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Sex offenders and Halloween: unfounded fears could cause problems

In case anyone anyone missed it, tonight is Halloween. Most people in Eau Claire with young children will be taking their little Batmans, princesses and ghosts out trick-or-treating. Some of them may be worried about going to the wrong homes, however, fearful that their children could fall victim to sex offenders. While there are certainly some former offenders in Wisconsin who targeted strangers, statistics show that 93 percent of sex crimes committed against children were done by friends or family members. This statistic has not stopped the media from hyping up the danger of Halloween.

In many communities, former offenders have special restrictions placed upon them at Halloween. In some parts of the country they cannot decorate their homes, they cannot pass out candy and they cannot leave their lights on. Worse, in some of the most draconian of communities, former offenders must put signs in their windows saying that they cannot give out candy. It is these kinds of rules that further stigmatize and potentially hurt former offenders and their families.

Even though sex offender registries make it public knowledge what a person has done and where he or she lives, if a former offender has managed to integrate quietly into a community, the offender and his or her family may be able to avoid some of the backlash that comes from being on the sex offender registry. Being singled out on Halloween, however, just points all of the community's attention on the individual.

Is there a risk to children on Halloween? Yes, there is an increased risk of pedestrian accidents, but it is largely a myth that some child will become the unwitting victim of a sex crime.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Manufacturing Fear: Halloween Laws for Sex Offenders," Emily Horowitz, Oct. 24, 2013

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Hertel Law, S.C.
4330 Golf Terrace, Suite 108
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