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?