Who do you tell, what do you say and when do you say it?
That’s just one of the many dilemmas facing single registrants trying to reintegrate back into the dating world.
Getting out there an socializing is risky business and it’s filled with many possible pitfalls.
But this is what you are supposed to do isn’t it? Isn’t this what those prison lectures on “reintegration” were all about. How you’re supposed to get out there and resume your life, build a support network of friends and acquaintances, build relationships.
What those reintegration lectures failed to address was the little issue of “socializing when you are wearing a scarlet letter.” How is that supposed to work?
In today’s techno-era, meeting people is most often accomplished by joining a dating website and swiping left or right. But that doesn’t work for registrants who may not be allowed access to smartphones. And as for dating websites, a lot of those websites specifically exclude “sex-offenders” from joining.
Nope, most registrants can’t get back into the dating scene this way.
So, how about meeting someone at work? A lot of people start relationships with someone they meet at work. Sure, it may get awkward if you start dating and then brake up, but people do it, it happens all the time. Lives go on, people keep working, they keep their jobs, usually not a big deal.
But for a registrant, hooking up with someone at your job is dicey.
For many registrants, their “status” is a pretty closely guarded secret at their job. Their offense information may have been shared with their employer when they were hired, but other than that, no one else usually knows.
So, if you do meet someone at work, how many dates do you go on “before” you bring up your registrant status? Is it a first date issue? A third date? How much time do you give yourself and the other person to know and trust each other before you before you drop “Oh, by the way, I’m on the registry” in their lap?
Revealing your status to someone you are dating, especially someone you work with, is a roll of the dice.
Best case scenerio, they ask questions about your offense, the registry, what it all means and you provide answers and they’re OK with it. They may not be thrilled with the disclosure but they’re OK, willing to give you a chance and dating continues. And, they are willing to keep your status confidential.
Worse case scenerio, they drop you like a hot potato and run screaming to tell all their friends at work about your status.
No matter what you do you need to be prepared that sometimes it just may not end well. It’s a risk. And only you can decide whether to take that risk.
Let’s face it, there is no handbook for registrants dating. As a registrant there are a lot of places that normal people go on dates that you just can’t go like public parks, baseball games at public parks, certain public arenas, areas where kids congregate (although I will never understand that one since kids are everywhere) etc. Whoever you date is going to have to understand that there are limitations as to where you can go, what you can do. And if you start dating, keep in mind that the other person probably has family and friends so somewhere down the road there may be all sorts of explaining to do. Family, friends, that’s a whole different issue you’ll have to deal with.
But the registry folks, P.O.’s, Sex Offender Group Counselors, none of them have the answers regarding how you are supposed to navigate this dating quagmire. None of them will be able to tell you who, when, where, what or how to broach the subject of being on the registry with someone you are dating. (It makes me mad that they institute these rules without thinking of the whole domino effect that just telling just one person may have).
None of those folks are in your shoes, they’ve never had to deal with this and despite their best intentions, none of them can guarantee how things will work out if you divulge your status. They don’t risk losing friends or a job. The only advice they share is to say that at some point you have to reveal you are on the registry. And, oh, by the way, if you are on parole, you’ll need to inform the person you’re dating that their personal info, name, address, phone number etc, will need to be submitted to your P.O. (That alone has the potential to put a damper on dating, what date wants to be included in all that drama?)
And then, if you do reveal your status, despite assurances that they won’t tell anyone, what happens if others you work with find out? The potential for problems is enormous. You could be harassed, shunned or worse. Your “status” could become such a distraction at your job that it could cost you your job.
Is dating someone you work with worth that?
Suddenly finding love at work isn’t sounding like such a good idea either.
So what are the options for registrants?
Meeting people through family and friends is always a possibility. You never know who knows someone that they think would “be perfect for you”. Of course your idea of who’s perfect for you and your great-aunt Tilly’s idea of someone who’s perfect for you might be worlds apart. But hey, you never know.
Church groups, clubs, meeting someone in the produce isle at the grocery store, there’s a million possibilities out there. Not easy, but not impossible either.
Dating is a challenge for registrants.
It shouldn’t have to be this hard. Parole rules and registry regulations shouldn’t make a natural human function so damn difficult for one specific group of people. I dare say that it’s almost as if the rule makers truly believe that registrants dating will lead to further offenses so they purposely make things so burdensome and prohibitative that registrants won’t even attempt to date. They stay home, don’t attempt to socialize and miss out on living their lives. This isn’t right and it isn’t fair.
When do you say something? What do you say? How do you know if you can trust someone? There’s no easy answers.
Dating for registrants is like navigating a mind field. If you choose to take a chance you need to proceed carefully and cautiously knowing full well that things could blow up in your face at any moment or if you’re lucky, you just might make it through unscathed.
Each person must decide for themselves what’s right for them. Whether taking a chance is worth it. The risk for each of us is different.
For all who are out there trying to date, to regain their footing and build relationships, let’s hope you come through “unscathed”.