As a feminist and active member of the anti-rape movement, I am writing to urge you to vote no on Proposition 83 – Jessica’s Law – on the Nov. 7 ballot. Since September, the governor has signed two bills, SB 1128 and SB 1178, that require GPS tracking for high-risk sex offenders and increase penalties for others. These new laws cover 80 percent of the components that make up Proposition 83. The rest of the proposition includes prohibiting registered sex offenders from living within 2000 feet of a school or park and enforcing lifetime GPS tracking for all registered sex offenders. Although the proposition has good intentions, the Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center, the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault and many other anti-rape organizations strongly oppose Prop 83 because it perpetuates myths about sexual violence in our society, pushes registered offenders into rural areas of the state, encourages many offenders not to register and will end up costing the state millions of dollars every year.
By forcing registered sex offenders to wear GPS monitoring devices, Jessica’s Law perpetuates one of the most dangerous myths about sexual violence, the myth that rapists and child molesters are strangers to the people that they attack. On a college campus, it is estimated that 98 percent of survivors know their rapist. Nationwide, it is estimated that 90 percent of abused children are abused by someone that they know. By forcing registered sex offenders to wear these monitoring devices, lawmakers are perpetuating the belief that child molesters are strangers that jump out of bushes or lure children into their cars. This law does not address the real issue: The huge majority of perpetrators of sexual violence are friends, acquaintances and family members of the people they attack.
It is also important to recognize the fact that the huge majority of sex offenders are never reported to law enforcement and an even larger percentage are not prosecuted. If passed, this law would not address over 85 percent of sex offenders and would provide individuals with a false sense of security around the issue of sexual violence.
If Jessica’s Law passes in California, residency restrictions will force sex offenders out of urban areas that are packed with schools and parks and into more rural areas. Unfortunately, in these rural areas, there are fewer means to monitor sex offenders and fewer services to help survivors of sexual violence.
Jessica’s Law will also deter many sex offenders from registering at all. In Iowa, where there are similar residency restrictions, law enforcement agencies have gone from knowing where 90 percent of sex offenders live to less than 55 percent. Measures can and should be taken to rehabilitate sex offenders in our society. The residency restrictions that are included in Prop 83 would make it more difficult to reach sex offenders and offer them these services.
Finally, Jessica’s law will cost the state of California millions of dollars every year. It is incredibly important that this money is put into programs that rehabilitate sex offenders and educate the public around issues of sexual violence rather than being put into programs that perpetuate false ideas about sexual violence and do little to put an end to it.
When you head out to the polls Tuesday, please remember to vote no on Prop 83. This initiative will not ensure the safety of our children, but rather continue to perpetuate myths about sexual violence and will cost the state of California millions and millions of dollars every year.
Katie Mahon is a fourth-year sociology and communication major and Students Stopping Rape Coordinator.