Ignorant Fear

“Fear can only prevail when people are ignorant of the facts.”

–Thomas Jefferson

Once again, Halloween has arrived. And with it, comes the unbridled desire for fear. All over the world, people are seeking scares and startles, thriving for the adrenaline rush that accompanies a good ole’ fashion frightening. On the other hand, millions of young trick-or-treaters will suit-up in their best costumes with the goal of begging enough candy from strangers to bring them to the brink of diabetes.

However, every Halloween also brings forth another scare — a scare less real than the fear of ghosts: The fear of sex offenders.

I have written about this issue before, several years ago in an article entitled, “Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.” Every year around Halloween, local news outlets feature their annual dubious story about knowing where sex offenders live before trick-or-treating because, somehow, there is some sort of genuine possibility of something bad happening.

But here’s the thing: It has never happened!

Here’s a scenario I previously posed:

Let’s say, between the years of 1990 and 2010, there were 115 children in the United States (under the age of 18) who were molested by a registered sex offender on Halloween Night. What would happen? I would venture to say that the reaction by the public, the media, and the legislature would be even more knee-jerk and reactionary. If, over a twenty-one year period, 115 children were molested by registered sex offenders on Halloween Night, sex offenders would be required to report to their local jail and remain locked-up until the next morning. Sex offenders wouldn’t be allowed to even be seen on Halloween, because, let’s face it, if over a twenty-one year span, 115 children were molested by sex offenders while trick-or-treating, there would be zero tolerance and no sex offender would be allowed anywhere near a bucket of candy on Halloween. Simply put, if, between 1990 and 2010, 115 children were molested on Halloween Night by a registered sex offender, I would understand the fear and the hype against sex offenders.

But here’s the thing: 115 children between 1990 and 2010 is a real Halloween statistic, according to a United States government research study. But those 115 children weren’t molested by sex offenders on Halloween; those 115 children were killed because they were hit by a car on Halloween. Between 1990 and 2010, 115 children were killed by people driving cars. Between 1990 and 2010, zero children were molested by sex offenders while trick-or-treating.

Therefore, if you are driving your car on October 31st, you are more dangerous to a child than a sex offender.

But for some reason, no one has thought to outlaw driving on Halloween. And yet, on Monday, I was told by my parole officer that I am not allowed to leave my house after dark, that I am not allowed to answer the door, and I am not allowed to have my porch light on. And why? Because nearly six years ago, I had a brief relationship with someone, whom I knew personally, never had sex with, and who was a mere two months from being of legal age. My actions were extremely and certainly wrong, but how does that make me a risk to children on Halloween? And, of course, this assumption is based on the numerous cases of reported child abuse by sex offenders on Halloween, right? Or, wait, no, because those instances do not exist.


Two statistics continue to be ignored regarding sexual abuse:

  1. Over 95% of sexual abuse victims under the age of 12 are abused by someone with whom they are well-acquainted (such as a family member, friend, clergy, etc.).
  2. Over 95% of all sexually-motivated crimes are committed by a person who is not a registered sex offender.

So why is this an issue? Here’s the problem: While parents are focusing all of their protective energies on people who pose no threat to their children, the individuals who are most likely to hurt their kids are also the people receiving the least amount of attention. Thus, while a protective mother is busy making sure she knows the address of every sex offender within a three-mile radius of her house, she is completely missing the fact that Uncle Joe or Cousin Nick is getting a little too friendly with the kids.

There has never been a documented instance of a child being molested by a stranger sex offender while out trick-or-treating.

So, parents, rather than being paranoid about the people in your neighborhood who have already paid the price for their crimes (and continue to do so with the coinciding stigma), it would be safer and more constructive for you to direct your attention inward.

Contemplate a few facts:

  • Less than half (44%) of all sexually motivated crimes are committed against someone under the age of 12.
  • 95% of individuals convicted of a sexually motivated crime never commit another sex crime.
  • Over 95% of all sexually-motivated crimes are committed by a person who is not a registered sex offender.

The fear of sex offenders on Halloween is simply ignorant and irrational. Emily Horowitz of the Huffington Post writes, “Sex offender laws on Halloween are a natural outgrowth of the fear of a night of social disorder and grave danger, rooted in the belief that any law that can potentially protect children, or even one child, is a good one. Unfortunately, these laws don’t protect children, nor do they make us feel safer about a child-centric holiday. Children are not at any special risk from sex offenders.”

When will parents realize that sex offenders genuinely want nothing to do with their kids? They’re not evil, even if they’ve done something evil in their past.

Take a moment of introspection: What if the world judged you based solely on the worst thing you’ve ever done — your deepest, darkest secret — the thing in your life of which you are most ashamed? How would people perceive you if that is the only thing they knew about you? Because this is the reality for most sex offenders.

“Most sex offenders live with spouses, children, or parents, and these policies subject entire families to humiliation and actual danger,” Horowitz adds. I can personally attest to this. My daughter has been the victim of bullying because some of her classmates are aware of my past. No sympathy for her? I guess not.

“The false dichotomy,” Horowitz continued, “of evil adults and innocent children and families prevents children from meeting their neighbors and becoming part of a community. Sex offenders are subject to more post-punishment restrictions than any other ex-offenders, and have lower recidivism rates.”

So, parents, keep this in mind: While you’re being paranoid about someone who poses absolutely no threat to your child, people who are genuine threats to your children are being ignored — and, essentially, enabled.

That is the part of Halloween parents should fear!


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