There are 100 registered sex offend- ers within a three-mile radius of the TJC’s main campus.
Most registered sex offenders are life- time offenders. Regardless of completing probation, parole, or being discharged from prison, they are still required to register as sex offenders.
“In the city of Tyler, I have 145 registered sex offenders,” said Andy Erbaugh, detective with the Tyler Police Department major crime unit. “If they move out of Tyler, but they still live in Smith County, they are required to register with the sheriff ‘s department.”
After a sex offender is released from jail, he is placed on either probation, parole or discharged completely.
“If they are put on probation or parole, they are restricted about what they can do based on their probation or parole, and it’s different for everybody,” said Erbaugh. “It usually tells them where they can and can’t live and if that can or can’t drink alcohol or associate with certain people.”
The state requires Erbaugh to keep track of everything from where they live to who their closest relative is, what they drive, where they work, what their shoe size is and what their blood type is. “They are required to tell me ev– erything about them,” said Erbaugh. “So that if they do commit another crime; number one, we can find out who they are a little easier, but also with all that infor– mation we get from them, it’s placed on the state’s website.”
Although this information is helpful, many times it’s not easy to spot a potential or registered sex offender. Many times it’s the first-time offender who is the most dangerous.”Roughly 80 percent of sexual assaults are involved with someone we know,” said Susan Hinson, RN, certified sexual assault nurse examiner. “It may be an acquain– tance, maybe a friend, maybe a girlfriend’s friend.
so it’s not the stranger danger anymore that your mother used to tell you about.”
Hinson added that she doesn’t think people who commit sexual assaults in college are first-time offenders. “I don’t believe it. I think that the offenders have had a history and may have not been caught. And then it esca– lates” she said.
Although it may seem that the numbers are stagger- ing, there are numerous ways to protect yourself.
“Walk with somebody else,” said Erbaugh. “If you can’t and you’re stuck and you don’t have anybody to walk with late at night or you get out late at night, keep your phone in your hand. You’re allowed to carry mace and what a lot of people do is get complacent, so look around at your surroundings.”
Policemen are beginning to encourage different tac– tics citizens can use to protect themselves.
“In the old days, we wouldn’t say it. But now we have gotten to the point where we do say it and that is, you do whatever it takes to get away from that person. You kick. You bite. You scream,” said Don Martin, public information officer for the Tyler Police Department.
“You fight because today’s society we don’t know what his intentions are. If he were to sexually assault a girl or is he going to go ahead and kill her just to cover up his tracks. You fight for your life because you don’t know if it’s going to be your life.”Protecting oneself also includes not putting yourself in a situation where you could become a victim.”
According to the Kansas State
University in Manhattan, Kan, more than 75 percent of college students who experience un- wanted intercourse are under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the incident.
“A lot of times what you see is people have the idea of I really didn’t want to have sex with this person, but I didn’t say no,” said Brooke Wyatt, sexual assault program coordinator of the East Texas Crisis Center. “Consent is an ongoing process, if I agree to an act and then mid-way through, If I change my mind then at that point I have withdrawn my consent to participate.”
Sexual assaults are damaging to a person’s self esteem. Wyatt added that often the victim tends to have a dual childhood experience followed by a date rape that has brought it back up to the surface.
“Any time trust is violated, that is a huge burden peo– ple have to carry, and you have to be able to build that trust back up,” said Wyatt.
To call and report a sexual assault, call Tyler Dispatch 903-531-1000. To talk to someone after experiencing a sexual assault call the East Texas Crisis Center 903-509-2526, or their 24-hour hotline 1-800-333-0358 as an anonymous caller.