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Ethical Treatment for All Youth

Email: etay@ethicaltreatment.org

About the author


In December 2005, my son age 16, went to a Iowa teen club for 16-20 year olds. There he met a girl while playing pool who told him she was almost sixteen. They began dancing and hanging together and realized they both were from same town outside the area.
They began dating. Months later she ran away from home and was advised by a friend of hers to call cops and say she was scared to go home cause she was pregnant. She did and the cops took her home as expected. Upon further questioning she admitted she lied about this "to piss her mom off."
A couple weeks later they spoke to my son who not knowing he was in any trouble told the truth, as he was raised to be honest, he himself wanting to go into law enforcement. He admitted he had sex with her twice back when they first met before he learned she was fourteen. He was told her parents did not want to press charges so he could go home, after the officer informed him and us she was only thirteen but had admitted she lied to him about her real age.
May 3, 2006, walking home, now seventeen, my son was arrested on two counts of sexual abuse, third degree felonies under Iowa Law. He was facing charges as an adult and a twenty year prison sentence.
We were shocked, horrified, and lost as to what was going on as we were told no charges would be pressed. The next morning in court my son sat there in handcuffs as the judge informed him that this charge was a forcible felony. He set my son's bail at thirteen thousand to which we protested based on the fact that I had just lost all my vision during eye surgery and we needed him to take me to my specialists for my vision. The judge asked if my son was in school, which he was, so he released him to us with the agreement that we would make him appear at all court hearings.
We met with the public defender a couple weeks later. We immediately informed him we wanted to fight this in a jury trial because this young lady had lied. He informed us my son was charged as an adult so he had to make all decisions on his own with his attorney's advice. I told my son that at no time was he speaking to this attorney without me being actively involved, he had no clue what was really happening. Sure, he knew he was in trouble, but he did not see the seriousness of the charge, believing he did nothing wrong.
His public defender told us we could NOT win a trial because the law under Iowa states a thirteen year old child cannot legally consent to sex. Therefore a jury would find my son guilty and give him twenty years. I was furious and asked the attorney with the District Attorney within earshot if this same girl went to school with a gun would she be charged and determined to be old enough to face punishment, or sent home because she did not know she had a gun?
We tried to get it back to juvenile court and met with a juvenile probation officer. She told me simply that my son was almost eighteen now and court had been dragging on for months, so she recommend he stay in adult court as there "was no time to rehabilitate him for his crime."
Fearing prison, realizing his future, his attorney said the District Attorney would offer him a deferred judgment which means no legal conviction and no registration. We all thought we had been given a miracle. My son said he would take the plea.
On October 20, 2006, we went to court (we had moved home to Oklahoma) and sat there all day thankful we had a second chance for our son. Five minutes before court his attorney informs us that Iowa law changed in 2005, and now even deferred judgments are made to register fpr ten years. My son was shocked and began sobbing as he was led to the judge's court. He sobbed as the judge spoke to both attorneys and then as he asked my son for his side of the story. My son was to plea "guilty" to lude or lascivious acts with a child, his attorney telling him he had to say he solicited this girl for sex. My son refused and told the judge they "both wanted it, her and him", which the judge took on record. My son was sentenced to two years probation, sex offender treatment, and registration for ten years. The judge told him he would not be legally convicted, once he finished treatment he would dismiss the second charge of sexual abuse, and once he finished probation with no violations he would dismiss the other charge and expunge his record since he was young. He told my son this will close some doors for you but open others. He also told my son he can mark "NO" on application boxes if he has ever been convicted of a felony as he was not being convicted under these terms.
We left court still trying to calm my son down who was now just angry and asking why do I have to be a sex offender if I'm not legally convicted? Why is this happening when she consented? I had no answers.
We transferred his probation to our home town in Oklahoma and came home. He met with his new probation officer who immediately had him dismissed from school, saying to the school, "he was a liability to them." He was denied GED classes since they were on a school campus locally and the State Board of Education denied him online classes cause he was a registered sex offender now.
The big blow we thought was over but in the mail a couple months later after this began we received a letter from the Oklahoma Governor, standardized, saying that my son's charge changed to meet Oklahoma law. Now he was an aggravated offender for the three year age difference and would be a registered sex offender for life. For life which could be eighty or more years he is going to have to comply with all laws for RSO's and any new ones lawmakers pass down. He is not looked at as a child but like a violent rapist or child molester.
It's been eight months since this began in court and I have found some support for me and how to fight these laws, but my son no longer is a happy, carefree young man dreaming of a bright future. Now he is an eighteen year old fearing the world, his future, and what new laws are coming down the pike. He has been told that if he has a daughter he will be required to take special classes to be able to live with her and he can never date any woman with children who are not biologically his. He fears there is of hope for him or so many like him who we have found online just a bleak future with no dreams.
We have spoken to legislators both in Iowa ad Oklahoma and it's the same story over and over: "We cannot look soft upon any sex offender or it will be political suicide." I ask how these lawmakers can consciously sleep at night doing and knowing what they are doing to our children. My son could be anyone's child.
So I campaign now to get letters written to present at next session to lawmakers in both states to let the public voices be heard and hopefully senators and representatives from both states will listen. If they can hear the people and read it in black and white then maybe they can save my son's life and future.
I'm simply a mom who is not going to rest until my child and thousands of others like him are free of the registry which was never meant for teen consensual sex.
Watching my son's dreams of being a Navy officer burn to nothing only makes my determination stronger and hopefully I can give him back some of those dreams so he will smile again.

Mary Duval
Send letters here to help us fight these draconian laws that affect teens.
Submitted June 29, 2007