26 June 2010

In defense of a sexual offender

This letter was posted at the Psychology Today blog:
My husband is on the sex offender registry in Illinois, for 15 years for having a consensual relationship with me, his wife, when I was 16. He is lumped in with pedophiles, rapists and the worst kind of perverts. We have three children and my husband cant keep a job (he has a P.H.D), he cant pick up our kids from school, we've been thrown out of our home twice because we live by a school and police monitor our home. Why in Gods name isn't any common sense prevailing around this issue and when do we start letting people off the registry who are not a public threat? This is destroying our family, our children's well-being and my father in law (a decorated war veteran) has depleted his pension supporting us. We have testified before Illinois congress, had several favorable articles on us from the Chicago Tribune, yet they wont let my husband - Mark - off the registry. He only has a misdemeanor for being with me, his devoted wife of 5 years now. We were married by the same judge,(Thomas E. Nowinski,) who gave Mark the misdemeanor. Please, please someone help us. Neighbors stare at our home; people think a rapist lives in the home. Mark's oldest son (from a previous marriage) was assaulted in Hyde Park, defending Mark from fellow classmates calling Mark a rapist!! This is ruining my children's welfare and I, the "victim" am begging some one to take his name off the sex offender registry!!. To verify what I've said, look Mark Perk up on Google...we live in Crestwood IL, zip code 60445. Please, someone help my family from this horror. We have been pulled over by police and Mark detained (while our children scream in the car) so many times I can't count. This is profoundly unfair. We need your help immediately, please help us!!!!! This law (Megan's laws) was designed to protect children, not ransack and destroy families and put a Scarlet Letter around someone's neck who does not deserve to be labeled as a sex offender. Someone please, please help us. The ACLU completely ignores cases like this. You are our last hope!!!!
There is a response and a thread of 73 comments at the link.


  1. Everything would be fine and dandy for them if he had stabbed her a few times when she was 16 instead.

  2. The thing is... and I didn't check the 73 comments to see if anyone brought this up... in many other cultures, including past versions of our own, he wouldn't have been considered a criminal...at least not for the same reason. Sixteen was a perfectly fine age for a girl to marry in Western culture until maybe the past hundred years. If he'd have been considered a criminal on any level, it would have been for fornication (or something along those lines) and not "pedophilia".

    In our current Western culture a sixteen year old girl is still a child, but it's still not exactly "pedophilia," which is sexual attraction to prepubescent children.

  3. Or he would have been fine in Pennsylvania...West Virginia...Iowa...Hawaii...maybe Indiana, I can't remember. I've heard that 16 is the age of consent in about a third of the states. Then again, taking her to any of those states would be a violation of the Mann Act, so that wouldn't work if they didn't start out there. Of course, there could also be issues in some states with the difference in age, which I don't think the comment reveals.

    Sometimes, federalism just doesn't make sense.

  4. Yes, Amanda, maybe it's OK for a 16-year-old girl to marry but what about to a 30-year-old man? She was 16. How old was he? He had a son from a previous relationship. Was he only 18? I think it's OK for a 16-year-old high school junior to have sex with a sophomore in college personally, for example. But where does it stop? What about a 21-year-old man and a 16-year-old?

  5. I was told by police not to report any suspected sexual activity that involved a fifteen-year-old girl, as that was considered the age of consent (although I don't think it is legally).

  6. Anonymous,
    In the cultures where a 16 year old girl is allowed/expected to marry, she usually doesn't have much choice in whom she marries. The standard in a lot of cultures (including many parts of Europe until fairly recently) was for a young bride (14-17) to marry an older, more established man. In a lot of places a man couldn't own land until he was 21. So yes, by those antiquated standards, a 16 year old girl and a 30 year old man would be fine together. As I mentioned though, in those cultures it would not have been fine to have sex outside of marriage, so he'd still have been wrong.

    It's all about cultural standards really. If you read the second paragraph of my reply I wrote that 16 year olds are still children in modern Western culture. I think this pairing was wrong, in modern context. I'm not sure if it should be considered illegal, because his actions against someone who is still emotionally immature could be seen as predatory. I was merely pointing out that it's a cultural taboo and not actual, textbook "pedophilia."

  7. That is all beside the point. He broke the law, and he apparently completed his punishment. This is about the continuing punishment of being on a sexual offender registry, which can be permanent. The registry was supposed to be for those who are likely to re-offend, but these registries are now full of offenders who are far from perverts. It dilutes the usefulness of the registry, and destroys the lives of those who are wrongfully doomed to stay on the lists.

  8. I'll second Miss C's point. The purpose of writing the letter was not to protest the original conviction, but to point out how social conventions (and laws) pigeonhole people into categories and never let them out.

    It's the same bureaucratic mindset that erroneously puts names on no-fly lists and then refuses to correct those errors.

  9. Actually, the guy who's the subject of the article was a teacher who sexually abused a 14-year-old student. He's exactly the kind of person who deserves to be on the registry.


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