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Mothers of Sex Offenders - The Other Victims

When someone is arrested for a sex offense, the focus is on the accused and the crime. However, one victim -- the defendant's mother -- is seldom mentioned or even thought of.

In many instances, the mothers of sex offenders pay a very high price for their devotion to their children. They mortgage their homes to pay for legal representation or to move beyond residency restrictions. Having a child convicted of a sex offense ends marriages, friendships and relationships with family members. They may suffer harassment and humiliation.

And mothers often shoulder the responsibility for their children's actions. Society may blame them, or they may blame themselves. Some may wonder whether they should help their children. However, research shows that convicted sex offenders with parental support have a better chance of completing treatment and are less likely to re-offend.

Parents watch and try to help as convicted sex offenders are released from prison and need to comply with the conditions of parole and the sex offender registry. For example, an individual convicted of possessing child pornography may be prohibited from having Internet access - and this will apply to anyone else who lives in the home.

Some parents of convicted sex offenders have begun to advocate for their children. A woman whose son was convicted of possessing child pornography while in college writes letters to politicians and visits the state capitol to speak out against bills that would tighten restrictions for sex offenders.

Of course, parents of victims are not always sympathetic. Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, noted, ""We are very sensitive to the burdens that these kinds of restrictions place on offenders and their families. However, sex offender registry requirements are not imposed because of who somebody is, but because of what they've done."

Experts have observed that mothers are generally more likely to want to help their children try to reintegrate back into society. And they can be over-aggressive in their effort to prevent a child from re-offending. One mother said, "I'd smother him because I did not want him to go back to prison for something stupid like being 5 minutes late for curfew or leaving his (ankle) monitor at home -- stupid things that could violate him," she said. "It was a constant battle of me mothering him too much and I started to realize it."

This mother, whose son was convicted and released in Florida, moved back to Delaware after a few months, realizing that that her child needed to learn how to cope on his own. But she still worries. She said, "People can't understand why I keep fighting for my son. But what kind of parent would I be if I didn't stand up for my child's rights? I run into that quite a bit. Am I supposed to leave my son at the doorstep?"

Source: CNN.com, "Mothers of sex offenders share responsibility, burden of label," by Emanuella Grinberg, May 12, 2012.

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