The past few months have proven to be quite a time of transition for the sex offender reformist cause. California RSOL broke away from the National RSOL and repackaged itself as the "Alliance for Constitutional Sex Offense Laws" (ACSOL). Even Reform Sex Offender Laws repackaged itself as NARSOL, or "National Association for Rational Sex Offense Laws." Now, ACSOL did state that they were "working cooperatively" with NARSOL but we all know that theory and practice are two different things. They're even having their respective annual conferences just a couple weeks apart from each other. (Apparently, WAR is having their open conference now, too.)
This isn't anything new. In fact, there was a major rift in late 2007 that helped mold our movement into the state it became now. Back then, SOHopeful International was the top dog. SOSEN was only a Yahoo Group, and RSOL was little more than an online petition. However, the top brass at SOHopeful were ultra-conservative and became too afraid to do anything to damage their fragile reputations. There were a number of people who felt that SOHopedul wasn't doing enough.
In 2007, members of this movement decided that we needed to be more public. There was a hommeless camp in Miami under some place called the Julia Tuttle Causeway. We had heard the Department of Corrections had placed some people there to live. Thus, the first public protest was devised. However, the police blocked the demonstration from happening, so it was moved to the JTC campsite. Not deterred, the masterminds behind the protest formed a new protest against a new law in Oho called SB 10, which would make Ohio the first state to adopt a new federal mandate known as the "Adam Walsh Act." The protest/rally would take place in December of 2007.
The conservative SOHopeful condemned and distanced itself from this rally, but many members of the group bucked the SOHopeful brass and attended the event. The smaller groups who wanted to establish themselves in our movement stepped up to the plate, including RSOL and SOSEN. We braved the cold and a small but hostile crowd that included Bikers Against Child Abuse, Judy Cornett, and an online vigilante group affiliated with Perverted-Justice. About 50 of us attended this rally, some coming from as far away as the west coast. SOSEN and RSOL benefited greatly from this event, as disgruntled folks left SOHopeful to join two groups who wanted to do more. SOHopeful faded away into oblivion.
Ten years later, we are seeing somewhat of a similar situation unfold. There are quite a few people who believe, as I do, that our cause had stagnated over the years due to the conservatism of our movement. It reared its ugly head when I organized the Rally in Tally two years ago. The same arguments and the same conservative hogwash was spewed, and I received no support from RSOL or their affiliates. To their credit, WAR helped some but their leader was too busy trying to appease both sides of the issue and our target and was ineffective on all fronts. Because some of those involved didn't want their organizations outed should things go awry, we created a new label, the Anti-Registry Movement (ARM).
A funny thing happened along the way to Tallahassee. The California RSOL group, who didn't support our efforts, decided to hold a protest of their own in Carson City. Lets be honest here-- it was little more than an attempt to steal the momentum the Rally in Tally was building-- but in doing so, CaRSOL did something I wanted our movement to be doing all along, namely, public demonstrations. Too bad for them that they chose a date and time that worked against their desire to be seen and heard and not drowned out by a far bigger event. But I give them an A or effort. (Of course, they WERE wrong in proclaiming that they were the first registrant protest in history, as there were three-- Miami, Columbus OH, and Coalinga CA-- before them.) The competition didn't hurt either rally, however. They may not have supported my rally, but the competition proved ahead of the Rally in Tally that there was no fear of being arrested.
So now we have what many feel as a major rift in this movement with two competing groups, NARSOL and ACSOL (I guess three if you count WAR), and yes, there are drawbacks to the rift. Resources are few among registrants and their loved ones, and thus smaller organizations like Once Fallen get less needed support and thus are less able to complete major projects due to lack of funding. At times, those in need of assistance struggle to find resources because our competing movements don't freely share information, forcing me to send people on wild goose chases at times when doing referrals. It has even hindered projects that are beneficial to our cause, like the two surveys I conducted last year. We have had, and STILL have, a PISS POOR communication network, despite what the folks at the top of these organization claim. To top it off, most of the biggest groups are still hamstrung by ultra-conservatives. These are all major problems that hamper the movement as a whole at times.
At times, I like to compare our movement to the path of the Cincinnati Bengals football team. For 15 years, the Bengals stunk. No playoffs, not even a winning season. Then they got a new coach and they grew to mediocrity, but compared to 4-12, 8-8 looked great. They got to 8-8 three years in a row, then they broke through with an 11-5 season and reached the playoffs for the first time in forever it seemed. Now, we're no longer content with 8-8 mediocrity. Now the Bengals had six good seasons in a row and made the playoffs 6 years straight, but lost in the first round. Well, now we're no longer content with being good enough for the playoffs. We want MORE. The common ground between the Bengals and our movement is that the same management has been around for years for the most part and that while we've improved our regular season records, we still haven't truly gotten over that hump of mediocrity.
Out movement is also thirsty for more than what has been offered over the years. I can attest to that fact because over the past two years, support for Once Fallen has grown by leaps and bounds.
There are benefits to having competition , and I feel that in some respects, these benefits outweigh the drawbacks. Monopolies in real life are never good because they stymie product quality; if you are the only game in town, there is little pressure to better yourself or your products. That is something that I think crept in over the years to this movement. I'm a big wrestling fan, and many wrestling fans will argue that pro wrestling was at the pinnacle during the "Monday Night Wars" of the 1990s. But once the WWE (formerly WWF) won and bought out the competition, the product slowly grown stale. Behind-the-scenes meetings don't generate as much excitement as a hands-on event. We are seeing a renewed interest in the value of demonstrations in recent months with that reality TV host turned president and the backlash from his nonsensical rantings. The support I've received from going after the victim industry over the past two years has shown people support my efforts.
A little competition will help our cause so long as the existing groups don't try hamstringing each other. maybe it will inspire some people to do a little bit more toward their own salvation.