Ashamed and alone: Comparing offender and family member experiences with the sex offender registry

Originally intended to decrease sexual victimization by increasing community awareness of convicted sex offenders, sex offender registration and notification (SORN) laws have been shown to produce numerous unintended consequences for both registrants and their family members. In many cases, these unintended consequences may actually increase sexual reoffending risk by reducing offenders’ informal social control and inhibiting successful post-conviction reintegration. The current study examines two such consequences, shame and social isolation, using a sample of 109 registered sex offenders and 116 sex offender family members (N = 225). Although prior research has documented the existence of shame and social isolation within both populations, to date there have been no systematic attempts to examine variation between groups. We found that the degree of social isolation and shame does significantly differ between registered sex offenders and their family members, with registered sex offenders reporting higher levels of both social isolation and shame compared to family members at the bivariate level. Using OLS regression analysis, we determined that attitudinal variables (disrespect and unfair sanctions) were the most salient predictors of participants’ perceived intensity of social isolation and shame.

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