Meiners pointed out that the preventative intent of registries, is based on a common misconception about sexual violence: the myth of stranger danger. “Registries really operate on this idea that these are the bad people, and if we have a scarlet letter on the bad people we’re going to be able to prevent or reduce child sexual violence,” she says. But the truth is that less than a third of sexual violence is committed by strangers. Most victims know their assailant.
This has been one of my biggest misgivings about the whole idea of registries. The other is the number of people put on a registry for things that are not actually sexual violence, and then being hunted down vigilante-style. But the reality is that many people check the registry, see that they live in a neighborhood without a registered offended, and assume their kids are safe, or that they can tell their kids to avoid this person, and they’ll be safe. It doesn’t work that way, at all. Instead of the billions of dollars spent on these registries, I would rather see that money spent on programs that teach parents and kids about safety, that reach into individual lives and help all of us raise children who are less likely to be targeted, or that allow us to prevent truly dangerous predators from being released to start with. Instead, any and all programs like that suffer from serious resource shortages while we track people who may or may not be dangerous, missing many, many who are so dangerous that they’ve never been caught.