the bill passes the Senate tomorrow, it still has to go through the House and other steps before it can become law. For now, there is still hope in Arkansas.
I will report back here as soon as I can after the session tomorrow.