A Book Review for S.O: The New Scarlet Letters

This review comes from Jeff Babcock

Marilyn Callahan and Tim Buckley’s new book, ‘S.O. The New Scarlet Letter’ is a landmark compilation of what happens to anyone when, what famed psychologist, Carl G. Jung called the ‘Shadow’ side of our personalty, takes over and ruins our lives.

Anyone who takes the time to read ‘S.O. The New Scarlet Letter’ will come to understand the insidious nature of not only S.O. (sexual offense), but of all addictions, be they drug or alcohol related, an eating disorder, the plight of workaholism, addictive shopping, or any of those inflictions characterized by an ‘obsessive-compulsive’ nature. The problem with all of these behaviors, sex abuse included, is that they have always been with us, and they will forever remain an uncompromising reality of human nature.

‘Sexual Offense’ however, has become so apparent and commonplace today, thanks in part to the “Me, too” movement of the past few years. But also to the gradual lowering of the ‘bar,’ over the years, in the entertainment industry, television, in our schools, and nearly everywhere else, both at home and at work, as anyone can see. Today, the line between what is sexually appropriate, and what is not, has become so thin, that it is almost up for grabs, no pun intended. Whether you are a talk-show host, an entertainer, a Hollywood mogul, a politician, a Supreme Court Justice nominee, or even the President of the United States, the ambiguity surrounding sexual offense is now in the forefront of the consciousness of our nation. Anyone willing to take a hard look at those ‘family secrets’ should realize these flaws in character undoubtedly reside in the dark recesses of each and every one of us. Our ‘Shadow’ has always been there. Today, however, it is sitting on our doorstep, waiting to be discovered, caught, and maybe even put in prison.

Is it only those caught in the public eye, or who have been convicted, and incarcerated, who must bear the shame of Hester Prynne’s ‘Scarlet Letter’ for the rest of their lives. Will our Justice system ever come to acknowledge and change the current unfair practices implemented in most of our prison systems, let alone within the neighborhoods of every state in our country and around the world. Being included among the names on a community’s S.O. list is an unspeakable ‘sentence,’ comparable or perhaps, even worse for an offender being given a ‘death sentence.’

Ken Nolley, director of ‘Oregon Voices,’ a community of Oregonians committed to justice and reason in laws and policies relating to sex offenses, is an organization committed to changing the stigma of S.O., as it now stands throughout our country and around the world. ‘Oregon Voices’ does not condone or excuse sexual exploitation or violence. It is a group of fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles, grandparents—all members of families that contain victims of sexual abuse as well as those who have committed sexual offenses. According to Nolley, the “predatory” label for most offenders will disappear in 2019. He added that, nationally, 70 percent of offenders are in the lowest risk category, and only 10 percent are high-risk.

A list of core values, which form the principles of what ‘Oregon Voices’ believes, and which Callahan and Buckley’s book hopes to initiate and implement in other states follows:

— No sexual abuse or sexual assault is ever acceptable. All
victims of abuse have the right to seek justice in a system
that is objective and supportive.

— The current legal classification of “sex offender” creates
a ‘one-size-fits-all’ enforcement system, wasting taxpayer dollars,
diluting the supervision of dangerous offenders, and reducing public safety.

– Mandatory sentencing laws prevent judges from determining
appropriate punishments.

– We must replace the current fear-based approach to sex offenses with an
evidence-based approach to sex offenses that truly serves the public interest.

As clearly stated in the book’s description, “‘S.O. The New Scarlet Letter’ offers – Former offenders – inspiration and hope – Neighbors and families – knowledge and courage – Public agencies – best practices, leading to improved safety – Professionals – better outcomes for clients – Victims of assault – understanding and empowerment – Lawmakers – ideas about fair, effective policies. It’s time to bring the subject of sex crime out of the Dark Ages, time to help victims shed the shame and trauma of their experience. It’s also time to allow offenders an opportunity to show they can change, make amends, and start to earn back trust and acceptance from society.”

In the morning, when you wake up and take a look at yourself in the bathroom mirror, reflect upon those ‘Shadow’ aspects of your own inherent nature. And recall the way you behaved in the past. Did your sexuality impact a part of your life? Have you ever taken on the role of a ‘perpetrator’ or possibly a willing or unwilling ‘victim’? Try to remember those incidents in your life when you behaved in such a way, that perhaps someone today might accuse you of a sexual offense. Or vice versa, maybe you see yourself as deeply shamed. Because of something that happened to you, which even today, you carry around in your mind. As your own personal ‘Scarlet Letter,’ either as perpetrator or victim.

If such is the case, ‘S.O. The New Scarlet Letter,’ is a book I would highly recommend reading. We all have addictions to this or that. Our own little ‘Scarlet Letters.’ Are you interested in changing any of them?


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