Scarlet letter

Wife of sex offender says punishment for husband is “never-ending”

(CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images)

A woman identified as Gretchen, the wife of a sex offender, in a story by The Marshal Project, is sharing her and her husband’s experience to protest and raise awareness about a new law that requires the State Department to identify registered sex offenders with a special mark on passports. Critics of the law, signed into effect by President Obama earlier this month, call the mark a scarlet letter, but supporters say it will help prevent sex trafficking by restricting the movements of abusers of underage children.

Gretchen says her husband, David, was charged with sexual assault about six months before she met him. Police found him and a young woman both drunk and half-dressed on the side of the road. Gretchen says that David and the young woman had been consensually intimate, but that police misread the situation after the woman opened the door to throw up and instead fell and passed out, and David fled the scene. According to the case prosecutors successfully made, the woman had been passed out for the duration of the encounter with David.

Fourteen years after the incident, after David served prison and parole time, Gretchen says the stigma and legal complications of David being a convicted sex offender severely harms the quality of their lives, and has even impacted their decision to not have children. Their solace was travel, but because of the new law they now face increased interrogation and they worry about harassment from customs officials every time they leave and enter the country, she says. They’ve considered leaving the country for good, Gretchen says, but for now they’re staying, clinging to hope that one day the law will be changed.

Read the full story at The Marshall Project.

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