How one bad decision invalidated my good traits

I served in the Army and deployed to Iraq in 2005-2006, served honorably until 2011. After I got out I started a career in law enforcement. As long as I had been able to, I valued serving my community and my country. It was what made me, “me”. I always priced myself on integrity and helping others. I entered a marriage in 2009 to a woman who progressively became more and more emotionally abusive, cheating on me, telling me I would never be anything special, my hobbies and interests were stupid and I was being selfish for wanting my career. One afternoon she informed me that she was done after 13 years and leaving to be with someone I’d served with. I worked in a jail at the time and I went on shift that same evening. Already in a bad place in my head from a TBI and PTSD from service, I was overwhelmed by the thought of losing my wife and two kids, whom I’d raised since they were toddlers. Additionally, I lost what little self confidence I had left. When I went to work that evening, by myself, I ended up having a sexual relationship with a female inmate, consensual and an adult. Per legislation, inmates cannot legally give consent. I was convicted of second degree rape, as per statute, and placed on a lifetime registration requirement, tossing me into the same category as violent offenders and offenders against children. As you can imagine, that tore me apart. I’d lost everything. My home, my family, any respect I had for myself, I couldn’t even be proud of my time in service. After 5 years of probation (originally on a 7 year sentence, which was modified), I moved to my home state where I had more support. This state reclassified me to tier one (sexual) per their state statutes which read “sexual contact with inmate”. I’m now with an amazing woman who is incredibly supportive. Even still, I have a desire to serve my community. Luckily for me, the state allows me to serve as a process server and I started my own business. But even though I’m on a path of “redemption” I still fear and have had incidents where I’ve been confronted about my status. I’ve been denied other jobs and even contracts with my business. I’ve been denied housing, and other assistance. I often worry that someone will see my status, ask no questions and attempt to cause problems with my family, my job and I also worry that my current state’s legislation will change and make it impossible for me to do what I’m doing now. I have been harassed, called on out of spite when I was doing nothing wrong, had phone calls made to my P.O. (while I was still supervised) stating I was in violation when I wasn’t, essentially grounding me until an investigation was completed. I was an over the road truck driver at that time and it costed me a week of income. I’m still struggling with the stigma and fallout and I constantly have doubts about my self worth. When I think I’m making progress, a new law, or new news story comes out about a registered offender, sparking more public fear and disgust. I worry that I’ll never be able to fully rebuild my life, nor ever be free of this lifetime prison that is public shaming. I believe that the registry is due for a full reform, not public, and only for those who are actually a danger to others. Not Romeo and Juliet, not guy peeing in the bushes, not two adults sending nudes, etc. While I understand that my particular offense was wrong (obviously) I don’t feel like consensual sex between adults should be called rape. At all. Because it’s not. Furthermore, I believe tier one, first (and only, I can assure you in my case) offenses should not be registerable. Thank you for taking the time to read.

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