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Yes, he molested his daughter. Will an Internet listing hurt her, and his son, further?

8-29-1999 Oregon:
She was 8 years old when he went into her room, after she was asleep, and molested her. Call it a crime, a sin, a sickness: He molested his daughter four times, he says, and then he stopped. Not because he lost the desire to abuse his daughter. Because he was afraid.

Today he's afraid again, but not just for himself. He's afraid for his son and his daughter. He's afraid he and his family will become targets, now that the Oregon State Police are going to put his name and face and address on the Internet, on a listing of convicted sex offenders. He knows firsthand the things people do to sex offenders and those who live with them.

To protect his daughter and son, we won't use his real name. We'll call him John Baker.

Back in 1988, John knew he'd committed a serious crime. John was a police officer. At work he'd read police reports about men who'd been arrested for doing what he'd done.

When she was 12, John's daughter told her mother.

"They called me in off patrol and arrested me in my uniform," John says. Four months later he pleaded guilty to first-degree sexual abuse. He didn't fight the charges, he says, "because I was never in denial about what I did. And I'd already put my daughter through enough." Corrections officials determined John was not a sexual predator. He was given three years of probation, had to pay fines and was required to provide counseling for his daughter and his son. He did not go to jail.

John, who's 44 now, enrolled in a two-year sex-offenders treatment program, which he paid for.

His crime caused damage like waves on water. His daughter wants no further contact with him, which he accepts. "This is part of the consequences of what I did. She is the victim, not me. I know she will have to deal with this for the rest of her life." John and his wife divorced. Their son, who was 9 when John was arrested, began to have behavioral problems.

"His mom couldn't deal with it, so she took him to CSD." John sought custody. "CSD said, 'Here's what we want you to do.' I spent the next two years doing it. Therapy, working on parenting skills, family therapy with him." In December 1995, John got custody.

During those same years John was working full time and getting his master's degree. As part of his rehabilitation process, he began working with a healing program for women whose children have been sexually abused. He's been disclosing his past and answering their questions for four years now.

In 1994, the judge who'd originally sentenced John ruled that his conviction would be reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor because of the work he'd done.

None of this makes John any less guilty of the crime he committed; none of it lessens the damage he did. But John thinks he's proved a man can do something very bad, seek help and rehabilitate himself.

So when he got a letter a week ago from the Oregon State Police, informing him that his name, address and photo would soon be placed on an OSP sex offenders Web site available to anyone, John was dismayed.

Not that he disagrees with public notification. "Oregon already had a notification law on the books. If a person was considered predatory and dangerous to society, the probation office notified people. They went door to door with fliers and did direct mailings." John was never the object of notification before. But now all offenders, predatory or not, will be put on the Web.

John thinks it's a mistake. "Society does need to be protected from people who cannot be rehabilitated, people who refuse treatment, who have had multiple victims," he says. But putting every person ever convicted of a sexual offense on the Internet, John says, "is not looking at individuals. It's assuming every person is as bad as the next. Not every sex offender will re-offend." The U.S. Department of Justice says the rate of recidivism in treated offenders is between 9 and 20 percent. "It's possible for a person to rehabilitate himself," John says.

John admits he objects to being put on the Internet for personal reasons. He fears the humiliation of public knowledge. Also, people who've threatened his life will now know where he lives. Landlords and employers willing to take a risk in the past might now fear objections.

All of which might be seen as consequences of the horrible acts he committed 11 years ago. But here's the part that doesn't seem like a fair consequence: His son and daughter could be affected all over again.

A few years ago someone put up signs at John's former apartment complex. "Sex offender living in Apartment 14," the signs said. The landlord already knew of John's history. But now others knew. "Somebody threw a rock through my son's bedroom window in the middle of the night." No name had been specified on the signs; John's son was "beaten up, attacked twice, both times by unknown assailants. He was kicked in the head, kicked in the ribs." John and his son moved.

But now their new address will be put on the Web. "I'm afraid my son could be physically harmed again. And there's the obvious psychological harm of everybody knowing what his dad did." In addition, John fears his daughter's anonymity will be compromised again. "The agency I worked for put out a press release when I was arrested, saying the victim was my daughter. She got teased at school unmercifully. She has people she's met now who don't know it happened. This could embarrass her all over again."

John emphasizes that he does not see himself as the victim in this scenario. Although he fears attack, he says he can defend himself physically. But he thinks the unintended consequence of putting all convicted molesters in Oregon on the Internet could end up hurting children. "Almost every guy in my therapy group was still living at home with their kids. This is going to affect a lot of people." ..more.. by Margie Boulé, Columnist

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