CTOSJ is a volunteer-based civil rights organization committed to ensuring that persons accused or convicted of sex offenses in CT are treated constitutionally and fairly by the state before, during and after their sentences through evidence-based policies.
We are spouses, parents, children, brothers and sisters, extended families, friends and communities, as well as offenders and ex-offenders who are impacted by the issues you are trying to tackle. We are all interested in reducing sexual violence and the harm it causes. Many of us come from families who identify as families of sexual assault and some of us are victims of sexual assault.
As previously cited at the January public hearing , Dr. Alissa Ackerman provided testimony on victim- centered public policy. Dr. Ackerman is presently a professor at the University of California Fullerton. She is a national researcher determined to understand whether current policy is effective at reducing sexual violence. “What I have learned through my own research and the body of literature within which my work is situated, is that current policies, including registration, community notification and residency restrictions are ineffective at best and potentially dangerous.”
Dr. Ackerman is an advocate of restorative justice as is CTOSJ. While law enforcement and victims’ advocates have good intentions, according to Dr. Ackerman, they are getting it wrong and the research supports this. She believes they are not trying to harm offenders and survivors. As relayed in Rachel Bandy’s 2015 work, victims do NOT find it beneficial to have offenders on a registry and in fact this policy may actually harm them. Dr. Ackerman states that current public policy driven by law enforcement and victim advocates is actually based on retribution. Offenders are labelled for life and their lives become the size of a postage stamp, which by all experts is counterproductive to promoting healthy adults and reintegration into the communities.
The fear, anger and hatred fueled by our legal system actually victimizes and re victimizes the victims. The label alone ‘sex offender’ keeps people away; perpetuating the label as is done repeatedly is harmful. It dehumanizes an entire group of people. When you bring victims and offenders together, victims discover that offenders are human beings like the rest of us, and both groups have much in common. When the victim’s fear, anger and underlying emotion is dealt with the real healing can begin. Unfortunately many carry this anger for years without processing it. As Dr. Ackerman who also identifies as a sexual assault victim states in her story “all she wanted from her offender was an apology.” After she spoke with a group of offenders and was given the opportunity to speak as if her perpetrator was there, she said she wouldn’t forget, but that she forgave him. Alissa adamantly chose not to bring her perpetrator into the legal system. She said she would never have wanted to do that. Then there is the matter of underreporting. When someone hurts you it doesn’t preclude you from loving the person. The harsh legal system stands in the way and creates a formidable barrier for underreporting. The main thing is that victims of sexual assault get the necessary resources. This should be driving our policies, not vengeance and retribution. Dr. Ackerman continues “When someone is a victim the first thing they lose is control. When a victim’s advocate makes decisions on his/her behalf, the much needed control a victim wants/needs is taken away.
End the public registry and repurpose every single dollar saved to primary prevention: before the crime occurs, treatment and education and that will support your/our goal of public safety and we’d all be getting it right. Alissa Ackerman was raped at 16; all she wanted was an apology and she and other experts believe this is what’s missing from our current system. Less punishment please and more healing for all.
CTOSJ IS PRESENTLY HAVING SCREENINGs OF THE AWARD WINNING DOCUMENTARY WHICH CHRONOLOGS BOTH SIDES OF THIS EMOTIONAL HEART WRENCHING TOPIC. Citing the film opens our eyes to the suffering of people on both sides of a controversial fence. Made with compassion for all of its subjects, the film is a fascinating look into how laws are created with the best of intentions, but enforced in problematic and sometimes destructive ways.
I’d LIKE TO OFFER TO Gary Roberge and Bob Farr a private screening for all members of the committees.