The Scariest Halloween Goblin: Sex Offenders

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Every Halloween, in virtually every community, some obsessed individuals play out their heroic rescue fantasies by scaring everyone else about the dangers our precious kids face from strangers waiting to molest them.

Websites, local newspapers, TV morning shows, and activist non-profits dutifully repeat the same story: that people on Sex Offender Registries right in your own town are treacherous.

Most states have now passed laws instructing those on a Registry what they must do this week. A typical example is Indiana, which requires that exterior house lights must be off; those inside may not offer candy to minors; and they may not display any holiday decorations.

Arkansas has the same regulations—covering four weeks, from mid-October through mid-November.

California requires those on the Registry to stay inside their own home, and refuse to answer the door for anyone except law enforcement—who are allowed to “check on” such people at will on Halloween.

Missouri Registrants are required to post a sign on the door stating no candy or treats are available at this home.

In Louisiana, Registrants are prohibited from using a hood, mask, or other disguise on Halloween, as well as on other holidays such as Mardi Gras, Easter, and Christmas.

Wisconsin encourages parents to use the online Sex Offender Registry to map out a trick-or-treat route that circumvents streets where Registrants live.

Until challenged in federal court, one Georgia county sheriff placed signs in the yards of all Registered Sex Offenders with a “community safety message.” Registrants were told they could not remove the signs.

In some communities, convicted offenders are being “invited” to mandatory meetings at community shelters for the evening.

Needless to say, posting a legally required sign on your door saying “I’m not allowed to hand out candy or interact with minors” is an invitation for violence against everyone living in that house.


And none of this makes any child safer.

According to a study in Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, children are no more prone to threats by sexual predators on Halloween than on any other day of the year. Law enforcement statistics agree that the rate of sexual crimes against children doesn’t increase on Halloween.

Almost one million Americans are now on a Sex Offender Registry. Hundreds of thousands of them were NOT convicted of crimes against minors, or of any violent crime. This includes people convicted of public urination, offenses related to sex work, and consensual sex between teenagers. According to Human Rights Watch, people have spent decades on the Registry for crimes they committed as young as 10 years old.

In reality, strangers carry out only 7% of sexual crimes against children, and “stranger danger” has been thoroughly discredited as a massive problem. But despite child sexual abuse declining by 60% between 1992 and 2010, states continue to legislate as if lenient sex offender laws are a national emergency. 

And so vigilante—sorry, neighborhood safety—groups are publishing the addresses of local Registered Sex Offenders, and warning that parents shouldn’t let kids anywhere near such a house.


The fear-mongering is designed to persuade parents that their kids live in a neighborhood full of dangerous predators (which will, of course, lead to increased budgets for anti-predator civic groups like NCMEC). And yet, the facts say otherwise:

* Over 90% of sex offenses are committed by a child’s relatives or acquaintances, not strangers.
* Registered Sex Offenders are less likely to re-offend sexually than murderers, drunk drivers, arsonists, or violent burglars are to re-commit their crimes.
* There is NO DATA showing that more sexual offenses are committed on Halloween than on any other autumn evening.

So wherefore the fear, the anger, the defensiveness, the demand for increased protection from a danger that doesn’t exist?

The Registered Sex Offender industry is worth billions of dollars. It depends on manipulating the public into thinking there are more dangerous people than there are; that they are all highly prone to re-offend; and that keeping track of them via a Registry and restricted movement keeps us all safer.

But data from across the country is clear: these Registries do not make us safer. They just burn up a lot of money that could be used to treat offenders and identify the untreatable ones. They do, of course, make the general population more fearful. If you’re part of the sexual danger industry, that fear is a good thing.

So what’s actually the most dangerous part of trick-or-treating? Cars. Pedestrians under 15 are way more likely to get struck and killed on Halloween than on any other day of the year. Of course, we can’t eliminate cars; it’s much easier to target a group of people with no rights and no support, and project our anxiety onto them.

If only protecting our kids were that easy.

And still, the most dangerous thing in the average kid’s life is not being molested—it’s texting while riding a bike.

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