Do you know your neighbor?


DECATUR, Ill. (WAND) -There are roughly 50-75 registered sex offender just in the city of Decatur, but do any of them live near you? 

"A child sex offender has to be outside of 500 feet from any school , park and any complex or business that tends to cater to kids under the age of 18," says Detective Matt Whetstone with the Macon County Sheriff's office. 

Detective Whetstone is in charge of making sure sex offenders register in the city of Decatur. His responsibility is to make sure they are registered so they will appear on the Illinois State Police Sex Offender Registry, which can be accessed by the public online. A resource Detective Whetstone says is vital for parents when it comes to keeping their kids safe. 

"Well obviously you can check the Illinois State Police website and see if you do have one in your area." added Detective Whetstone. "Just be aware of where your kids are playing and just monitor them like you normally would."

Some sex offenders are required to register for life, but how long they have to register depends on their offense.

"There are two different criteria when it comes to checking in with us ," says Detective Whetstone. "They either have to check in once a year annually, or quarterly, so every three months . Anytime they change their address, or phone number, or job, if they start school, or if they change an email address or anything like that they have to call us and make us aware of that with in three days of doing so." 

While the registry is a useful tool for registered sex offender, he says it also creates a stigma for the people listed. 

"I was molested growing up from different older family members, which made me confused more and more. That confusion lead to my events of sexually molesting a close family member of mine," says Tez a registered sex offender. 

A counselor for sex offenders says Tez's story is common among offenders. 

"I want to be able to say that, yes them being a victim themselves, that is a treatment issue that we work on," says Jill Novacek the Senior VP at 1 Hope United and sex offender councilor. "But, on the flip side there are lots of people that have had experiences like that and have not sexually offended. So, yes to doing that treatment work is important, but also being able to acknowledge that it's not an excuse."

Tez, who didn't want to show his face or give his real name for this interview, says he faces challenges everyday. 

"There's many different challenges like jobs specifically," says Tez. "There are different places I can't work.  Currently I am dealing with DCFS when it comes to time with my children. They bring that up even though it was 15 years ago. Also, I can't get housing because different places don't want to give me housing."

Tez is in the process of changing his life with the help of counseling. 

"Sex offender counseling - we have been providing since the 1980's and we have found a good success rate. About 80 percent of our clients complete and reduce their risk," said Novacek.  "When it comes to long term out comes that's really hard to measure, but we do offer free after care services. So, we say to our clients if you completed successfully with us please come back."

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, only 30 percent of all sexual assault cases are reported to authorities. 

"I never turned the people who sexually assaulted me in, and I never spoke on their name," added Tez. 

Which is a problem experts say needs to be addressed. 

"I think the bigger piece of this conversation that we should be focusing on is how do we prevent sexual abuse?" said Novacek. " How are we educating kiddo's on good touch, bad touch, and secret touch. As adults, we need to be listening when children report concerns. Also encouraging adults to reach out and to report those concerns and not be worried weather or not it's accurate because it's not their job to investigate."

While Tez doesn't make any excuses for his past, He hopes by telling his story he can help foster an understanding.  

"We all make mistakes," says Tex.  "If you have a robber we can rehabilitate them and their stigma isn't still on them. We don't get another chance there is always that X on our back and no one wants to help." 

If you have a sexual assault crime to report you can do so by calling the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673. 

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