Dear Rep. Joel Kleefisch - take a step back and ponder #WhenIBecameFree

Dear Representative Joel Kleefisch,


I am assuming you do not know what you propose in your 2015 Assembly Bill 290. I say this as that is the only conclusion that I, a survivor of sexual assault, can reach when reading the following in the bill's analysis:

"Under the bill, DOC must make every reasonable effort to authorize a sex offender to reside within the city, town, or village in which he or she resided on the date of the sex offense. If the person is unable to reside in the city, town, or village in which he or she resided on the date of the sex offense, DOC may authorize the person to reside in the county in which the person resided at the time of the sex offense or in which the person was convicted of the sex offense."

I take it that you have not taken into consideration that many victims still reside in the city, town, or village of where the sexual assault occurred. I believe that because no where in your bill do you mention that the victim should have any legal rights in the offender reentry process.

You do realize that victims of sexual assault most often suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and over recent years services to those in need of counseling and other resources to rebuild a life, have been gutted to the point that many private charitable organizations in rural counties in Wisconsin are just about running in the red. This often leaves survivors/victims out in the cold.

How do I know this? Well, not only am I a survivor of sexual assault but also in October of 2009 I started an organization in Juneau County called Lend a Hand which now operates under Circle of Hope.We help the low to no income (when funds are available) with attaining resources and placing them in crisis shelter (an area motel) should they become homeless.  However, we do insist that any we help we give in return the client be willing to follow through with doing what they need to for building a foundation to live independently.

Over the years I have worked 1:1 with many victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, survivors of child sexual assault, and even the offenders when they were released and had no where to go, and/or to help Probation and Parole in finding services. I've had to scramble to find shelter for offenders when no one would take them, or wanted them. I've also had to deal with the comments from a community outraged when they found out one particular violent sexual offender was brought to our community from out of state and by a local church, then basically dumped at our doorstep for shelter - in the middle of winter.

I had to sit across from that man and work with him on a plan for shelter. A task that was not easy as everywhere I reached out to, including DOC, Sandridge Treatment, the Sheriff's Office and others had nothing they could offer. This was a man whose crime reminded me of a Ted Bundy but he had served his 25 plus years in another state and was off paper. I was fortunate to convince him to register in our state as a sex offender so that at the very least law enforcement could keep tabs on him - eventually the only assistance we could find for him came from an organization based in Madison. It was either that or let him wander our streets in the cold - not a good mix for the safety of our residents.

The organization began just 2 years after I suffered a devastating assault in 2007 at the hands of my now ex husband. I was emotionally, physically, and sexually assaulted by him for over an hour and in front of our 2 sons. Being that I am a reporter and was working on an article right before the attack occurred I was able to hit record on my laptop and captured the entire hour long plus assault in an audio file. Evidence that could not be denied. He was sentenced to 8 yrs initial confinement and 6 yrs of extended supervision.

As you can obviously tell I view the issue of sexual offender reentry from many perspectives - I know there's an attitude in many communities of "not in my backyard," I know offenders have many hurdles to jump in an attempt to reintegrate back into society to becoming productive citizens, and I also know victims of sexual assault, be it child sexual assault (of which I am) or otherwise, live a life time needing support services that do not exist. As a reporter I also see the court side of the issue and know that there is a need for tougher sentencing laws and higher cash bonds.  Most importantly as a survivor I know victims have NO LEGAL RIGHTS in the offender reentry process.

Example of victims having no legal rights during offender reentry can be found in my own recent history. This summer my ex husband was released on extended supervision. Luckily I am in the know and did reach out last year to DOC to inquire where he would be placed. That is when I was told that if he could not secure housing with family or friends meeting the criteria that he would most likely return to Juneau County and live in Probation's Temp. Living Placement (TLP). Juneau County has one such TLP - in my town, 6 blks from where I live.

Being that I am a single mother living on a low income I am unable to just up and move. I also do not feel I need to uproot my children, especially my youngest son who is now a senior at a unique charter school in Mauston.  Instead I prepared myself for a very long drawn out 'battle' with the system. One where I had to include Representative Ed Brooks. You can view that story on my personal blog here: When He Gets Out, The Timeline.

Since having some success as the result of far too many sleepless nights filled with PTSD nightmares, I have continued working with Rep. Brooks office in hopes of drafting legislation which would secure victim rights during offender reentry. In that time I have met another survivor, Kelli. She is a survivor of child sexual assault/incest. Seventeen long years that woman endured HELL, including giving birth to three sons as a direct result of her father raping her. Her calls to DOC wanting to know where her offender was to be released on extended supervision went unanswered - unanswered, that is until we told her story online in my blog and in a video. Her story including an update can been seen here: Kelli's Story. Imagine being in her shoes just for a moment, please view her story and ponder her situation and then realize she only received confirmation on where her father, the rapist, was being placed 12 days before it was to happen.

Rep. Kleefisch I URGE you to take a step back before rushing this bill through and consider the survivors, the people the law calls victims, and how your bill quashes anything they may have to say about their own safety during offender reentry. Also know we will not go away until our voices are heard and are respected

Sincerely,
Eva Marie Woywod
Learning2bfree@aol.com
www.whenibecamefree.com 

For anyone else wishing to write to Rep. Joel Kleefisch on this devastating proposed bill you can contact him at Rep.Kleefisch@legis.wisconsin.gov

You can call his office at:
(888) 534-0038

 If you do email him please carbon copy this blog at  chewedupspatout@gmail.com





Comments