Gaps in the System
The following post was written by a Marsy's Law for Iowa supporter. Due to her circumstances and situation, she chooses to remain anonymous, but still wanted to share her story to help illustrate the dangerous gaps in Iowa's system. Iowa victims have powerful testimonies and we are humbled by their bravery and allowing us to be a small part in sharing their stories.
I am writing today to advocate for Marsy’s Law for Iowa, because I know firsthand that even though we think we have systems that are working, there are serious gaps that affect people’s lives and safety, and only a constitutional amendment can close them. I am writing anonymously for my safety, as my offender’s family still lives in my Iowa community.
When I was married, my husband used to violently abuse me. I tried to keep all that I could from my daughter and our son, but his violence permeated our home and kept us all in fear. Eventually, I was able to leave him, for the good of my family and I have never regretted that decision. I knew it was what I had to do to keep my children safe. However, after leaving him, I was devastated to learn that my ex-husband also sexually abused my daughter when she was only 10 years old. Because my daughter was so afraid of him, she was too worried to disclose this to me; I only found out because he told his therapist approximately two months after we were separated.
Luckily, he was sent to prison and I was given a lifetime "special sentence", which I also added a no-contact order, to protect my children and me from him for the rest of our lives. He is also a lifetime sex offender and cannot be around children. Last fall, he was released from prison to a halfway home, then released from that home to the public, which included electronic monitoring via an ankle bracelet. Because I am a proactive person, I reached out to his parole officer to be an active participant in my own safety. He had been trying to contact my friends via social media, which I understood as an attempt to find out where I was, and I informed his parole officer so that the PO knew what to be aware of. I also know his offender number, am a registered victim with the State of Iowa, and get Iowa VINE updates about his whereabouts – I work hard to keep myself safe, and I would’ve expected the state to work hard, too.
However, despite taking advantage of all the ways that the law allows me to stay informed of his location, I was not informed when he absconded from custody of parole. He absconded on Dec. 21, and I was not informed until Jan. 8. For three weeks, my life and the lives of my children were in danger, and no one informed me. Once I did learn and was able to safety plan, he was still not found until Jan. 31, and I had to proactively reach out to his parole officer in order to understand where he was. I also had to proactively contact the Sex Offender Registry in order for them to update his status as "whereabouts unknown", so that others would understand there was a sexual offender who had absconded. With these actions, I also learned the person who is in charge of updating these offenders' whereabouts, only does so once a month. That is more than unacceptable. This information is urgent to victims' knowledge and should be updated as soon as the authorities are aware.
This should not happen. Even though I did everything allowable by law in order to stay safe and informed, I still spent three weeks uninformed about the location of my offender. Thankfully, my family is safe and he is back in custody, but anyone who thinks that the law as it stands is strong enough, and that there aren’t gaps, is just wrong.
We must have a constitutional amendment in order to keep victims safe and aware. My safety was clearly not as important as it should have been, and the law is not enough to protect victims. A constitutional amendment will help protect victims and elevate their rights to an equal level as offenders. Nothing can be more important than keeping victims and their families safe. We must pass Marsy’s Law for Iowa.