Child PornographyIn The Newsregistry

One More Suicide Is One Too Many

Fear of life on the registry may be responsible for another life cut short.

On Tuesday, 1/30/2018 the news reported that former “Glee” TV show” actor, Mark Salling died of an apparent suicide.

Mark had been found guilty of possession of child pornography in October 2017. After a plea deal in December, he was due to be sentenced on March 7, 2018. Mark was looking at a 4 to 7 year prison sentence and then a life on the registry.

He was just 35 yrs old.

A young man is dead.

Mark could have been any one of our sons, brothers, nephews, husbands or fathers.

The amount of images on his computer, the bargain struck during plea deal, the thousands of dollars paid in restitution, none of that matters now.

A young man is dead.

He leaves behind a grieving family.

Some would say he died by his own hands, it is after all a suicide.

But all of us living in this “registry hell”, we all know better.

We know that the fear of a life on the registry is a powerful demon. Fear of a future of physical banishment and moral leprosy from society. Fear of being seen for the rest of your life as some kind of sex fiend, some kind of monster or pervert, something you are not and never have been.

Fear of the registry can wrap itself around you like a boa constrictor and squeeze the life out of you.

We all know the devastation this young man who was used to being in the spotlight for a very different reason must have felt. We all know that the “waiting time” in between being charged with an offense and waiting for sentencing gives ample time for fearful thoughts to run amok and sometimes those fearful thoughts back you into a corner. You see no way out.

This young man’s “fall from grace” did not end with a soft landing.

A young man is dead.

Salling would have had to register as a sex offender and enter a treatment program. He would be denied verbal or electronic contact with anyone under the age of 18 according to the news.  He would have had to maintain a 100 ft. buffer from schools, parks, public swimming pools, youth centers, playgrounds and arcades. And, we, know those are only some of the highlights of “registry hell”.

Life as he had known it as a Hollywood star would be “forever” changed.

A young man is dead.

Mark attempted suicide last August according to news reports, just before agreeing to a plea deal. By then of course, it may have already been too late, fear had already taken hold.

Fear of what prison holds for sex offenders when an offense against children is involved.

Fear of alienation “if” and “when” you make it out of prison, alienation from any semblance of a “normal” life. Alienation from friends, family, everything you’ve known in your life.

We don’t know all the fears that must have gone through this young man’s mind, but we all have a pretty good idea. We’ve all been there.

A young man is dead.

He never made it to prison.

A young man is dead.

Is it safe to say that the registry and the fears associated with being labeled a registrant are partly to blame for this young man’s death?

When is one more suicide, one too many?

A young man is dead.





4 thoughts on “One More Suicide Is One Too Many

  • Abby Twyman

    Thank you, Kat, for writing this important article sharing a different perspective on this issue than that presented in the media which has only served to further inflame the issue. I wanted to share the following in case my responses will help someone else effectively talk to others in the community about this topic which is ripe with emotions for a lot of people, thus commonly avoided.

    I shared an article about this on my FB the other day with the following note: “Another tragedy we can firmly place at the feet of the “American” culture of hatred and abuse which causes us to hide in shame which then leads to significant internal pain which then leads to people hurting themselves in an attempt to make the pain go away… stories like this are why I am doing the work I’m doing. There are likely millions of stories like this… I’m trying to curate information for my research… if you know of anymore stories like this (including ones that were NOT in the media) please DM me.”

    Only 3 people commented, and they were predictably non-sympathetic noting that his behaviors were inexcusable and thus the harshest punishment possible was deemed appropriate. I posted the following response publicly: “I’m assuming there’s a lot more to the story than has been presented in the media, based on what I’ve read and know about the story and similar stories. I would simply suggest that people be careful in judging a persons character as a human based on a criminal conviction, especially when that’s the only thing you know about them. Human behavior is extremely complex and a human should not be distilled down to a label (and subsequently marked and judged, alla scarlet letter) based on their behavioral history.”

