Recently, a CBS affiliate interviewed a woman living her worst nightmare. After being sexually abused as a child, her abuser moved right next door to her after he was released from prison years later.
Many people asked how is this possible? Well, in 45 states, including North Carolina, it’s not totally illegal.
Yes, there’s a law that prohibits sex offenders from living near schools, playgrounds, etc. But, 2 Wants to Know checked North Carolina’s Sex Offender and Public Protection Registration Programs and there’s nothing that states a convicted sex offender cannot move next-door or close to their victim.
The main residency restriction states, "Any offender required to register under Article 27A is prohibited from knowingly residing within 1,000 feet of the property on which any public or nonpublic school or child care center is located."
The Guilford County Sheriff’s office said it has yet to be a problem for them, but a lawyer for the department admitted they never gave thought to the idea of an abuser being a neighbor to their victim. And other lawmakers said they've not heard of it being an issue in North Carolina.
So, what can a victim do to keep a possibility from becoming a reality.
In 2015, NC lawmakers passed a new class of protective order under General Statute 50D. It’s a lifetime restraining order against sex offenders by their victim.
According to the Guilford County Assistant Sheriff’s Attorney, a Court could craft an order prohibiting a sex offender from living next door to a victim. But, it’s up to the victim to go to court and file a protective order because it’s not an automatic requirement of sex offender registration.
So, it’s a possibility and it’s up to the victim to protect themselves. And it you read the terms of the statute, there’s multiple things that must happen before the court could even issue this type of restraining order.
We wanted to know, how can we change the law, close the loophole and take the burden off the victim? We reached out to 11 Triad Representatives and Senators, as well as Congressman Mark Walker and Congresswoman Virginia Foxx, explaining the loophole and asking if they believed it should be changed. We also wanted to know if anyone was willing to file legislation to close the loophole.
In an email to 2 Want’s to Know, Senator Joyce Krawiec wrote,
“I had no idea such a loophole existed. This is unimaginable that this could happen. I will be filing legislation to deal with their when we return to session. I understand that these cases might be rare, but it should never happen. A victim of sexual assault should never be subjected to their abuser as a neighbor.”
A representative for Congressman Mark Walker emailed,
“We did see the CBS reporting, though our office was not previously aware of any loopholes in state law. We have never heard of a case like this. This is tragic, unfortunate, and preventable. Our office is having discussions with officials and looking into ways to close these loopholes at the federal level, but based on current law, this seems to be handled entirely at the state level. We will keep you updated if we find an avenue where we would be able to draft legislation to help.”
In an email to 2 Want’s to Know, Representative Virginia Foxx wrote,
"I am deeply disturbed to learn of this egregious loophole that may expose victims to continued interactions with convicted abusers. While this is an issue of state law, I will follow it closely and work with law enforcement officials and others to ensure there are no loopholes in federal laws or policies which place North Carolinian victims at risk."
Representative Jon Hardister told 2 Wants to Know in an email, "This does look like a loophole in the law that needs to be closed. I would be happy to discuss this with other legislators and consider taking legislative action."
Representative Cecil Brockman responded via email, “In my time as a legislator I have not run into an instance of this loophole in our sex offender registration laws. However, I would be open to working on legislation with anyone who is interested in making sure we properly protect this state’s victims of sexual crimes.”
This is an ongoing story and we will update as lawmakers respond to our request.
How to contact your representative -> http://ncga.state.nc.us/representation/WhoRepresentsMe.aspx