The scarlet letter 

An offender and his victim struggle together with the realities of registration.

click to enlarge VICTIM?: Carrie Moore and her husband, "Adam," at home.
  • VICTIM?: Carrie Moore and her husband, "Adam," at home.

Carrie Moore and her husband, "Adam," (they asked that we conceal his name to protect his employment) understand all too well about the burdens placed on a sex offender and his family. Married for almost 10 years — he and his wife have two children now, and live a comfortable, middle-class life in a semi-rural home in Central Arkansas — Adam is classified as a Level 3 sex offender. When Carrie was 14 and he was 21, they started a relationship through a mutual friend that eventually led to Carrie getting pregnant. Carrie was well developed for her age and both insist that neither knew how old the other was until the relationship was several months along. Adam said he tried to break it off when he found out how young Carrie was, but she kept calling, and they decided to continue. When Carrie became pregnant and was forced to tell her parents about the relationship, Moore's mother went to the prosecuting attorney, and Adam was arrested for statutory rape, a charge later reduced to sexual misconduct.

"We've lived together since then," Moore said. "We've been together ever since I was 14. We've had two children. Technically, he's not allowed to be within 2,000 feet of the victim, but I'm the victim. He lives with me, so we're breaking the law every day."

Adam said he doesn't know exactly why he was assessed at a Level 3 status by SOSRA (at the suggestion of the reporter, Carrie recently requested a copy of her husband's assessment report from SOSRA, but hasn't received it as of this writing), but Adam notes that he was "young, and had a little bit of an attitude" during his assessment, which he thinks might have had something to do with the level he was assigned.

Carrie Moore said she isn't trying to say that the relationship between her and Adam was right at the time it began, pointing out that if her 13-year-old daughter tried to date a man in his 20s, she'd have problems with it. But she said she wouldn't change the past if she could, even knowing how it all turned out. Adam worked two jobs to support her and their child while she finished high school and then college, where Carrie earned a B.A. degree, allowing her to get what she said is a well-paying job.

Carrie said having her husband on the sex offender registry — a fact they didn't tell their kids until this year — has been hard. They live under a dark cloud. Periodically, local law enforcement officers come to the house, requesting to search the premises and examine the family computer. Recently, their daughter came home in tears after a classmate who'd seen the online Sex Offender Registry listing about Adam told the girl that her father was a rapist and that she should be taken away from her parents by the state. Two years ago, Carrie and Adam said, Adam was suddenly let go from what he'd thought was a stable job with a local company after someone at work saw his page on the registry.

"They said they didn't want him working there anymore," she said. "They sent a copy of the Sex Offender Registry print-out with his final paycheck."

Because of his sex offender status, Adam can't attend any events at his children's school without prior approval from the local police, and only then with a law enforcement monitor sitting within arm's reach at all times. At Christmas last year, Adam was arrested and threatened with prison for attending his daughter's holiday play at school after a local police officer saw him there (both Carrie and Adam insist they didn't know until then that he couldn't attend events at the school that were open to the public).

The Moores have applied for a pardon from the governor's office three times, and have been denied every time. They'd filed yet another request when we spoke at their home in late 2011. Sentenced to be on the registry for a mandatory 15 years, the soonest Adam can even begin petitioning the court to be removed will be 2015.

As parents, Adam and Carrie said they see the need for strong laws concerning sex offenders, and understand that a case like theirs — with the offender and victim getting married and living together long-term — is rare. Still, they said they believe there should be some kind of review process to let certain offenders off the registry before the 15 years is up, if they can show they're not a threat to the community. "Do I think that 14-year-olds should be able to have sex with 21-year-olds and then the 21-year-olds not be held accountable for it?" Carrie asked. "That's not what I'm saying. What I'm saying is that I think that after a certain time period, if you've established that you have a relationship and it wasn't just a one-night stand or a fling, at some point there's a review board that can look at that."

Adam said he often feels guilty about what being on the sex offender registry has meant to his children. "I know you have to draw the line between sympathy and right and wrong," he said. "I know you have to have [laws governing sex offenders] in place. But I can't go to their school, I can't go to their plays. I can't go to anything that has to do with the school. I guess I am allowed to go, but I have to call and ask if they have somebody who can babysit me ... I've been married for almost 10 years. I'm not interested in children in any kind of bad way. I'm interested in if my children are succeeding. It's kind of hard for a kid to think you're on their team if you can't be there."

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