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Sex offenses and irrational fear, at Halloween and all year

Society struggles to find the right response to sex offenses. Unlike Europeans, who tend to talk more openly about sexual matters, Americans may be plagued by our Puritanical past.

As a result, we are often unable to distinguish between minor offenses and more serious ones. For an example, an offense like public urination is sometimes lumped in with sex offenses because it involves brief exposure of someone's genitals. But there is a major difference between a minor offense like that and an actual sexual assault.

Society's irrational fear of people labeled as sex offenders is also reflected in various state laws and local ordinances placing restrictions on Halloween activities by people who live in the community but have sex crime convictions on their record. In this post, we will discuss some of those restrictions.

A good example of Halloween restrictions on people who have been convicted of a sex offense is the requirement in some areas to keep lights off on the porch during the hours when trick-or-treaters are out and about.

Some jurisdictions have gone farther and tried to impose requirements that people with sex offense convictions post signs on their porches, yards or doors warning that a sex offender lives there. These types of restrictions have been challenged in court as overly invasive.

Moreover, there are public safety experts who point out that the biggest safety threat to trick-or-treaters on Halloween is not sex offenses. It is car accidents.

Our point is that society finds it difficult to find a just response to sex offenses. On Halloween and throughout the year, there is a tendency to stigmatize offenders that can end up doing more harm than good.

Source: Dallas Morning News, "Experts say Halloween laws against sex offenders are a scare tactic," Marissa Budznski, Oct. 30, 2013

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