Atlanta RSOL Conference 2016 take-away: Whose voice is missing?

By MICHAEL ROSENBERG . . . This year’s RSOL conference in Atlanta was the author’s first, as speakers from across the country brought to bear upon an audience ready and needful of informative lectures and empathetic, well-sourced thought-pieces a whole host of ideas long overdue.

Correction: these ideas have been in existence since the first Dolphin was trapped in the net meant largely for sharks. Craig Hallenstein promotes realism and understanding versus fiction and hatred in his fictive novel The Dolphin. The premise given the audience has to do with the danger of creating large nets which are theorized to catch predatory animals, yet without being evidence-based. Akin to throwing hand-grenades in the proverbial barrel of fish – certainly some will float to the top – but at what cost? Rather than being another uncaring, hyper-fueled yet personally unaware being who spits at those who the net has caught, Hallenstein recognizes in his earth-tilting work of truth-based fiction the unfortunate dolphins trapped in an unfeeling, mindless net.

Nothing but a coffin, the registry and its limitations has been given positive hatred by the uninitiated, the untried.

“Who, me? Couldn’t be,” seems to be what proponents like Mr. John Walsh say when they are caught in the ever-widening sex offender net. What is good for some is not good for others, is his claim when Mr. Walsh defends his past underage sexual partners. Well, that is just the kind of ignorance we were fighting this weekend. Thank you for the illustration of the broken system, from the originator of the Adam Walsh Act.

The Catherine Carpenters, Larry Neelys and Janice Belluccis of the world have a deep understanding of the flawed system which works to uphold the registry. This weekend, the speakers busted myths. Look too carefully at the facts, as we did, and the recidivism rates of registered citizens belie the absurdity of the “registry for safety” falsity.

What did the author learn? That to be a sex offender today, he can learn to refute the unhappy citizens who lose nothing by berating folks unknown yet loathed. Should he fail to refute, should he hide in his basement between visits from the parole agent, there will be only the loud ones shouting. Loud isn’t right. It isn’t best. It is, however, loud. And the only voice. For now.

The attendees gathered to hover around a spark of hope, temporarily restrained, fearful of missteps, ready but lacking certainty. Certainty has apparently been reserved for the other side. The other side is full of judges, both sworn and un-, the job ours to educate. For if we remain on the sidelines, if we fail to organize, those holding the puppet strings will have their way. Their way seems to be downhill and punitive. Ours might be described as hopeful and informed.

A blend of the sublime and ridiculous by necessity, mandatory appearance on the registry was given the thrice-over by Professor Catherine Carpenter, the opening speaker in our Holiday Inn Conference room. Kids who played with other kids were “child molesters”, lovers with the incorrect number of years between their ages were “predators”, and boys who played childish pranks forever labelled “Sexually deviant.”

John Douard taught that metaphors are really a frame for painting folks with one brush. And isn’t it easier to hate all sharks, to empty the sea of the beast, than to understand that not all behavior equals title of “monster”? Let’s discount his slightly erratic closing, as Douard worked to show how unlike the truth are these dangerous labels. The New Jersey professor gave food for thought which will undoubtedly help to feed a movement that is in its infancy in terms of growth, yet making its voice unabashedly heard in its dire struggle for a very real, very humanistic, completely deserved survival.

Janice Bellucci was trans-formative in her complete care for the cause. For her words to this author, gratitude. She stopped long enough to express thanks for a question in a lecture she attended as an audience member. Her gentle yet pressing words revealed to this registrant the need for others with her compassion, prowess, and drive. Ms. Bellucci’s is the attorney atop California’s very pressing civil rights abuses of sex offenders, a fact evident after a quick search of the arguments being brought to appellate courts in Cali on behalf of the under-loved population in attendance in Atlanta. Thanks to Bellucci, audience members learned that dignity is not something the courts can take away.

Mr. Larry Neely was in a number of talks, possibly the most memorable of which entitled Can They Do That? in which he teamed up with Schaffnit, Esq. to describe possible objections to parole/probation conditions and codicils. Memorable for the debate sparked by interested audience members, as well as for Neely’s ability to both organize the event and speak at nearly every break-out session in an impassioned yet entirely reasonable voice.

Steve Yoder gave an impressive refutation of five ill-conceived arguments for the shame(reg)istry. Not only was he clear and concise, Yoder gave those with the will enough firepower to overcome a whole neighborhood of hatred using well-sourced material. His blog is a specimen of authenticity and research.

Don’t believe everything you read. Everyone can change. Sex offenders do not, in general, continue to violate the law. Apparently, we have been chosen to fight legislation and misinformation which has created a toxic mix of angry and scared people. The key here is mis-informed. Let us prepare for an information war; you may not have ever wanted this task, but if not you, then who?

Full of love, we move into the future.

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