By Shana Rowan (Blog)
Last week, I and several other founders of USA FAIR attended the New York State ATSA Conference in Albany, NY. ATSA stands for Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers, and their members include sex offender and victim treatment providers, other mental health professionals, sex offender policy researchers and those involved in sex offender management.
Our reception could not have been better, with many conference attendees stating that we are an important voice that has been missing from this debate for too long. It was heartening to learn that many people were familiar with USA FAIR and had visited our website. We also had an opportunity to meet some of the leading researchers whose work we quote everyday and started a dialog with the state’s registry office about a common concern: lack of sufficient public education on the issue.
ATSA is an organization committed to ending sexual abuse that is pro research and pro facts – and that’s all we’re asking for – laws based on research and evidence… not emotion and fear. That makes ATSA a natural ally in our quest for smarter laws that work.
In addition to staffing our exhibitor’s table for all three days of the conference, we visited the nearby Legislative Office Building and met with Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell, Chair of the Assembly Corrections Committee; and senior staff members of Senator Patrick Gallivan, Chair of the Senate Crime Victims, Crime and Corrections Committee; and Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson, the ranking minority member. We introduced ourselves as the founders of USA FAIR and our group included family members of registrants, as well as law-abiding former offenders. We voiced our concerns on current sex offender laws and how they impact the family members of registrants, and emphasized the need for legislators to utilize the vast body of research on the track record of these laws to craft better solutions.
One thing was made abundantly clear. Change will only come when law-abiding registrants and their family members visit their individual legislators in their districts. Of the 8 of us that attended the meetings, only one of us was a constituent of one of the legislators. Whether in our respective state capitals, or at the district offices, more of us need to start showing up and meeting the legislators that represent us.
Overall, the conference was an energizing experience and we look forward to exhibiting at the national ATSA conference in Chicago this October.