Léna is also a Regional Manager for Writopia Lab whose mission is to foster joy, literacy, and critical thinking in kids and teens from all backgrounds through creative writing.

"Well, the question is, what do you want to believe? Do you want to live in a world where things are possible, or in one where they aren't?" Cin, Edges.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Disturbia in Suburbia

A level 3 Sex Offender has moved to my street in Bedford/ Katonah.

And as you all know, I have three children of my own.

What does this have to do with a literary life? It doesn't, but if I throw in Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov and label Humbert Humbert as a level 2 sex offender, then you have some kind of reference. But I'm not blogging about Nabokov, or exploring the sexualization of young girls.

I am writing because I have been feeling helpless since I heard the news two days ago. What can I do? I can't make it/ him go away. But I can write.

This level 3 sex offender, David Ohnmacht was convicted only 8 years ago of various acts of sexual abuse (i.e. rape and sodomy) against four young girls on four separate occasions.  He held numerous jobs interacting with children including a DJ for children's parties, driving an ice cream truck, and camp counselor.

Why aren't there any "Child Safety Zone" laws in Westchester County, when there are in so many other counties across the country? How could the State have placed him on a street in a neighborhood largely comprised of families with multiple children? According to those laws, he wouldn't be allowed within 1000 feet of a school bus stop. But he is. He is much closer than that.

And yet I am torn. I want to believe in rehabilitation, in second chances, that people can grow and change. I was a psychotherapist for years. I have volunteered and done workshops in prisons - indeed, I am going through the extensive paperwork to volunteer at the Bedford Women's Correctional Facility. People's pain doesn't scare me.

But when it comes to a repeat offender kidnapping and raping children, my heart not only weeps, but ends up losing the muscles of tolerance that I have built up over the years. There are going to be many pains that I can't shield my children from. But I hope to God that rape isn't one of them.

The fact is, that this is a messy and complicated world, filled with both beauty and ugliness. I have to be on the look-out for both - to appreciate the random acts of beauty and kindness that the world offers, and at the same time, deal with disappointment, ugliness, fear. Protect myself and my children by giving them life skills that will help them navigate the pit falls inherent in a life lived to the fullest.

This is more than an issue of public safety. One of my wonderful neighbors wrote to our local congressman and I am suggesting that we all do the same. There is power in numbers and in words, in writing.

Will you join me?

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  1. Scary stuff, this. If the law states his distance limits and he's not in compliance, I would think a letter/phone call to your local TV station detailing the circumstances would solve the problem. They'll do a story about it (or tell you which agencies to contact to complain) and he'll be asked to move. I think many of these people break the rules of their parole because no one calls them out on it.

    A couple years ago we had a woman apply with the company where I work part time. She arrived for her interview and bowed out immediately. Our building is next to a preschool, and she isn't allowed within a particular distance, because she is a sex offender. She was a teacher who had an affair with a student. Anyway, she was afraid to even be there, so close to the school.

  2. Thank you for your comments, Bookie and Lisa. The Evidently the state placed him, and Westchester doesn't yet have the Child Saftey Zone Laws. It's difficult because there is such a wide range of "offenders". I certainly wouldn't place an 18 year old boy with a 16 year old girlfriend in the same category.

    But this is a criminal with a violent history towards children, and studies show that in repeat offenders like this, the violence only escalates.

  3. That is disturbing. And scary. I would be scared too since I have kids of my own. I believe in second chances, too, but in matters such as this one, I don't like to think that a misplaced faith in rehab could possibly threaten the safety of my children later on. It's just hard to trust people nowadays, and I'd rather err on the side of caution.

    And you're right: there is a wide range of "offenders". Hard to judge and know who's really out to prey on our kids and who's really trying to turn over a new leaf. Though in your case, sounds like this guy has repeatedly butchered his "second chances". There should be better laws.

  4. Thank you Cherie for your thoughtful comments and support.

  5. I hate to admit this about myself, but there are certain people I just don't think deserve a second chance, and a repeat sex offender had one second chance already, it just wasn't official at that point. This person committed several crimes against children, they chose to create the life they now live in.

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