By Kevin Torres
DENVER - According to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, there are currently more than 10,000 registered sex offenders living in Colorado. Chances are some of them live in your community.
9NEWS was given a rare look at what life is like for a registered sex offender years after they committed their crime.
"August 16th of 2006... I was arrested for chatting online with an undercover officer... I thought this person was a 13-year-old girl," said Brent (we are not using Brent's last name due to privacy), a registered sex offender.
On that warm August day, Brent found himself surrounded by officers inside his high paying job at Lockheed Martin. From that moment forward he would be labeled a sex offender and lose every ounce of freedom.
"I was charged with criminal intent of sexual assault on a child," said Brent.
"I was just shocked. I don't know what else to say. I cried," Brent's wife Amanda replied.
In the months that followed, Amanda would learn more about her husband's problem. It turns out Brent had been battling his demons for years. In 2003, Brent says, he tried chatting with an underage girl online but got cold feet and backed away. Stressed by this information, Amanda nearly walked away from Brent... But ultimately, she stayed.
"I let him back in the home but that didn't mean I wasn't watching every move he made or made sure this is something I wanted in my life. And it took me a lot of prayer and a lot of support," said Amanda.
The years that followed would prove to be more difficult. Employers wouldn't consider Brent, neighbors turned on him and bills piled up. .
No work, no money, few friends. Yet, Brent pushed forward as he was determined to convince people he had changed.
"It doesn't matter if you can please yourself. Because the public thinks you're a scum bag. And that's what really matters," said Dr. Max Wachtell, 9NEWS Psychologist.
Wachtell has studied sex offenders and says public perception is hard to change. Even though Wachtell says repeat occurrences are considered low among people in Brent's position, the average person will still have a negative outlook on him.
"Sex offenders who feel like they've gone through a ton of treatment, feel like they're a completely different person - their families think they've changed - society isn't going to see that. Society is going to see that person as a sex offender. And that's the box that person is going to be in the rest of their life," said Dr. Wachtell.
The legal sentence Brent received pales in comparison to the personal sentence he deals with every day; which is why Brent is placing a lot of his efforts in a sex offender therapy group geared at helping people coping with situations similar to his.
"God just gave us peace," said Brent.
The Colorado Bureau of Investigation studies the state's sex offender population closely. Here is a list of facts they've gathered:
- There are currently 10,096-registered sex offenders in Colorado, as of June 2, 2008.
- Approximately 60% of convicted sex offenders in Colorado are sentenced to community placement (probation, parole, or community corrections) with the remainder being sentenced to incarceration at the Department of Corrections or the county jail (Colorado State Court Administrator's Office, 2003).
- As of June 2008, there are currently 457 Sexually Violent Predators in Colorado. Of these, 364 are currently incarcerated in the Department of Corrections and 93 are listed on the Colorado Sex Offender Registration web site. (Not all SVP's who are incarcerated are posted on the web site. As an SVP is released from prison to live in the community, they will be posted to the Web site).
- A 1998 study by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment found:
- 1 in 150 women and 1 in 830 men in Colorado had experienced a completed or attempted sexual assault in the past 12 months;
- Approximately 16% of these assaults were reported to police;
- 1 in 4 women and 1 in 17 men in Colorado had experienced a completed or attempted sexual assault in their lifetime (Colorado Department of Health, 1998).