Impacts of Sex Crime Laws on the Female Partners of Convicted Offenders : Never Free of Collateral Consequences book cover
1st Edition

Impacts of Sex Crime Laws on the Female Partners of Convicted Offenders
Never Free of Collateral Consequences

ISBN 9780367490454
Published July 8, 2020 by Routledge
280 Pages

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Book Description

This work is an exploratory examination of the experiences, motivations, and coping mechanisms of women who are involved in intimate relationships with registered sexual offenders. The study focuses  both on women who were involved with an offender prior to the commission of his offense and who stayed with him post-conviction, and on women who became involved with a registered offender after his sex offense conviction. Like the offender himself, these women face a variety of challenges in responding to treatment of them by friends, family, the community, and the criminal justice system.

Utilizing the results of intensive interviews, this work provides a unique look at the women who are one of the few sources of support for registered sexual offenders and assesses the effectiveness and wide-ranging implications of community notification and registration laws on public safety, policy, and practice. This work offers alternative approaches based on evidence and case studies and considers the significance of familial contact in buffering sexual recidivism. These women are the heretofore unstudied victims of sexual offending legislation.

This book is essential reading for those in sociology, criminology, psychology, and social work. For undergraduate or graduate students, practitioners, researchers, or policy makers, this thought-provoking book will shed light on how to optimize the reintegration of sex offenders. It assesses the effectiveness and wide-ranging implications of sex offender legislation on public safety, policy, and practice and considers alternative approaches to reduce sexual violence.

Table of Contents


Part I: Legislation & Sexual Offenders

Chapter 1: Politics, the Media, & Laws

Chapter 2: Time for a Reality Check

Part II: Life with a Registered Sex Offender

Chapter 3: Relationship & RevelationChapter 4: Understanding & Consequences

Part III: Collateral Consequences for Partners of Registered Sex Offenders

Chapter 5: Registration & Community Notification

Chapter 6: Employment, Housing, & Parenting Challenges

Part IV: Moving Forward

Chapter 7: Coping Strategies & (Re)Integration


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Lisa Anne Zilney is an Associate Professor of Justice Studies at Montclair State University in New Jersey. She earned her Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Tennessee, an MS in Criminal Justice and Police Studies from Eastern Kentucky University, and BA in Psychology from the University of Windsor.  Her primary research interests are in the area of sexual offending legislation and itscollateral impacts on the partners and families of sexual offenders.She has published widely in journals and has authored or coauthored four books. She is a member of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS), the National Organisation for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers (NOTA), and the American Society of Criminology (ASC).


The difficulties and collateral consequences confronting family members, and especially romantic partners, of registered sexual offenders are well documented. In this important work, Zilney delves below the surface into what it really means to face the world as a woman who chooses to remain or to be in an intimate relationship with a man convicted of a sexual crime. Often shunned by family, friends, and society, these women live with the same restrictions and ostracism as the men with whom they have chosen to love and offer support. This examination of why and how they do what they do is a must-read for students of America's sexual offense laws and what they mean for our society.

NARSOL -- National Association for Rational Sexual Offense Laws

A sex offense conviction affects many facets of life. Sex crime scholarship thus far has prioritized the registrant experience, examining for instance, the adaption to the label of "sex offender." In her new book, Impacts of Sex Crime Laws on the Female Partners of Convicted Offenders: Never Free of Collateral Consequences, Zilney digs much deeper, studying a largely omitted population, the families of registrants, and their experience dealing and coping with arguably the most unwanted and feared label affecting a loved one. As the population of registered individuals continues to climb in the U.S., there comes a crucial need to identify the collateral consequences of registry and notification laws from a much broader framework. Zilney makes it her mission to fill this glaring gap by conducting in-depth and intensely revealing interviews to investigate her research questions concerning collateral consequences experienced by loved ones. Importantly, she is careful to situate findings into the current literature and policy landscape. Who needs to read this book? Everyone. As we reach the 1 million registered sex offender mark, the odds are most people—practitioners, academics, students, and those in the general population—will, in some way, be affected by the registry. Having a knowledge base by which to assess any potential effects of registry systems is critical for all of us, whether directly or indirectly affected.

Christina Mancini, Ph.D., Virginia Commonwealth University

This book is a valuable resource for both students studying the complex issues of the criminal justice system and those touched by the far-reaching consequences of sexual offense registration and notification policies. Interviews with the female partners of convicted sexual offenders shed light on the often overlooked challenges experienced by those who maintain relationships with the men required to register. Their raw feedback will allow readers of all opinions and backgrounds to consider opposing perspectives.

Kristen M. Zgoba, Ph.D., Florida International University

Often lost in the simplistic outrage that sexual crimes elicit, is an understanding of the complexity of an offenders’ future and those they call family. Offenders are also brothers, children, wives, fathers and significant others. When these offenders return to the community after their criminal sentence, they will begin to restructure their lives to try and become productive citizens. Their families and support systems also face a set of challenges. Dr. Zilney’s thoughtful and well-organized work documents the many unintended consequences of our prolonged, entrenched sex offender laws and its impact on not only the offenders, but their support systems. Humanizing and contextualizing people who have committed real harm is an important social goal. Dr. Zilney’s research not only accomplishes this but equally importantly requires us to rethink how we help support these people and their families in developing healthy and safe relationships.

Richard G. Wright, Ph.D., Bridgewater State University

So rarely does a book on sex crime laws delve into the substantial effect that such laws have on family members and intimate partners. By combining academic analysis with transcribed interviews, Zilney offers a unique look at life behind the legislation, portrayed from the perspective of the women who are inadvertently caught up in the collateral consequences of a partner's sex crime conviction.

Heather Ellis Cucolo, J.D., New York Law School

Zilney's book, Impacts of Sex Crime Laws on the Female Partners of Convicted Offenders, offers much needed insight into the complex emotional and social challenges faced by those in relationships with sex offenders. It uniquely focuses on the varied dynamics between couples, reinforcing the importance of family on reintegration. Policies that stigmatize offenders stigmatize those who love them, and this in-depth study provides a much-needed analysis of the nuances of intimacy and support that are understood to be key to successful reintegration. 

Diana Rickard, PhD, Borough of Manhattan Community College, CUNY