What is Megan’s Law?
It is estimated that a sexual assault occurs every two minutes. Thousands of women throughout the United States report being raped every year. Thousands more are assaulted and never report such victimization to authorities. Among the forty four percent of assaults reported, more than seventy five percent are women and girls under the age of thirty. Although sexual attacks run rampant in the United States, the state and federal governments are working hard to create laws that decrease the number of attacks women are subjected to. Megan’s law is one of those regulations and has been implemented for nearly two decades.
The Law Put Simple
Megan’s law is essentially a rule that require sex offenders to register after being released from prison. Although there were laws implemented before Megan’s rule came about, the current regulations take it a step further by requiring law enforcement agencies to make registration records available to the public. It is for this reason that offenders are tracked and documented every time they move into a new area.
How the New Regulations Came About
Megan Kanka was seven years old when she was raped and murdered by a sex offender who moved across the street from her family shortly after being released from prison in 1996. Although her parents were aware of their neighbor’s status as an assaulter, and even requested more attention from police, their complaints to the justice system fell on deaf ears. It was not until Megan was attacked and subsequently murdered that local and state justices took notice of the danger that the little one’s parents had been speaking of all along.
In their efforts to prevent such acts of violence from happening again, the state of New Jersey implemented new laws that made them accountable for releasing pertinent information to the public about sex offenders. Such important facts include where the sexual assaulter will live after incarceration and where he or she will work.
The Effects of the Law
Many businesses choose not to employ offenders for fear of liability should they commit other unlawful acts down the road. Most opportunities in the medical field restrict registered offenders from even applying to work in the occupation. Such is especially true of former pedophiles hoping to garner a position in the pediatrics department of a hospital. Regardless of an individual’s skill or talent, he or she will not be invited to interview with a sexual assault charge on record.
Special government facilities such as libraries and certain recreational departments also refuse to hire former offenders. Some of these branches even have a LiveScan system that alerts managers of current employees who incurs a federal charge.
Megan’s law is certainly helping on the homefront, as parents can rest more soundly after discovering where all registered offenders live. Moms and dads of children and teenagers are more prone to let their kids explore the neighborhood without an adult if they know that no offenders live within the distant area.
Disadvantages of the Law
While parents and employers benefit immensely from having public record of assaulters, the offenders themselves are at a great disadvantage as the result of Megan’s law. Many attackers who have served substantial amounts of time in prison find it difficult to get back on their feet after being released due to their criminal charge that employers have access to. Some are even uprooted from communities by local residents who do not want offenders living near them. Hundreds of petitions have been signed since Megan’s rule was implemented that ask offenders to live elsewhere.
Even with these disadvantages, the regulations have a positive impact. Hundreds of women and girls have been spared from violent attacks as the result of Megan’s law. Hundreds more feel more secure in their communities. Although they are not perfect, Megan’s regulation is working to establish a well-informed public that relies more on the factual evidence than instinct.
The Law in Action
Every state has adapted its own way of implementing Megan’s law into its book of regulations. California, for example, has a megan’s law website that allows residents to find the whereabouts of offenders online. An individual, at anytime, can decide to search the database and maps of registered attackers living in the area. Although the database lends fascinating results, the online map presents even more shock to the searcher.
Few realize how many offenders live in their community until they take a look at megan’s law map. Parents of small children are often surprised to know that former pedophiles reside within miles of the local elementary school. Although the law requires law enforcement officials to release pertinent information regarding offenders, it does not have the authority to dictate where an attacker may or may not live. It is for this reason that many choose not to search the database for potential offenders. Such individuals should take every measure outside of researching the records and viewing the maps to protect themselves and their families.
What Parents Can Do
It is more important than ever for parents to be proactive when it comes to sexual offenses. It is never too early for a mother to inform her child of the many ways in which an offender who is likely to strike again tries to get next to potential prey.
Any adult who is too friendly after a short introduction should be regarded with caution. Parents should be careful to only allow their children to spend extended periods of time with adults who are well-known by the family.
Although schools do not make it a practice to hire registered offenders, some slip through the cracks by changing their identities and moving to another city. It is, therefore, vital that parents keep an open line of communication with their children and advise kids to never be alone with a teacher without having a form of escape. Even if it is no more than an open door or window, that method of escape can save the child from victimization.