    I then sent each person the following in a private message in an attempt to further educate them on the issues: “Thank you for your comment on my post. My point was not to downplay the severity of his behavior, but to suggest that we look beyond the behavior and consider the historical events which could have led to him engaging in such behaviors in the first place. As a behavioral scientist, I’m always trying to figure out how people came to learn the reinforcing value of their behaviors in the first place given that we only engage in behaviors which our brain interprets as good or valuable. These are critical questions to ask, not to excuse behavior, but to explain and eventually figure out how we could (1) effectively treat the individual to prevent future problem behavior, and (2) identify ways to prevent others from going down the same path. In addition to facing prison time, Mark was also facing lifetime registration as a sex offender, I would also suggest that we consider (1) the efficacy of such a consequence in preventing future problem behavior, and (2) the long-term ramifications on one’s mental health of such a consequence. I appreciate hearing your thoughts on this issue because I’m working on a project directly tied to the issue of SO registration and individuals with autism. For more insight, I would suggest you listen to the following NPR report: What Happens When Autism and the Law Collides”

    • Re: Abby’s comment
      I whole heartedly agree, we never really know the “whole story”, only what the media headlines tell us and they, like us, don’t know the full story either. Media jumps on suicides that may be directly caused by a fear of lifetime on the registry, but all they say is that the person was a child sex offender. What media never “talks” about is the registry itself. Why? Because they are woefully under educated as to the myriad of offenses that can get one on the registry as well as the “forever” destruction it causes, not only to the registrant but to their family as well. Media, lawyers, courts, law enforcement, they see the registry as an offender’s name on a list, they don’t see the human beings behind that name, they don’t see the families that are affected, the difficulties in finding housing and jobs or building relationships. So much more education of the public is necessary, the media could easily help, but they don’t.
      There are so many “one-time” events that land people on the registry. Inadvertant downloading of CP, human curiosity (it’s like passing a motor vehicle accident, the officers wave you on to keep moving but everyone slows down to look”), people getting online while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, viewing things they would never normally view, juveniles sharing inappropriate photos that they think are “no big deal”, and people who get caught up in the advanced technological internet world that is more advanced than they are .
      Often these behaviors are a one-time lack of good judgement , nothing more. The courts try to make single episodes into something more, convinced that “catching the little fish will surely lead to catching the big fish” and that has simply proven to be false. Sometimes, a single episode is just that, a single episode, nothing more. No big fish.
      Prison, jail, hefty fines, restitution that leaves families destitute, life on a punitive registry that prevents people who have already served their time from being able to rejoin society as functional citizens. What is the point, the purpose? For most of those convicted of some of the more minor sex offenses, a day in jail would have sufficed, they’d never do it again. Instead we cage these people for years in situations that put their very lives in danger, then we release them into a world where we bind their hands when it comes to using today’s technology. We put them on a registry that they have to pay for and that is nothing more than a road block to rebuilding their lives and a road map for vigilantes to target them.
      It’s got to stop now.
      Educating the media, that’s the key. I’ve never heard a news report that relayed a story about someone “being on the registry”, and then proceeded to actually tell the public the real facts about the registry and what it does to people. There are two sides to every story and good journalists should report all the facts, not just the ones that make for juicy headlines.
      Glad to hear Abby is working on a project related to the issue!

  • Too Much

    My thoughts exactly while all the ignorant perfect people are celebrating his death with no regard to his family’s feelings and acting like he had actually touched a child himself and calling him a monster. What he did was wrong wrong wrong! It should be punished but death whether by his own hand, someone else’s hand, or on the registry is too much.

    • Patti

      This is heartbreaking and preventable. The words registered sex offender to most people mean a fiendish act of sex was committed upon a child. There are over 200 reasons one can be labeled. Urinating in public, dating someone 3 to 4 years younger etc
      If people were more educated and not just opinionated what a better world it would be. There’s no registry for the murderer rapist or child abuser but you want to make me feel safe knowing my neighbor got drunk and peed in the park? A real danger there. Thank God these laws weren’t over the top when I met my husband , I could have missed out on 35 plus years of a beautiful marriage. So we incarcerate so called sex offenders as punishment then release them to punish them? How unconstitutional can it get?


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