A dozen years ago, 48-year-old Carl Peterson was sentenced to four years in jail for raping his 14-year-old niece. Recently, he stood up before the community he now lives in with his wife and 14-year-old daughter to tell them he's no threat to them. "I'm the level 3 sex offender all of you have been talking about," he told the gathering of about 100 people at the Belmont, Massachusetts high school auditorium. "It seems as though the big reason why we are here tonight is me."
Carl explained to the community that he has been seeing a therapist for eight years and is certain he will never recommit that crime. According to the Belmont Patch, he told them:
The problem is all you know, all you get to know about my problem is what you read ... which says I'm the most dangerous and the most likely to reoffend of all sex offenders. It also says my offense was the rape against a child. What's important is that I'm not the victim. I'm a sex offender and I committed a crime and I did spend four years in prison for.
Some in the audience yelled at him, while others shushed them and said it was important to hear what he had to say. Peterson went on to say that his crimes were not against "pre-school children" or "many children," but a girl he knew. And he promised: "At this point, I know that it will never happen again." He then offered to speak to anyone who wanted to approach him.
We can despise this man's crime, but I think it's admirable for him to stand up and announce himself in front of his community. Many didn't even know him, and yet he just made himself a target in the hopes of allaying people's fears. But he also planted a seed of trust, which may bloom. Isn't it better to know the people in our community we may have doubts and fears about rather than let our imaginations get the better of us?
What this man did a dozen years ago was inexcusable. What he did now was brave.
Forgiveness is something we must practice, if people are showing themselves worthy of it. So far, he is.
Could you forgive this man living in your community? What do you think about what he did?
Editor's Note: While many reports state that the victim was 14 years old, the sex offender registry says Peterson was convicted of "assault and battery on a child under 14."
Image via Belmont Police