Parents should always keep their eyes and ears open for potential clues of abuse. Some children will not openly admit to parents of being sexually assaulted by a teacher for fear of disappointing the instructor and facing disciplinary action. It is, hence, vital that moms and dads constantly remind kids that revealing everything that makes them feel uncomfortable or at odds is the only way to get the issue resolved.
In addition to talking with children, parents should consider spending time with teachers in question. Scheduling a simple parent-teacher conference will inform an offender who has slipped through the cracks that you are a concerned parent who is vigilant. In many instances, this act alone is enough to stifle the attacker’s plans.
Even with the plans ruined, parents should take an additional step. Reporting the potential offender to school administration is the best way to see positive results. It is only when administrators disregard a parent’s concerns that he should take his complaint to authorities and the media. In many instances, however, administrative staff will take the time to conduct an investigation about the person in question if a parent lodges a complaint.
Mothers and fathers should be proactive outside of school as well. When running errands around the neighborhood, it is important to keep kids close by. Parents should never allow their small children to go to the restroom alone. Guardians should also make it a habit of taking children with them when they are away from their automobiles. This is especially true when the car is turned on. A child strapped in a the car seat of a mobile vehicle is the perfect setup for a repeat sex offender.
Teenagers and How They Can Help
Since small children cannot present as much defense as a fully grown person, it is beneficial for parents to have help when in public. Although they are despised by some, nannies are the perfect deterrent for sex offenders. Even those who are bold enough to abduct a child away from the mom while she is running errands for the family will be less likely to carry out the plan after seeing two adults as signs of defense.
While they are not yet adults, teenagers make great babysitters. They have just enough energy to enthuse the kids and provide a sign of defense that is similar to adult nannies. Youngsters can also be vigilant in addition to having their friends look out for them and the little ones they are caring for.
Teenagers and How They Can Prepare
Even though they are nearly women, teenage girls prove to be popular prey for sex offenders. As such, it is important to prepare and be alert. Parents should encourage their youngsters to utilize all of the resources afforded them by Megan’s law. Merely having knowledge of a former attacker living a few doors down is enough to make a teenage girl conscious of the manner in which she carries herself.
Mothers should especially encourage their daughters to dress in a manner that is tasteful, even if they are only going to the local market. Pajamas and revealing clothes do not help an ex-pedophile move forward and can hence set him a few steps back in his journey to recovery. Although women have the right to wear what they please, it is best for girls to refrain from wearing clothes that attract negative attention.
In addition to changing their attire, teengers can also be more vigilant. It is never a crime to report even the most remote item or act that is out of place. Guilt and fear only come to prevent courageous acts from taking place.
Spending time in large groups is, however, the best way to deter sex offenders. An attacker may be willing to assault a girl by herself but he will not be so adamant about causing harm if the young lady is with a group of girls and boys.
Teenagers should always keep an open line of communication with their parents so that in the instance that some sort of violation takes place the parents can step in and help.
For the Community
Socializing is the best way to prevent disaster. Simply holding a conversation with neighbors in public can alert an offender of the bond that the community shares and discourage him or her from attacking. Individuals who socialize with their neighbors, in essence, present a united front that says, “If you mess with one of us, you’ve messed with all of us.” Repeat offenders typically do not want to be surrounded by such togetherness and will often move to the next town.
It is also important for residents to be watchful. The slightest irregularity should be observed and reported to authorities. It is never a good idea to wait for tragedy to take place to note that the warning signs were there. Neighborhood watch squads as well as city hall meetings are great ways to join the fight for assault-free zones. Whereas neighborhood watch allows residents to directly have a part in the safety of their community, those who attend city hall meetings indirectly contribute to the well-being of all by bringing potential hazards to council members’ attentions. Although cities are typically reluctant to immediately repair a streetlight that has gone out, enough complaints at the meeting may persuade politicians to move in the residents’ favor.
Finally, it is vital that every resident knows the statistics of sexual assaults for his area. Although the media provides an overall review of crime in the region, the sexual assault rate is much lower in certain areas. It is never wise to solely rely on the press for statistics about rape and molestation. The better solution to inquiries is to visit the megan’s law website and track various changes within the community in terms of sex offenders.
Megan’s law was created in honor of a seven year old girl whose life was cut short by a repeat sex offender. Although the rule has a few negative aspects associated with it, the positive results that have come about since the law’s implementation have been life-changing for many women and girls.