Green plate plan might actually lead to more sexual attacks

“The issue of how to deal with sexual offenders is a touchy one. Any survivor of such a crime will likely agree. A person dear in my own heart is a victim, so I at least have a minimal understanding of the hardship that results from an act as despicable as rape.”

The issue of how to deal with sexual offenders is a touchy one. Any survivor of such a crime will likely agree.

A person dear in my own heart is a victim, so I at least have a minimal understanding of the hardship that results from an act as despicable as rape.

With that said, Kevin Coughlin’s newest plan to use bright green license plates to identify anyone who has committed a sex crime seems noble. Nobody deserves to be the target of a sexual attack and steps should be taken to help community members remain safe – I agree with that.

However, is Coughlin’s plan truly a step in the right direction for that cause? I posed the question to 10 students Monday. Nine of them agreed wholeheartedly and the 10th was unsure. The senator obviously has support. Still, I wasn’t confident in the reasoning.

Ultimately, the mission behind the plan is to reduce the number of sexual assaults. Will sticking green license plates on the cars of former offenders achieve that?

Monday, I decided to find out. In order to come to an unbiased decision, I decided to get the opinion of the people who the legislation would impact the most – registered sexual offenders.

By accessing the Ohio database, I was able to locate more than 50 offenders within a one-mile radius of the university. Several lived in a single housing unit less than one mile from my house on Carroll Street. Perfect.

As I walked through the cold, I started thinking about what exactly I was going to ask. How would they receive me? According to the records, one of the men living at the complex had been charged with molesting a girl under the age of 12. How would I look him in the eye?

I knocked on the door, hesitantly. After about 30 seconds, there was still no response. I knocked again, this time a little harder. After a few seconds the door creaked open an inch and a man looked out at me.

What do ya need? the man asked in a muffled voice.

I stuttered back, I was … wanted to ask you a few questions about Kev … the state’s plan for green license plates.

(Man, I’m awkward.)

I’m not interested. Thanks, he replied and shut the door.

I continued to the other door of the apartment unit, but my knocks went unanswered.

Apparently those labeled as sexual offenders tend to keep to themselves. I didn’t get any direct answers from local offenders, but during my brisk walk home, I began to analyze Coughlin’s idea.

On his Web site, the Ohio senator claims his plan is an attempt to crack down on sexual predators. If that’s the goal, shouldn’t he be trying to stop sexual attacks before they happen, instead of simply slapping a scarlet letter on people afterward?

It’s good that sex offenders are registered and fliers are passed out. Parents use those tools to protect their children. But where do we draw the line?

If the goal is to reduce sexual attacks, labeling and stigmatizing people is not the answer. When you label a person over and over, eventually he or she becomes the label. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I wish I could go back to the man who lives down the street from me and ask him if he still feels like a human being. His crimes were atrocious and disturbing. There’s no arguing that. The question remains, are green license plates going to help the person he victimized or prevent him from committing future attacks?

It seems that over-the-top attempts to label sex offenders will only increase the number of sexual attacks. Imagine having the green plates on your car. Everywhere you go, people shy from you. You are no longer human to them. Instead, you are the epitome of evil. Try living a year like that. Soon, loneliness creeps in. You’re alone in a world where nobody sees you as human.

Nobody cares about you anymore. Why try to impress them or prove them wrong? The years pass and soon you too forget that you’re human, but you would like to be reminded. With time, repeating your original crime doesn’t seem like that big of a deal.

That’s why Coughlin’s plan is a farce. If we truly want to reduce sexual attacks, efforts should be made to rehabilitate offenders along with healing the survivors. Continue to grant public access to the registry and hand out fliers, but stop there. Direct future energy toward offender support groups and other rehabilitation efforts.

Don’t completely strip them of their humanity and cut them free on society. Instead, punish offenders with jail time and do everything you can to help them learn from their disgusting crimes.

Besides, do you know how hard it is for sex offenders to get a job once they’re released? How many of them actually own a car?

Perhaps we should hand out green slap bracelets instead.