What’s the difference between the term “sex offender” and the phrase “adults who commit sexual offenses” in Colorado? Everything.
Depending on their perspective, people are either embracing the change in terminology that’s being used by the state’s Sex Offender Management Board or harshly criticizing it as a way for people who have committed sex-based offenses to evade responsibility.
On Nov. 19, months after hearing arguments on both sides earlier this year, the Sex Offender Management Board voted to make the switch. While the vote won’t change the terminology used by the court or what is written in law, it will humanize the people who have to live under the laws that target sex offenders.
That’s important. Language is, quite often, reflective of social ideals. “Person-first language” has been increasingly important to a lot of marginalized groups, simply because it places the emphasis on the individual as a whole rather than the one thing that makes them different from others. It’s a reminder that everybody is a sum of their parts -- and nobody should be defined by only one of those parts.
As one advocate for the change stated, “Referring to me by a label for something I did half my life ago is inappropriate and downright offensive.”
Ideally, you will never find yourself in a position where this terminology matters. If you do, however, you need to remember that you have rights that deserve to be protected in a court of law. Experienced legal representation is often key to obtaining a positive outcome.